What Are SEOs Even Good At Anymore?

SMS Text
what are seo's good at anymore

We used to be magicians; we used to be tech-savvy entrepreneurs that challenged the might of Google’s algorithm, and for a long time we were winning. Fast forward 2-3 years and we’re still tech-savvy marketers, but Google’s crushed us. Our ‘secrets and techniques’ no longer work and creative agencies, writers, and PR specialists look down on us as the ‘hacks’ of the marketing world.

Yes, I’m an SEO, and despite the reputation we may have, I’m proud to be one. I take pride in being a marketer, a creative thinker, and an outreach specialist.

But what really makes us special? All the sudden we hear the words ‘inbound marketing’ and take it as an identity rebirth because we’ve hit a dead-end? We start preaching ‘quality content’ and evangelize ‘content creation’ in our conferences, while ad agencies and PR agencies have been doing this stuff FOREVER.

The Answer

If this rant sounds familiar, it’s because I’m echoing what Tom Critchlow forewarned about at Mozcon 2012. He asked these same uncomfortable and stirring questions. So what is it that we really do? What’s our identity?

Tom told a story of an author who was promoting his book over three marketing channels. The launch of his book was mentioned in The New York Times (impressive), featured on the Oprah Network (most impressive), and then he wrote a guest post for Tim Ferriss (not bad). The guest post with Tim Ferriss absolutely blew the other 2 channels out of the water in terms of direct results. Tim, also an author, doesn’t have the widespread influence of Oprah or comparable credibility to New York Times, but he has a highly engaged audience. He has regular readers, followers, and fans that trust his every word and recommendation. Connecting with highly engaged audiences is what we do best.

Why We Need To Succeed At This

Organic search continues to bring one of the best returns on investment (ROI) and the business world needs us to be good at what we do. Don’t believe me? Just ask any business that’s been blogging for years and their rankings haven’t even budged. Or perhaps online retailers that continue to exhaust their budgets in the competitive world of paid search.

Links are and will always be an important part of SEO. Google will always need digital signals to evaluate the web, plus you can’t get referral traffic without a link.

How We Can Succeed At This

The method for acquiring content placements with highly engaged audiences is three-fold:

Knowing Your Target Audience

Once you’ve identified the audiences you want to get placements with, start creating content they’ll love. Do your homework, but also don’t be afraid to just ask the gatekeepers “what content do you want?” Don’t rush the planning stage, because you may only get one shot. Teach the readers something new, give them useful data, and solve their problems. Look for ways to join or stir the conversation.

Having Content Outreach Capabilities

Highly engaged audiences come in many forms: blogs, Facebook pages, forums, editorials, etc. You need to understand how to work within these diverse web properties with the ultimate goal of acquiring a link. Skip the salesmanship and look for the win-win. You want content placement and they want awesome content that will engage their audience. Outreach templates can help streamline the process, but personalization is a must. Remember that you’re working with busy people: social media specialists, forum moderators, editors, business owners, etc. You can bet they’re receiving multiple pitches a day, so make sure your pitch stands out and is genuine. If all else fails – up your game: pick up the phone, send a gift basket, or stop by their office.

Having Content Creation Capabilities

This is where most SEO’s get bogged down. Creating ‘quality content’ takes time, planning, and resources. No more shortcuts or budget undercuts (unless you can find a more affordable graphic designer). Don’t rush the design stage – you can’t rush a masterpiece. Hire the best writers, have graphic capabilities, and have video capabilities.

Bottom Line

It used to be so easy.

We’ve evolved and the SEOs that couldn’t have dropped out of the game. Our efforts are targeted and quantified. We need to own our craft, because the business world needs the ROI we bring. Let PR agencies continue to send press releases ‘over the wire’ and let ad agencies continue to create brand awareness. We need to stick to what we do best – connecting with highly engaged audiences.

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterhess/2976755407/

George Nielsen
George Nielsen has been in the digital marketing game since 2008 and is passionate about helping businesses use SEO and inbound marketing to generate leads... Read Full Bio
George Nielsen
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • We aren’t magicians anymore? Google crushed us? I don’t agree. We just have to become smarter as Google does. If Google starts fingerprinting us, I’ll file off my fingerprints. But we have to operate on the fringe. There are only 10 page one spots and Google loves to give them away to the big-bucks company. Try doing a search for local real estate listings… You’ll find Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com… And do they have great content? Nope, just a lot of home listings. Search for real estate listings in your area and tell me why THAT page is number one. It’s just a page of listings, and every realtor has that. Google isn’t playing fair, so we must always be subversive. If Google want to favor big business, in everything but local listings, us little guys need to be smarter. Luckily, there are lots of SEO morons who will continue to distract the Google Security Guards, causing a big scene and distracting Google, as I slip by quietly with my bag of tricks. I depend on bad SEO’s to continue my business, which depends a lot on tricks. Tricking Google is SEO.

    • George Nielsen

      Hey Michael,

      I suppose the statement ‘Google’s crushed us’ was a bit dramatic as a blanket statement, but was part of setting the tone of the article. I still have my own bag of tricks that I use as well :). But it definitely isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. Similar to the real estate bubble and recession, we faced our own ‘bubble’ and it changed the industry. Many SEOs dropped out, and those of us still around have evolved, gotten even better, or reinvented ourselves as ‘inbound marketers’.

      Zillow, Trulia, Realtor… you’re right in the sense that they don’t have to produce great content anymore, just add new listings. But it’s because they’ve earned their trust as brands and authorities in their markets. They can do whatever they want and their pages will rank. In the beginning, they had to market themselves aggressively to become known brands. Those of us that don’t have the deep pockets, must take the long road of producing quality content to reach ‘brand’ status.

      • Ha! Drama is what gets readers engaged George! And I half-agree with you about deep pockets and aggressive marketing. But Google, oh the Great Google in All of It’s Brilliance and Glory, should be able to filter that out. The almighty algorithm should take care of deep-pockets-SEO. Being able to afford 365 press releases per year should not transfer authority to your individual, deeply nested listing pages. Neither should “widget links”- a “linking scheme” if I’ve ever seen one. If we believe Google (and I never do), and that quality content and usability is number one, then any local Realtor opinion about local real estate is a better expert than the zombie, auto-created pages of Zillow. Down with SkyNet.

    • Hi Michael

      I was almost agreeing with you until your last comment “Tricking Google is SEO”. Many years ago when I first started as an SEO I may have agreed with this statement, but times have changed and Google has proved that it will impose hefty penalties on websites that set out to manipulate the search engine rankings.
      SEO is giving Google what it wants, that is the only way to deliver long lasting results, quick tricks went out of the window with Penguin. Unfortunately Google has the ultimate power.
      Yes big brands tend to rule because of the strength and authority but with quality unique content and creative marketing strategies smaller businesses can compete without resorting to tricking Google.

  • I think a strong point to remember is that we are not our discipline. SEO is Search Engine Optimization. And we optimize content for optimal placement on the SERPS and for maximum online visibility. If we define who we are by what we do, we leave little room to control our future.

    • George Nielsen

      Short, sweet, and well said – thanks for the comment Larry.

  • Michael Jones, I used to feel like Zillow and Trulia were impossible to compete with. I got tired of paying them thousands of dollars every year for crappy leads. I just started a new website (http://greatcoloradohomes.com) about 4 months ago and I have been optimistic about SEO. I’ve been steadily restructuring my website links to keep everything close to my home page, writing solid blog posts, and sharing my posts on social networks. In just four months, I’m getting 25 to 50 organic visitors a day in areas where Zillow and Trulia exist. Those big companies are not local like I am and I’m not even on their radar yet. I may not show up for huge keywords (yet), but there are tons of local searches done that I will be able to dominate on by writing good content, maintaining a good website link structure, and constantly tweaking to be more Google friendly in local searches.

    If those big Real Estate companies are intimidating, let me encourage you to keep working the SEO leverage. You won’t take over the National U.S. Real Estate SERPS, but you can definitely get some serious local results.

    • George Nielsen

      Nice Andrew.. I’ve definitely seen the advantage of targeting a niche. Not too long ago I was pursuing several niche’s, which all had potential, but I stretched myself too thin. I had to narrow it down to one niche and put all my energy behind it, which has proved successful. Just like the mom n’ pop shops can beat out chains, niche sites have roots where brands have branches.

    • @Andrew: I think you’re mistaken about something. I am posting here anonymously, but I’m sure you know who I am, if you saw my face. You can believe that or not, but l want to address something that you wrote Andrew:

      “I’ve been steadily restructuring my website links to keep everything close to my home page…”

      I would strongly discourage that idea. There used to be a time when nested pagerank was important. That is, the further you get from the root, the “less important” your pages were considered by Google. Now, however, Google is favoring nested content, which makes perfect sense. Nested content is organized content. We were just talking about Zillow and Trulia and their successes. How do they do it?


      Or whatever. But nested content is the key Andrew. I would highly recommend that you work on getting content AWAY from your main URL and mimic the way the big boys are doing it. You should have a page all about Colorado real estate. As a child to that page, you should have a page with all kinds of information on the county that you serve. Then, as grandchildren, each city in your area. Finally, neighborhoods as great grandchildren. That’s your key to getting those niches that you want. Drill it down. That’s the key, I promise. Haven’t you noticed breadcrumbs in the Google SERPS? You get those when you have nested content and breadcrumbs. Putting all of your URLs close to the root is a gigantic mistake. I say this only to help you.

  • We really not sure how long can SEO last? As Google started to hide search terms data 100% (not provided) in analytics. Although Google always claims that SEO will never die.

    • George Nielsen

      I agree Jack – we truly DON’T know. I personally feel search engines will always be around and will always require algorithms to rank results, where it’s Google, Bing, Siri, Facebook, or Amazon, etc. Figuring out these algorithms is the fun of it. BUT I think SEO will be significantly harder in the near future if you’re not a brand. So the game-plan is to become a brand and leverage as many business/publishing relationships as possible.

      • Yes SEO indeed harder than before. However some time we think about it, organic search is the heart of Google, it is how Google got million of users relay on them. Yet when Google become over dominated, they might become greedy and turn towards no ethics? Like many people does said, by default all websites allow Google bot to claw our sites and get indexed and grow their index database, everyone provide them indexes, now they provide Analytics although is free for limited use, for us to understand how users search and found us, if they going to make 100% (Not Provided) data on search terms, this become a great debate? Is this fair? Are they just want to gradually force everyone using their paid search advertising? Oh no….

  • So spot on. It’s one thing when you are an individual SEO, This gets compounded when you were an entire agency just built on the SEO premise.

    • George Nielsen

      Agencies have been hit pretty hard… I live in Utah and the big players here are Boostability, Orange Soda, and SEO.com. SEO.com has been hit really hard since Penguin, they just weren’t agile enough to adjust to more quality link-building. They’ve adjusted now, but after several rounds of lay-offs and severe losses in market share.

  • What could I add? What gets me is the ‘earn’ link’s vs ‘relative’ link’s debate!! Which is it?

    • George Nielsen

      By ‘relative’ do you mean ‘relevant’ links, or in the HTML sense (Absolute vs. Relative Paths/Links)? Anyways, earning relevant links seems like the way to go :).

  • Trying to outsmart Google is getting more and more difficult. One single approach does not work for every page and with every day we need to have another trick in our sleeve. As stated in one of the previous comments, what Google counts in some cases, it doesn’t make any sense. High rankings for no quality content or maybe even no content at all, no responsive or at least user friendly pages rank high… pages that when you open, you immediately consider as spammy as they were created for one purpose only and not at all engaging or for actual audience. This being said, it sometimes makes me so frustrated I want to quit, yet on the other hand it just gives me the drive to stick another day to test my innovative approaches and capabilities as well as to see whether Google plays in a way: what goes around comes back around, therefore I’m not afraid to stick a around.

    • George Nielsen

      Isaac – your comment sums up my thoughts on the matter. There’s been several times where I’ve wondered ‘Why did I choose this industry?’ and have considered quitting. But ultimately, I love being a marketer and love the challenge of creating growth. The ROI from SEO continues to beat out other channels we have a desperately needed skill. We help the ‘little guys’ compete with the brand giants out there.

      I have definitely become more conservative in how I approach SEO, I’ve found that when I chase the audiences and referral traffic – 99% of the time it’s a quality link that will stick. Plus, even if the link gets devalued, I’m still getting referral traffic.

  • Give or take, SEOs can still be reckoned with in the Internet marketing world. What they do remain crucial. As a matter of fact, Google’s algorithm changes helps to revolutionize the way SEO is carried out today.

    We expect changes in future strategies and approach. However, I agree that its a more complicated process than what obtains in the past.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    • George Nielsen

      Like I’ve mentioned before, when SEO is done right – only direct referrals bring a better ROI. PPC has a strong argument, but once you rank organically in the optimal spots for your keywords, sit back and enjoy the traffic.

      Honestly, I think the SERPs are looking quite good lately and Google could lay off a bit, but they won’t… and we won’t. Not sure where this constant escalation will lead, but there will always be algorithms to learn.

  • This was an interesting post and I have been intrigued by the comments posted above. I have been in this field for a little over a year and can tell you that writing to outsmart Google has never been the goal of my optimization. My goal is simple, to get my clients ranked for keywords that they should rank for by making their site enticing to Google. I play by Google’s rules and it has been working not only for Google but for Bing and Yahoo as well.

    I think that some SEOs have turned Google into the enemy when this simply isn’t the case. Although Google does serve ads first, which I have seen be beneficial for my clients, the content that follows is what Google has deemed per their algorithm to be the best return for the search query. The trick of being the best SEO possible is figuring out what Google is looking for in their current algorithm and play it up on your website.

    I have been able to deduct a pretty concrete formula for getting a site to rank for target keywords from the campaigns that I run. This formula includes titles, descriptions, keywords, heading structure throughout content, good quality content (writing for users is now what writing for Google looks like), and frequent posting of quality content. Link building is important but only if they are quality links, I have been able to get many sites to number one positions for competitive keywords without a large focus on backlinks. They are important, just not as important as they once were and as some SEOs still insist they are, Google is just trying to give its users the best search experience possible and for this reason they will never be able to go to a completely ad based search result or they will cease to exist as the top search engine. When it gets down to it, many users will skip the ads every time unless they see the company they are searching for or an ad that offers a good deal. This is because they are annoying, lead to poor content and typically are not what the person is really looking for, Think about yourself, do you click on ads very often or do you skip to the first organic result or maybe the first five organic results? I know that I personally skip the ads 95% of the time and many of my clients and friends do as well. This is why I believe that the field of SEO isn’t going away any time soon, just ever changing and it is important to accept that. While some true and tried methods carry forward in today’s SEO campaign we will have to continue to adapt to Google’s constantly evolving search algorithm or we will not be successful.

    As far as PR goes, we still have the unique ability to drive traffic to our clients site through organic search and online referrals, a skill that is limited throughout the PR world. My regular client is a small company that needs help ranking in Google but can’t afford a full time PR department so their hire the web design firm I work for instead, In the future you might just have to sell yourself as a cost effective alternative to a typical PR person.

    If you have taken the time to read this entire comment, thank you for bearing with me as I share my thoughts, Thanks for your time and good luck on your SEO endeavors!

    • George Nielsen

      Hey Andrea,

      Okay I read the whole thing, good stuff, but LONG :). But hey you read my article (supposedly) so we’re even right? :).

      I can’t say I do SEO exactly like you’re describing – I still believe the game is 60-70% link building and the rest being quality content and on-site optimization. Unless you have an active audience or are currently getting significant traffic, you could put out the most beautiful piece of content, but it could still be a billboard in the desert if you’re just starting. Google needs to start rewarding efforts like this in the SERP’s, before I really buy it. They say ‘just create quality content’, but I still see sites with quality content AND links owning page #1 (brands aside). Sure, I believe you should ‘skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been’ and stay ahead of the algorithm with conservatism, but most of us still have to do outreach if you want your content to be found.

      I’m sure we’re both talking about a divine balance between the two, but I tend to still lean more towards the links/outreach side.

    • Hi Andrea,
      I Agree with you Andrea your theory i’d say is typically correct, i think that some SEO people are over complicating it and trying the old advanced techniques that no longer work as good as they used to. When over complicating it what they are failing to see is that it all comes back to the Basic SEO such as the Page titles, Meta Descriptions, rel=publisher link and the content being relevant to the users. I do think it comes down to creating a site for the users perspective ahead of the search engine, Google do now serve the most relevant results for a users search query based on the content and the basic information such as the Page titles etc. SEO is being confused and people have a habbit of trying to hard.

      Very good comment Andrea. I agree with users before search engines.

  • Ben

    I may be overthinking this, but you seem to be saying SEOs can continue if they just change what they do, become content marketers, and keep calling themselves SEO experts…

    In my mind they’re two different things. If you can write great content, and know how to leverage it over social media, why then you’re a content marketer – and that’s been the best way to build rankings and niche authority for years now! Barely more than a dusting of basic onpage SEO is required, unless you’re in a highly competitive keyword niche. We’ve seen the declining effectiveness of “pure” SEO – getting the right keywords in the right spots – since at least 2011.

    Talking about dinosaurs, I still find people who are so focused on PPC that the term “keyword research” to them means using the Google Planner. And in this very comment thread I see at least one who still thinks it’s a winning strategy to try and remain one step ahead of a company which employs over 50,000 extremely smart people, actively trying to stop you from circumventing their system… but Google will always smile on genuine efforts put into genuine content. And so do customers.

    SEO in isolation was a shortcut which had to die.

    • Michael G.

      That’s funny Ben. They employ 50,000 people, yet they still can’t get it right? Do a search for “foods invented in lousiana” and tell me what the top three results are. Google is a broken system, constantly in beta and always able to be exploited. 50,000 employees or two employees- I can manipulate a database, just as any systems analyst can. If you think there are no “tricks” or that you can’t outsmart them- you are thinking inside of the box- just like they want you to.

      • Ben

        Never meant to suggest there’s no way to game the system, only that it’s not a winning strategy in the long run. It’s a treadmill – they’ll always be closing up any holes you find, and every year your job will get harder.

        OR – you can learn to write, or at least how to hire people who can, and put out stuff that actually benefits your audience. Then let it continue working for you, indefinitely. “Step 3: Profit!”

  • I personally don’t like this SEO system. But what else to do when we are left with only this. I’d be happy to skip it if possible!!

  • I’m sorry but connecting with audiences isn’t search engine optimisation. It might be part of the getting links / authority aspect but search engine optimisation is what it says on the tin – making a website discoverable. Sure engaging with audiences is part of that but it’s not the core of SEO.

    • George Nielsen

      Going off of the pure definition of Search Engine Optimization – you’re right. Touche.

      But if I’m on a marketing team and I’m the SEO, what do I really bring to the table? PR is probably outsourced (high authority links), we’ll have a bubbly intern managing social media, we’ll most likely have writers and graphic designers – who make beautiful content, and then oDesk freelancers for the ‘link building’. Well of course my job would be to leverage all of these parts to get quality links, but the HOME-RUN would be a content placement with a highly engaged audience. Because the snowball effect of social shares, blog post mentions, other pick-ups, referral traffic, and of course ‘the link’ – are hard to beat by any other channels.

      So if I were to be politically correct, I’d say ‘Content Placements (with a link) With Highly Engaged Audiennces’ are what SEO’s are best at. Finding someone that’s truly good at content outreach is tough, but our field is where you can find them.

  • Versatility is what makes SEOs different now. There isn’t a formula anymore. You can’t just go with the old content is king phrase and be golden. It’s industry dependent, term dependent, location dependent, time dependent – I could go on. You have to be able to adapt to a thousand different things. We’re good at that!

    As search evolves, we do too. As Andrea Kroeger says – Google is looking for the best fit to give a user. We have to keep moving with that best fit. I would TEND to agree, but honestly? I don’t think Google knows 50% of the time. A machine reliant on algorithm and trends is only going to be able to provide a best guess. It’s a machine – it can be fooled. Some industries still use dated, nasty, ugly SEO tactics and blow the squeaky clean “do what Google wants” sites out of the water – the wedding industry and musicians spring to mind.

    Whatever Google says it wants, it does not or cannot apply across the board. It’s evident in so many industries – I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before things change again, but we can’t just use the same formulaic approach of old. It doesn’t apply anymore.

    • It depends on how you go about “fooling” Google. If you plan is black hat tactics then you better enjoy the ride until Google notices what you are doing. Google is getting closer and closer to an algorithm that will grade your site like a human. They are looking for quality content and as their algorithms advance towards that everything else we have known to make up the SEO equation becomes more and more obsolete.

      I would agree with you though that there is no perfect formula for SEO and that each industry, location, etc requires a slightly different approach and that we have to be adaptable. The way that I began an campaign a year ago to the way I begin a campaign now has changed pretty drastically and I believe that in the coming months and years that it will continue to change and probably evolve into something completely different than what we do now.

      As for the sites that you claim are using bad tactics, they might be using them but there is a reason that a lot of them are at the top. Google’s algorithm for serving content after a search query is far more complex than any of us can comprehend but I have found that you have to play by the rules of the industry you are working in. Maybe the reason directory type sites show up at the top is because those sites result in low bounce rates and high user engagement? Depending on the industry, directories can be exactly what people are after. If you are looking for a good place to eat this weekend when you visit Chicago you are probably after a directory, not a restaurant website. You will read through a site like yelp, tripadvisor, or urbanspoon to see what is rated the best and what type of cuisine sounds good before continuing onto the site to make your reservation. At some point though I believe that Google will stop serving these sites first because it will have developed its own restaurant directory for the user just like it has done for movies, game scores, and the Olympic medal count. It has already developed carousels for some searches including restaurants with their rating listed below. The more information that Google can serve within its results the happier users are because they just received an immediate answer.

      Now that I have rambled on again (sorry about that) I would just like to wrap up with this thought. Google isn’t the enemy, it is a search engine trying to serve the best content out there to its users and we are the people helping them do it. This has worked well for my campaigns over the last year, Give Google good insight into what your site is about using white hat tactics and they will reward you for it, try to trick them and you will pay the consequences, maybe not immediately, but definitely in the future.

      Good luck on your SEO endeavors!

  • A Content marketer’s main skill should be writing. It takes a talented writer or a really respected subject matter expert to create the kind of content needed to build links. Are SEOs great writers?

    Instead of moving into the content space, I think SEOs should focus on becoming “organic digital strategists” who know how to weather algorithmic changes and can advise clients on the best methods and platforms to meet their goals. I see SEOs not as content marketers themselves, but as experts who know how to leverage content marketing among other tools.

    • George Nielsen

      Thanks Britt, I disagree with SEO’s not being in the ‘content space’, but agree with leveraging content marketing efforts to get a link. Content marketing involves both content creation (writing, graphic design, etc.) and content outreach (content placement) in my definition. We definitely need to be in the content space, with outreach being the conduit of ultimately acquiring a link. Working alongside public relations specialists, writers, and any other marketing activities to make sure links are acquired in the wake of all these efforts. So we definitely both agree here. I’ve worked with PR’s on several occasions and it KILLS me when they get an article published on WSJ or HuffPo with NO link. The bump in rankings for a converting keyword is usually going to bring more ROI than the referral traffic of the actual article.

      Thanks for the comment, oh and great portfolio site! 🙂

  • Great article, I like the language used for “effect” it got my attention!

    I think although the title got me a bit defensive, you sum it up best when you say “Organic search continues to bring one of the best returns on investment (ROI) and the business world needs us to be good at what we do. Don’t believe me? Just ask any business that’s been blogging for years and their rankings haven’t even budged.”

    Thank s for the good read!!!

    • George Nielsen

      Thanks Mike, glad you caught the intent :).

      Seriously though – if someone starting from scratch were to purely follow Matt Cutt’s advice and simply blog, and blog, and blog… it would take a LONG time and be a long shot for them to penetrate the top 10 pages of a competitive keyword. Sure, eventually you may get a mention or a pick-up. But a CMO that wants an ROI or a new business can’t wait that long. I don’t think there should ever be anything wrong with pro-actively promoting your content, which is usually some form of link building. If your content sucks, then it shouldn’t get past the gatekeepers. But it’s great stuff, then outreach does everyone a favor.

  • I think the whole existensialist question of “What are SEOs good anyway?” is is the new “SEO is dead”.
    Look, we can discuss this question all we want to, But, to me, as long as SEO brings money to my clients, it’s worth the investment. There are some companies that shouldn’t do SEO, just as there are companies that should. Every case and every industry, and even every niche, is unique.
    That’s all that there is to talk about.

    • George Nielsen

      I definitely had a provocative title, but as you can see I’m an SEO and proud of it. Each industry is different, which is why I think freelancers and agencies need to specialize in industries to thrive. Those who have established relationships will thrive as everything else is becoming saturated.

      I’m an ‘SEO conservative’ and believe relevance is extremely important with link building. In addition to avoiding future algo updates, I also want the targeted referral traffic, which converts better.

      You need to establish your network and voice in certain niche’s, because it’s hard to get market-share in new ones. Making new editorial relationships is becoming harder as most publications are becoming saturated with SEO pitches and forum moderators are quick to ban new accounts that post links quickly. You need to know your neighborhood, know your territory…

  • Hi Nielsen,
    You are true, SEO is an everlasting technique to improve the site ranking. ROI(Return on investment is the best advantage of SEO.
    And thank you Nielsen For you good stuff.

    • George Nielsen

      Thanks for reading Aswathy!

  • Your article reminded me another typical Matt Cutts google propaganda article by people who havent ever ranked anything apart a 100 impressions per month long tail article on a business blog. I am sorry but this whole thing needs to stop and George I read you and know you are much better than that. What you prove here is that a guy who runs his own blog and have an engagement content did better by 2 other networks. Why is this even unlikely to happen and how is it connected with SEO ? How it is also connected with terms and products such as “buy a fridge online” where corprorations spends billions of pounds per year and top rankings generate $10k profit a day again only you know. You are talking about creating engaging content and reach the right audiences. I can tell you that this is a marketing practise and not SEO. How you reach your engaging audience is a different story. You can do online marketing, offline, email, mail, hell you can even sit outside a competitor and distribute leaflets.

    I dont disagree with what you say, I disagree completely with your title though. One quick advise about Google. Google doesnt give a penny in making your web site popular. Write all the content in the world. Google only cares to rank popular web sites. ifgyou can see the difference then you are in business. and because they use links to know which site is popular is why people who buy links make money. and because they algorithm cant track them its the reason they send “manual” penalties when a network is exposed. Cause algorithm cant understand the difference. That is SEO. The rest is marketing and content replaces, magazines, leaflets, educational promotional materials etc (it is more complicated ofocurse but in a nuttsell).

    • George Nielsen

      Well I think I follow you for the most part. Don’t worry, the ‘doomsday’ title was only to stir the pot :).

  • This is not the first time I am reading a blog which focus on Google is crushing SEO. But I don’t care. I do not fear of Google. I will continue my SEO work as I am doing. Google cannot stop us.

    Till the time Google is operational, SEO will remain alive. Once Google will stop showing organic results on their SERP (Search Engine Result Page). From that time I will stop doing SEO for Google but I will continue my SEO work for Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and for other search engines.

    I am not afraid of Google anymore!!

    • George Nielsen

      ‘Till the time Google is operational’ – this totally sounds like you’re referring to the Death Star in Star Wars, awesome.

      Eh I’m still a little afraid… my career lies in the hands of an algorithm. But I’m also confident enough in my strategy/tactics that I don’t stress about algo updates anymore. For the most part I’m giving Google what it wants, what users want. I’ve definitely shifted my energy towards succeeding at content marketing and outreach as opposed to link schemes and tricks.

      There should be support groups for recovering grey-hat/black-hat SEOs like myself.

  • Hi George,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been in the SEO business for 2 years, working mainly on local keywords for local businesses, and came in to the on the back of running my own web based for a number of years. I started just as Panda was released and from day one followed the Google guidelines and the guidance put out from Google and have done really well out of picking up clients who were ditching their previous SEO companies as their rankings crashed. The reason is simple. Google is, and always will, look to promote quality content over technical trickery every time. Some SEO’s seem to think that finding the next loophole in the algorithm will always keep then ahead of the game, but experience has taught all of us that pay attention this can only ever work as a short term strategy. Fine if you’re happy to take your clients money in the short term and don’t care about the fact their rankings may well crash at the next update and Google closes yet another loophole, but not so good if you want to build long term business relationships and generate referrals.

  • Agree with Michael, Google crashed us is a blanket statement. SEOs evolved like in any other industry. Can’t think on any other title that describes somebody doing this job better than me.

  • Chris

    Google better wake-up soon.

    Each month I get more and more Bing Search traffic. People are sick of Google listing the largest sites on top full of poor content and Adsense ads.

    Plus, Google is listing a lot of the really bad sites on top of the good sites now. When I say “bad”, I mean sites giving away stolen content and image files.

    A good example are image and map files.

    Years ago, if you searched for map files, you got the legitimate retail map sites like –
    MapResources, DigitalVectorMaps, CreativeForces and others now out of business.

    For example, the search term “vector world map” before the Panda and Penguin updates would list the valid retail quality content sites on top. Now that term in Google Search lists offshore stock related sites posting TONS of stolen files. These rogue sites are dripping with Adsense ads.

    Do you think Google gives a rats ass? The answer is NO, because they are leading the way stealing image files with their new image library. Only a class action lawsuit will change both Google and Bing from breaking the copyright laws. Maybe when this happens the web search listings and SEO will go back to normal and make some sense. Until than, I am using Bing which has more stable search results.

  • Hey folks

    I think that search & digital as a whole and as a marketing avenue is more complicated than ever. Also, there is a tendency to assume that an SEO is also a social media guy and a content writer and technical wizard and a … you get the picture.

    My approach is a bit different – I am an SEO and Internet Marketing consultant. I help our clients understand the often bewildering array of options out there to promote their business. I help people understand what could work and what would likely be a complete waste of time.

    My main skill is to understand and assess the landscape and advise on the best options and to put together a plan and a strategy. I have a T shaped skill set so I am very good at on site and technical SEO but I am also proficient in Local SEO, PPC, Social, Analytics and a bunch of other things but more often than not we shine a light on the path and help people follow it rather than do everything.

    For instance, we rarely do link building or content development – we work with partner companies to help deliver this for our clients as we believe these are highly specialised areas that need resident experts in their field.

    My take on being an SEO is to help businesses crack open search and understand how to use it to their advantage. Whether we provide some, all or none of the implementation and only provide strategy and measurement is unimportant – what matters is that we understand search and help businesses optimise their presence within search by focusing on what should / could / will work for them.


  • I love the person I am becoming through SEO. I will always be a good reader, a creative thinker and doer of experiments because of Google’s ever changing algorithm.