The year was 1997 and Richard Hoy had a warning for the world on online marketers:
I submit that search engines are dying. In fact, I would say they are dead already and just don’t know it yet – gone the way of the reciprocal link exchange and the “you have a cool page” award as an effective promotional tool. A victim of their own success.
According to Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land this was perhaps the first ‘death of SEO’ pronouncement.
It would not be the last.
Googling the term “SEO is dead” returns an astronomical 14 million results, with everyone from Forbes to Inc to Copyblogger opining on the future demise of search marketing. There’s even a clever piece of code running on the site SEOisDead.net that automatically updates the date of the article denying the demise of SEO found there to the date of your visit. After all, nearly 20 years after SEO was first declared terminal, it continues to go strong.
In short, SEO is STILL not dead – heck, SEO might even be immortal!
Infographic: The Death of SEO
SEOBook has a wonderful infographic on the death of SEO that considers the claims of its demise promoted by various groups. Whether they are web designers, start up CEOs, bloggers, journalists, or search engineers who definitely should know better, SEOBook outlines:
- the specific claim
- the reasoning behind the claim
- the error with the reasoning
- the practical SEO errors that the group has made or is making
It’s a comprehensive smack-down of almost every group that has claimed that SEO is dead in recent years, and you can see it in full at the bottom of this post.
…And Next Year?
If history is any guide, even the thorough fisking of the ‘SEO is dead’ argument in the infographic is unlikely to stop the annual onslaught of articles online and in the mainstream press arguing exactly that. The claim recurs for two reasons: first, people still do not understand what search actually is; and second, a little bit of drama always serves to sell paper and earn clicks.
It’s worth remembering that search engines are merely ways of organizing information for people to access. While we use computers to access that information online, we’ve always employed similar sorts of algorithms to organize papers in our files, clothes in our closet, or memories in our minds. Certainly the algorithms we employed were simpler, but the amount of information we were attempting to organize was significantly smaller, too. SEO is about making things more available to people looking for it, and whether we use keywords or colored post it notes, optimizing this search is part of how humans process information. Because of this, any article that screams that this natural means of organizing information and optimizing the retrieval of the information is dead or dying is surely going to attract attention.
It doesn’t deserve that attention.
SEO is STILL Not Dead
Whatever else you might hear, you can take it from us: SEO is STILL not dead.
Whatever the arguments to the contrary, SEO remains the key means for getting your site found online, your information into the hands of those who are seeking it, in driving traffic to your business, and in optimizing the return on your online marketing investment. It’s alive, it’s kicking, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of its death are consistently and greatly exaggerated.