Is SEO Dead?
Ah search engine optimization… the process of getting free traffic from Google (come on, no really cares about Bing) that can be turned into revenue.
Since Google was launched in 1998 business owners have been trying to get to the top of search results. Being ‘at the top’ is incredible lucrative and can add millions in revenue for business… without spending a dime on advertising.
But in recent years Google’s algorithm has changed, and so has the behavior of internet users. This leaves many wondering; is SEO dead?
I do cover this topic in a Youtube video on my eBizCorey Channel which you can find here.
My Experience With SEO
I’ve been in the SEO world nearly 15 years. Going back to 2009 when I launched an ecommerce store selling motorcycle parts, that was largely driven by SEO. I’d later sell the business in 2012. From there I’d go on to start an offline residential service contracting business (like HVAC), and then buy some more similar businesses. My play book was the same; rapidly grow sales through digital marketing; and a large part of that was SEO. One of my local business websites had over 3,000 visitors per day (that is huge for a local business). In that time frame I would estimate that $50 million to $100 million of my businesses revenue was attributed to non-branded organic search traffic.
Fast forward to writing this in August 2022… I’ve scaled down my ownership of home services businesses. Since 2020 I’ve owned a lead generation performance marketing firm with content websites now serving about 300,000 unique visitors per month, and growing. You can see some insight here on my youtube channel into one of the sites.
Enough about me…
Google Is Pushing Organic Content Further Down
10 years ago when you ‘Googled’ something, organic search results appeared near the top, and in view of the initial load.
Now look at a search for roofers .
Notice, everything that loads in front of the user is a paid ad. And then below that is the maps, which may also contain paid placement.
As you scroll down, you finally you get to the organic results.
Not only are organic results further down, but the paid results are optimized for clicks. It used to be that the pay-per-click ads had a yellow background clearly making them look a bit odd. Now in 2022, that yellow background is long gone, and there is just a little text of ‘ad’ next to it.
Google is making a clear push to drive users toward their paid placement — that is after all how they make money.
Less Traffic Than Ever Comes From Organic
It is estimated that currently 53% of all traffic comes from organic search. While that may seem high, 10 years ago it was much higher than that for my websites.
A look way back in my Google Analytics for one of my local businesses shows over 95% of traffic coming from organic search. These days that number is reflective of the 53% statistic.
This jives with the aforementioned fact that google is driving users to click on their paid placements.
People Are Using Sources Other Than Google Search To Find Things Online
In 2012, Google was basically the only method to get anywhere online. In 2022, that has changed.
Social media algorithms have gotten better at serve content you’re already interested in before you Google it. And review aggregators like Yelp have grown large and reputable database. So it is no longer necessary to ‘Google’ things as much.
Many internet users spend the whole day connected to the internet and never opening a browser, yet alone a Google search. They simply live, app to app, using apps entirely to connect them. If they need a reference for a travel destination they go ask a question in a Facebook Group. If they need to find a restaurant, they open the Yelp app.
Google Algorithm Is More Difficult Than Ever To Manipulate
Not only are organic placements suffering from a downward push in favor of paid ads, and users not using a search engine, but the Google Algo itself has gotten better at preventing you from getting to the top.
Yes I used the word manipulate in the heading.
And that is essentially what SEO is. Beyong publishing a few basic formatting principles to make your site/content digestible to search engine crawlers, and publishing content that users are searching for SEO is manipulation.
And Google has gotten hip to it.
Google ultimately wants to serve ‘the best’ information to its users; not your business because that makes you money.
My Position On The Topic
While Google may be driving users to paid placement and users find ‘things’ online using other methods, search engines still have a high volume of traffic that can be monetized.
For that reason I don’t say ‘SEO is dead’.
Instead I say SEO isn’t as lucrative, as it once was. I’ll further add, that I would never build a business on SEO.
My approach is to view SEO as a ‘side burner’. In all of my businesses, my primary marketing objective is paid customer acquisition and brand building. If I can build a business that is profitable with advertising and develop the brand, I have a time tested business. I also publish content for SEO, but any ‘business’ obtained through it, I is simply icing on the cake that I am grateful for.
Interestingly enough however this formula drives a substantial amount of organic search traffic. I run paid ads on social platforms which may provide signals from real people to search engines. And I build branded search which is difficult to manipulate and may also provide a signal to Google.
What’s your take — Is SEO Dead? Let me know in the comments below!