As a digital marketing professional for over fifteen years (five years in a corporate role and over ten years as owner of a digital marketing firm, GMR Web Team), I am declaring that the term SEO has outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. It’s become obsolete.
It has a bad rep for a reason, and it’s time to banish it.
Real practitioners of digital marketing know online marketing is a serious discipline that requires knowledge of marketing principles, business analysis, online trends, internet browsing trends, online decision making process and available tools for businesses. These tools include search engines (and their search algorithm), social media platforms relevant for a business, internet brand development and online business reputation.
What’s my point? Digital marketing is a dynamic, living creature that will always evolve.
Unfortunately, too many small businesses and individuals confuse digital marketing with SEO. Search Engine Optimization was a perfect description when, a decade ago, all a business needed to do was somehow get on Page 1 of search engines. It generally worked because getting found was like getting customers. Soon an industry emerged with thousands of “SEO experts” promising to get websites on Page 1. As search engines started fine-tuning their search algorithms, SEO started getting more complex with methods of different color hats (black hat, grey hat, white hat, etc.).
At that point, SEO, as we knew it, was already dying.
Online consumer behavior has evolved. Consumers have become savvier and are quickly learning how to figure out if a business “found” on the internet is worth patronizing or not. Simply being the #1 result for a keyword is no longer enough.
The customer decision process includes online reputation, competitors’ reputation, reviews, prices and more. In other words, marketers have the same challenge now that they had when marketing in the pre-internet era. Digital marketing is actually harder because any negative news about a business is instantaneously broadcasted through online social channels rather than disseminated through TV, radio, etc. The bottom line is, it now takes a concerted effort to convert a prospect into a customer.
This is where I have beef with the term SEO.
The digital marketing industry has done a great job of selling businesses (especially small businesses) that they need to be found online – or risk losing massive potential sales. However, we have done a very poor job of explaining the latest trends. Most of my small business prospects come to me wanting SEO and are surprised at the complexity and cost of digital marketing, generally because someone promised to get her on page 1 for dozens of keywords for a paltry $500 per month.
Therein lies the reason “SEO” is the equivalent of buying a $500 Rolex watch on Craigslist – a big fat stinking scam. Every serious digital marketer knows that these SEO scams are hurting the general reputation of the profession. It’s a lose-lose for both sides.
But there is a light at the end of tunnel.
We can exile these scammers by educating business owners about the complexity of a digital marketing strategy and how it pays to keep up with the latest trends.
It’s up to the digital marketing community to restore the industry’s image. How?
- Immediately stop using the term “SEO” in our discourse. The term made sense once upon a time, but is irrelevant now.
- Proactively start educating the scope of digital marketing to our followers in their regular communications on blogs, newsletters, etc. Knowledge is power.
- Differentiate the real digital marketing companies from the scams. A company that claims to get you on page 1 for $100 a month for 10 keywords is NOT a legitimate digital marketing agency.
- Educate individual digital marketing consultants. My experience with small businesses suggests that untrained (or obsolete?) digital marketing consultants are the biggest source of digital marketing misinformation.
We dug ourselves into the metaphorical “SEO” pit through carelessness and laziness. It will take a careful, deliberate, and persistent effort to rid ourselves of the SEO shadow.