As an individual working in SEO, there’s nothing more frustrating than the inevitable barrage of “SEO is dead” articles that pop up over the course of a year. For just about any industry or art form, the question is uninspired, manipulative bait. Unless we’re talking about Keith Richards, in which case it’s a totally valid concern, nothing dies quite as quickly as these pageview-snatchers would have you believe. That’s true of everything from poetry to SEO; so long as there’s a need the creative minds involved will adapt, evolve, and work within new systems.
I bring this up because I just finished reading a blog post entitled: Is SEO Dead? And Did Google Link Disavow Kill It?
Although this comes from a blogging resource I have enjoyed in the past, the post here is short-sighted at best and dangerously misleading at worst.
The short answer to both questions in the post title is “No, and not even close.” Before I dive into this a little more, and explain exactly why Google Link Disavow is no reason to fear the end of the SEO, here’s a look at an excellent infographic SEO Book put together about a month ago about “The Death of SEO.”
Why Google Link Disavow Did Not Kill SEO
There are some logical and decent points within this mortician’s rant, but the main problem I have with the post is any implication that Google Disavow somehow killed SEO. That’s a gross misunderstanding of what the tool actually is, why it exists, and how it works.
Google Link Disavow is a tool you can use in conjunction with Google Webmaster Tools to try and undo the harmful impact of any particularly shady links you’ve built in the past. It is for webmasters who have REALLY tried to manipulate Google in the past and have since been penalized via the recent Panda or Penguin updates.
And it’s not even the recommended first option from Google!
If you think (or know) a paid-linking scheme or series of extremely low quality site links are hurting your site, it’s still advised you contact the site webmaster and ask that the link be removed directly. The Disavow Tool is a last resort for VERY clear instances of search engine penalties.
There Are Other Ways to Optimize
The interesting part of the “SEO is dead” argument here stems from the following cause-of-death explanation. In regards to why the Disavow tool exists the writer states:
“That’s because Google is actively fighting all the traditional things that SEO people used to do in terms of building backlinks.”
In theory, if these SEO tactics were the only options available, and Google made it so that they would no longer work, the argument that SEO is dead would hold some weight. The reality, though, is that this simply means SEOs and Bloggers need to adapt. The answer isn’t so much “If I can’t build crap links, there’s literally nothing I can do.” It’s just “Stop building crap links, and find creative and organic ways to work within Google’s desired system. Like I should have been doing all along.”
Looking at Google’s work to wipeout spammy SEO tactics and saying SEO is dead is like looking at the decline of horse-covered wagons and saying “Travel is Dead!” There are other ways to get places, and there are plenty of other ways to optimize websites.
Are cheap directories, and link-farms, and spun content going to continue working post-Penguin & Panda? I sure hope not. But all that means is the SEO industry has to focus on quality onsite optimizations, technical site architecture updates using advances like Schema.org, and getting creative with links.
So How Should SEO Fit Into a Blog?
The main takeaway for any blogger or site owner should be that SEO, done well, can still help you achieve your desired online marketing goals. Google’s Penguin update or Link Disavow Tool does very little to change that, although it may create an enormous headache for those who have been duped into shady tactics in the past.
I agree that it doesn’t make sense to pay someone a monthly “link-building” fee, if those links are the cheap and easily accessible kind. If you’re paying a monthly SEO fee and you’re not sure what kidn of linking is being done, I’d recommend some transparency. Lazy, free link submissions can be a lot more trouble than they’re worth, and although there might be short term gains, I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Earning links from relevant sites in your industry is still incredibly valuable SEO, but it’s important to know this is your focus.
I should point out as well that the key point at the end of this article is spot-on. As a blogger, and even within content marketing for a brand, your focus should be to create great material. Keep creating, and keep making it great, and over time a LOT of your online success will happen organically.
But even then, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you create a valuable resource and don’t put any thought into the search factors. Something as simple as a quality page title can differentiate rankings to a degree. You have to analyze the SERPs and find where you might be able to position your content – where’s that open area you can begin hauling in visitors? If you don’t think about any of this, you’re just marketing in the dark. Unless you’re absolutely INCREDIBLE (you probably are) and word-of-mouth explodes to unprecedented degrees, you’re not going to see the traffic you may deserve.
End of the day, Google Link Disavow does not mean SEO is dead. It is simply a long-in-the-works tool that can hopefully help sites recover from bad SEO. It’s the last resort of the long-suffering. To close with another stretch of an analogy, looking at the terrible SEO tactics of the past and proclaiming “SEO is Dead” is like listening to Nickelback and shouting “Rock is Dead!” You’re finding your answers in all the wrong places.