Does SEO Really Have Only 2 More Years to Live?

“Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in 2 years.”

– Adam Torkildson, (quoted from a recent article in Forbes Magazine)

I’ll probably never tire of writing these blogs on how to optimize your WordPress site. However, this time, instead of telling you where I believe things are headed, I’d like to bring you some news about what a recent article in Forbes Magazine said about the future of SEO.

You can find the article, “The Death of SEO and the Rise of Social PR and Real Content” on the Forbes website. Yes, another article about the “death of SEO,” but you’re about to discover why this one is more than a bunch of hype.

Some Alarming Claims About the Future of SEO

Adam Torkildson, a nationally recognized expert in SEO in the United States who was interviewed for the Forbes magazine article, said that Google is actually the company responsible for killing SEO. That’s ironic considering that Google is the company who practically gave birth to SEO. But is this claim just another one of those “The sky is falling” rants that we need not pay attention to?

I don’t know, but I bet if you asked the people whose sites tanked during the Google Penguin update and the introduction of Panda, they’d tell you there’s some truth in what Adam is saying.

A lot of people were surprised when their sites went the way of the Titanic, even companies who assumed that they were doing things the right way. I also read a lot of blogs which speculated that Google might even be targeting WordPress sites since many of the sites which were penalized were built on the WordPress platform.

Hundreds of WordPress blog networks were also penalized as content farms and some SEOs lost the blog networks which they once depended on to build back links for their clients.

While some still speculate that Google has it “in for” WordPress, It think it’s more likely that WordPress sites were targeted because so many solo entrepreneurs and freelancers use WordPress. Many of these one-person start ups and are still trying to apply the old rules of SEO to get their sites to the top of the search engines, and I can’t blame them really.

I understand it’s a lot cheaper to buy hundreds of bank links than it is to hire a capable writer to consistently publish good content on your blog. But even if you’re working with a shoestring budget, it’s important to consider what you’re asking for long term.

My hope is that in reading this, you’ll avoid being a part of the next “Google weed out,” by making your WordPress SEO strategies more user-focused.

What Will Replace SEO When it is Gone?

Okay, so if SEO is going to end up “picking turnips with a step ladder” just two years from now, what will replace it?

Won’t Google, Yahoo and MSN still need to determine which sites will rank on the first page of their search results? Of course they will, but the mathematical, formula-based approach to SEO is, and has been, outdated for some time now. These days, it’s in the process of being replaced by something which is more dependable in weeding out spammy sites.

That one thing is Social Media.

Here’s an excerpt from the article I read in Forbes Magazine:

“Google proved Adam right one month later (to the day) with the “Penguin release” that is a code name for the algorithm that decreased search engine rankings of companies who were using schemes to artificially increase their rankings. Google decided to change the weight of their emphasis from “backlinks” more towards social media likes, shares, tweets, reddits, and 1+ (Google’s obvious favorite.)”

A couple of years ago, when people first started posting the Facebook like buttons, the Twitter Retweet buttons and the Facebook share buttons on their websites, I wrote some blog posts about how these “social votes” were soon going to replace back links. Now, it’s happening, and Google has been saying for years that building back links is against their web master guidelines.

Yet back link building is still considered to be a fundamental practice of SEO.

Why is this?

It’s because for a long time, Google had no other means of determining how socially valuable a website was. Now they do, and they’re in the process of updating their algorithms to make their ranking practices more socially focused.

Maybe these changes haven’t trickled down to every site on the internet, but they will. In fact, I suspect that by 2014, SEO will be completely replaced by what many of us still call Social Media marketing.

Here’s another excerpt from the article in Forbes magazine:

“It’s about social “shares”, and you can’t fake that (easily). Now with recent policy changes, Google knows who everyone is once they open themselves up on the social realm. They will be able to tell the fake people. Facebook already knows. Adam did a test by creating 1000 fake accounts a year ago, but today they have all been banned.”

The banning of fake accounts is something we’re going to see more of as Social Media takes over the world of SEO. Many SEO and reputation management companies have realized that reviews and user generated content are important for SEO, but they’ve responded by creating impersonated reviews using fake social media accounts.

What is Google doing about this? Just a few months ago, they started requiring anyone leaving a review on Google places to have a Google + account. I believe that this is just the beginning of Google’s mission to rid the internet of phony reviews and testimonials.

Here’s another quote that I found interesting

“We hardly do any of the old SEO stuff. It still brings results, but not like it used to. Google is pulling the rug out to provide better search for their audience. They are rooting out the counterfeiters. Now it must be real, valuable, content, and lots of community value and interaction.”

This is where the real wisdom is about optimizing your WordPress blog. You need real, valuable content with lot of community value and interaction. If you don’t already have your WordPress site more “socially optimized,“ I suggest you look into the following plugins, get them installed and start using them right away:

SEO is on life support, Social Media is taking over at an alarming rate. It’s either make these changes now, or be forced to make them when the Google updates finally catch up. On the bright side, if you catch the wave early, you’ll be able to rank high above your competitors who are still trying to “game the system” using the soon to be irrelevant practices of SEO.

See you on top.

Comments (23)

  1. I am really sick of “seo is going to be death in [insert a number] years” arguments. “SEO is dying” argument continues to be around for a long time, and it’s never come close to be true. Has SEO evolved over time? The answer is yes. Will it evolve again? The answer is YES.

    SEO won’t be death in two years; however, the way we do SEO will be different. Google and other search engines keep changing their algorithms all the time. Each time Google rolls out a major update, “seo is going to be death” argument is promoted again and again. SEO tactics evolve over time to keep up with the algorithms. SEO will always be there;however, SEO tactics will always change.

    The guy at Forbes have no idea of what SEO is. Here is what he says: “By definition SEO “games” the system with Google to get your content artificially ranked higher than it should be. ” If someone defines SEO as gaming the system, it is quite natural to come up with the argument “seo will be death”. Are there any experts that game the system? Yes. Are all SEO experts game the system? No.

    Webspammers call themselves as SEO and those are the ones that search engines do their best to eliminate. Google will hopefully reduce number of spammers over time, but it is not trying to get rid of SEO. Contrary to crowd that make those arguments, Google is doing its best to promote ethical SEO practices. Google is very likely to keep increasing the importance of social media to reduce the spam, so ethical SEOs will also put more emphasis on social media to keep up with the changes Google introduced.

    I am sorry if I posted this twice. Please remove the duplicate.

    • Hi Frank,

      I understand where you’re coming from. Posts like this are meant to be warning to the people who are still trying to “crack the code” and treat SEO like a mathematical process where you apply a formula and get a result. They’re also an attempt to provide a voice of reason for business owners who don’t know SEO and are looking for someone to hire it out to.

      As you mentioned, there are “experts” trying to game the system…but they’re also out there “educating” our would be clients and creating a dark cloud of misinformation. As a result, some “layman” business owners still see Social Media and SEO as two completely different animals and believe that the “gaming the system” really is the way it’s done.

      When new clients come to me on a consistent basis with all these crazy ideas in their head about SEO, it’s obvious where they came from. I believe they deserve to know what the truth is about where SEO is going. It’s going Social and the old strategies are dying because of that.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Ditto! We need content to rule.

        Then we will be able to find that great content that is out there, but because the author hasn’t “optimized” it, nobody ever gets to see it.

  2. Agreed Frank.

    It is interesting that we want to call it a death and rebirth every time a major shift in methods are in place. In reality, it has been portions of the same game. Google and search engines have been looking for roughly the same thing. They have just needed to take it step-by-step. The issue is that most SEOs out there, haven’t had a great long-term strategy to accompany the short-term wins.

    When it is put together with content and value in mind, you can play the value-for-value game together with high search results. Networks will continue to drive optimization when they are built around value and content as well.

  3. Hey Joe,

    I understand, it just depends on who you’re talking to though. For someone who is still going about SEO the wrong way, the death rebirth is sometimes what they need to hear to get out of their comfort zone and start making changes. The last Google update had a lot of SEOs shocked and furious when it really should not have been a surprise.

    My primary concern though is still the “laymans” who hire SEOs but who don’t marinate in it all day like we do. There’s so much conflicting information out there and so much confusion about SEO vs Social Media that you can’t politely tap someone on the shoulder and tell them that a drastic change is coming that could drop their ranking by 30 pages.

    Thanks for the comment

  4. Well, I don’t think so that seo will gonna die after 2 years because seo is still the key for your website to the top of Google, especially if you are doing the right way.. For those who are doing black hat seo, then this will be the end of seo for them. If you have high authority websites pointing to your website and it is relevant to your niche, then you are safe and seo for you will still lives.. Also, websites that has a lot of good reviews are the one’s who will rank higher on Google and other search engines and that’s based in my research.

    • You’re right on about the reviews. That’s one of the reasons I’m saying that Social Media is taking over SEO. It’s not just reviews, user generated content like forum posts and blog comments are having more and more weight these days.

      You’re also right about black hat SEO, but a lot of people forget that according to Google ANY kind of link building is black hat. They want the links to be created by users, not by SEOs. A lot of people are still link building anyway though, assuming that it’s a white hat practice. It’s not. That’s why so many people were blown away when the Penguin update nailed them.

      It’s not links that will matter in the future, it’s Social votes which are connected to Social Media accounts that have a real following (not fake Social Media accounts). The search engines can easily measure this and are getting better at it all the time. This is why Social Media is going to take over.

  5. Nice post mate, but expert SEO? LOL don’t make me laugh. The thing these SEOMOZ/social media darlings forget is everything has an algorithm. Let’s look at this in laymans terms. It’s simply a concise set of instructions written in a programming language to produce an output. Fiverr.com has a search algorithm. Google.com has a search algorithm. Rinse repeat. Why do people think SEO or algorithms will die? What will replace them? People votes? LOL soo gameable yes please!

    • I don’t remember saying that search algorithms will die. It’s not in the Forbes article either. But algorithms can certainly be adjusted to include metrics like tweets, Facebook shares, Google + votes etc. The major Social Media sites are also working on cleaning up fake accounts and eliminating Social Media impersonation. That’s how Social Media is going to take over SEO.

      Besides that, Google does hire people to manually review sites. If they could just create an algorithm, why would they waste their money on that? It’s incredible how many people seem to forget that Google is not run my computer programs and algorithms, it’s run by human beings.

      If you still doubt this and think SEO is a mathematical “rinse and repeat” process, let’s come back to this post in 2015…or after the next major Google update.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. It sounds to me like Google will be penalizing ‘mom & pop’ websites that don’t have a lot of (or any) social networking setup. I personally think this sucks. How much social interaction is a plumbing site going to get (for instance)? Or a porta-potty renter? Backlinks are gold for them – apart from the search engine perspective.

    This sounds like Google is basically forcing SEO through the pipe of huge sites like FB, Twitter, Google+, etc. in a scheme to create more value for already massive social networks. Doesn’t sound like valid reasoning for search engine indexing.

    Maybe I’m just misunderstanding this. I do that a lot.

    • Hi Corey,

      Yeah, that’s def a misunderstanding. Mom and pop businesses and service oriented businesses will have no problem with this shift because they can use their connection to the customer to get the customer to post reviews on places like Google +, Yelp and Facebook. User reviews are taking over local SEO. In fact, review sites are now ranking above business websites in many cases.

      Case in point, you brought up plumbing services. My friend Mike Montano owns a plumbing company and is an SEO expert and owner of “Reviewbuzz.” The success of his plumbing company is largely due to his SEO expertise and understanding of where Social Media is taking SEO in the future. If you go to the Reviewbuzz site, you’ll see hundreds of testimonials from other service oriented businesses who are using reviews to dominate their local market.

      Back links are NOT gold for service companies, authentic user reviews are. Indexing content based on reivews, or Social proof, is far more trustworthy than basing it on number or back links, meta tags etc. Why? Because you’re literally giving consumers what other consumers love, trust and value. Google has been saying this for years, now they have a way to do it. That’s why the traditional SEO is being replaced by Social Media.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Obviously Google’s algorithm is a closely held trade secret, but as long as there is a mechanical algorithm that categorizes sites in some way to rank them for search then there will be people who decode that algorithm and use that knowledge to help people earn better rankings. Call it what you will, consulting, gaming the system, whatever.

    However, I do think that as the search engine technology gets better at reading contextual information search engine optimization as we know it today will become obsolete. Keywords will become completely meaningless, if they’re not already, as will tags, categories, and probably even titles.

    Take a look at any computer science program at the top 10 institutions around the world. Every single one of them has a human-computer language interface course of study. it’s only a matter of time before google and the other search engines can pick up context and sentiment nearly as well as a human. At that point, all that will matter is the content on the page.

    • This is a damn good points about the computer science programs, and it’s actually already been underway for a while. Check this out:

      (Source: Cornell Software Fingers Fake Online Reviews, CNET, 26 July 2011)

      “In this work we have developed the first large-scale dataset containing gold-standard deceptive opinion spam. With it, we have shown that the detection of deceptive opinion spam is well beyond the capabilities of human judges, most of whom perform roughly at-chance. Accordingly, we have introduced three automated approaches to deceptive opinion spam detection, based on insights coming from research in computational linguistics and psychology.”

      They continue a few paragraphs later…

      “Possible directions for future work include an extended evaluation of the methods proposed in this work to both negative opinions, as well as opinions coming from other domains. Many additional approaches to detecting deceptive opinion spam are also possible, and a focus on approaches with high deceptive precision might be useful for production environments.”

      That’s what the geeks are up to, and you can bet (as you stated) that Google has the $$ to get a hold of this kind of technology. They’ll soon have technology that, if “gameable” at all, can only be “gamed” by a human expert creating content that gets real interaction.

      Thanks for the comment

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