Welcome to the era of Organic Search Marketing, where SEO is no longer about manipulating search results. It’s about search marketing professionals working “hand in hand” with search engines to bring searchers the most relevant results.

Looking at the Internet in its entirety, search engines represent a substantial portion of online traffic. Almost all with access to the web utilize them in some capacity. With such a large portion of users seeking answers and information from search engines it is clear to see why there is such a heated debate around the relevance and effectiveness of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. It is in the first few sentences where the future of SEO is revealed. With more and more people using search engines there will always be a need for SEO, simple as that.

As a search-marketing practitioner, I gathered various insights to solidify and exemplify my above statements. Yes, the simple logic behind why SEO isn’t dead is really just that simple. Demand for search equals the supply of SEO. Certain industry professionals have expressed their cynical views, stating that SEO has indeed met its untimely demise. Jill Whalen, a veteran SEO, announced she’s ending her SEO career because according to her, “Google now works. The tricks to beat and spam Google no longer work as well… This means, my friends, that my work here is done.” This is true but it is important to note two keywords here: tricks and spam.

“Google now works. The tricks to beat and spam Google no longer work as well… This means, my friends, that my work here is done.” This is true but it is important to note two keywords here: tricks and spam.

Yes, SEO is beyond “dead” if its intention is to trick and spam search results through methods like link farming, jam packing content with keywords, and other devious methods. In fact, the era of “black-hat” manipulation techniques died ever since Google updated their algorithm with Panda and Penguin – and now Hummingbird. What many fail to understand is that these aren’t accurate reflections of what SEO truly is and should be. The term SEO itself is outdated as this once standalone service has given way to a multitude of integrated techniques. As a whole, these techniques are more appropriately known as organic search marketing, and this is a large part of my role here at Cult. For the sake of consistency, we’ll continue to use SEO in this blog post. So what is a more accurate definition of SEO?

SEO, is a web optimization discipline that helps search engines crawl and understand your website more accurately, thereby effectively matching searchers intent to the page content. In this regard, SEO is far from dead. In fact, it will thrive as long as search engines exist and here are some quick stats from Hubspot to demonstrate why:

  • 44% of online shopping begins with a search engine.
  • Over 61% of users start their research in search engines if the purchases end up in store.

And how does search ranking affect your overall web traffic?

  • Over 32% of the total’s search traffic comes from the first search result.
  • 91.5% of total search traffic comes from the first page of search result and the number declines dramatically to 4.8% once it reaches second page.

What do these numbers tell us? First off, search engines are absolutely essential in the buying process, so if you are seeking for a healthy volume of traffic to your website, then you better hope your website is performing well in search engines. Second, to garner valuable search traffic, your website needs to rank high in search engines on relevant search terms and that’s where SEO comes into play.

The term SEO itself is outdated as this once standalone service has given way to a multitude of integrated techniques. As a whole, these techniques are more appropriately known as organic search marketing, and this is a large part of my role here at Cult.

It doesn’t stop there. Search engines are essential for bringing in the traffic but ultimately it’s how this traffic affects your bottom line that truly matters. In marketing, we call this conversion.

Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge, delved into the issue further, surveying over 20,000 SEO professionals across 8,400 brands. One of his most important and business relevant findings is that: “84% [of those surveyed] said that understanding the business impact of the page or content in terms of actual traffic, conversions and revenue would be more important. SEO success goes far beyond traffic – it affects the bottom line.”

The survey furthered strengthened my beliefs about the future of SEO, finding that 85% were placing more importance on a content-based approach as they moved forward, with many stating the decreasing importance of keyword baiting and similar techniques. As a search marketer, my duty isn’t only about getting you the traffic from search engines, but it’s how we translate this traffic into actual revenue. This service is the core of the evolving search marketing toolbox.

As a search marketer, my duty isn’t only about getting you the traffic from search engines, but it’s how we translate this traffic into actual revenue. This service is the core of the evolving search marketing toolbox.

At the End of the Day

Here’s my verdict. SEO is not dead. It has simply evolved and it’ll continue to evolve as long as search engines exist. SEO is no longer about manipulating search results; instead search marketing professionals work “hand in hand” with search engines to bring searchers the most relevant results. It’s not so much about the volume of traffic that search brings in; it’s quality of traffic that counts.

While many SEO practitioners may try and lead you astray, this negativity and denouncing of SEO is simply their bitter reaction to a changing landscape, as now they have to improve and adapt their methods to meet a more demanding and cleverer audience.