SEO Dethroned Online Visibility Is the New King
Online Visibility Blog
SEO Dethroned Online Visibility Is the New King
A decade ago, SEO was the undisputed king of generating web traffic and creating online visibility. Using aggressive SEO techniques could, by itself, draw many visitors.
The online comments and SEO success stories of this era read like the reviews of a blockbuster film: “Great!” “Amazing!” “It changed everything.” “Our business would die without it.”
But SEO’s heyday has passed—and there’s a new champ. Today, the best way to generate high-volume, quality traffic for your website is to implement a comprehensive online visibility strategy using a wide variety of methods. Today’s preferred methods include strategies such as posting useful comments on third-party blogs and forums, encouraging customers to write positive online reviews, engaging consumers in feedback forums, producing compelling videos, placing well-written articles on quality sites, blogging and much more.
SEO FIRMS AND SMBS LIVE IN THE PAST
The current problem with SEO is twofold. First, many SEO firms are stuck in the past. Second, many small to medium sized business (SMBs) haven’t learned about SEO’s diminished importance.
A quick review of SMB’s recent comments about their SEO experiences illustrates this. While they used to sing the praises of SEO, recent online tales are more negative. They still read like reviews of a blockbuster movie, but SEO agencies are now villains instead of heroes. “They were monsters!” “It was like throwing my money down a pit!” “My website was invisible.” “They just kept making promises but never delivered anything.”
These all-too-common stories recount the harrowing experiences SMBs are having with scam artists, companies that don’t deliver on their promises, SEO strategies that make the SMB websites all but nonexistent to search engines, and nightmares associated with predatory billing practices and strong armed enforcement of contracts for services that were never delivered.
But even with these stories of dashed hopes, abused trust and wasted resources, many SMBs are still pursuing SEO as the primary focus of their online strategies. This is because SEO firms are invested in yesterday’s SEO techniques and they continue to misrepresent the ever diminishing returns their services can offer SMBs.
SEO IS A POWERFUL DRUG?
Because SEO is not as important as it once was, businesses that want to succeed can no longer rely solely on SEO to drive traffic to their sites. However, I should also say that SEO has its merits and it can be one aspect of a well-rounded online visibility strategy. In the broadest sense, SEO is nothing more than the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website or a web page from search engines, using natural or un-paid search results. This is contrast to other forms of search engine marketing which generate traffic through direct-paid methods like PPC advertising and paid placements. Of course, optimizing your website structure and code for good SEO is still important as well.
With all of this in mind, I like to think of SEO as a drug. And like a powerful drug, it can have a positive effect and can be an important way to ensure healthy website traffic. But it can also be used incorrectly—and do lasting harm to your site and reputation.
And if SEO is like a drug, many for-hire SEO companies are like doctors—doctors stuck in a time warp who haven’t read the latest research and think SEO is still the best way to treat the problem of low website traffic. But these SEO “doctors” are about ten years behind the times if they still think SEO is the cheapest and most direct route to increased web traffic, visibility and a long-term image building. It’s like they stopped learning and studying the Internet at the turn of the 21st century, and now they just want to prescribe the older “drugs” that they understand best and can most profit from. But this is not in their customers’ best interest. There are simply much better therapies out there for online success, and these therapies have fewer side effects and less risk of long-term damage.
To put it more concretely, the reason the SEO methods most often pursued by SEO-for-hire don’t work is because they include such questionable practices as keyword stuffing, automated link building, low-quality article posting, article spinning and so on. This path to supposed online success is slower, more expensive and potentially damaging to reputations, brands, and long-term website traffic trajectories.
SEO may have been the best cure when George W. Bush was in the early years of his presidency, but it no longer cuts it today. The most cutting-edge cure is to combine SEO with a comprehensive online visibility strategy.
SMBS MUST EDUCATE THEMSELVES
SMBs who seek online success must educate themselves on both the alternatives to SEO and the proper balance of SEO and other online visibility strategies.
In a recent conversation, Lesley Burton-Dallas of TurtleClan.com told me how her company’s inexperience with SEO led to months of being nearly invisible on the web. She said, “We had a really bad experience… They basically wiped us off the face of the earth. All of these SEO companies preyed on my ignorance. They said they could get us up on top of the page, but they knew all along that due to the frames on our website we were invisible… No results. None. None. None. I had to finally change my credit card information to stop the billing.”
Mark Rubin of JustMoulding.com shares a similar tale. “For a brief period we had an engagement with a company who basically ripped us off. They assigned inexperienced staff to our project, didn't give us any reports, and created inbound links on servers that we didn't control. Many of the links had our location listed at a wrong address, with an 800 number that couldn’t be tracked easily. The intent of this approach was to have a measurable ROI for calls that came from the SEO sources. The practical outcome of this approach is that when we terminated our contract with this company they decided to hold us hostage by not pointing the links to our correct address and phone number. So, we lost customers who clicked on those links and called a dead 800 number.”
The problem is that many SEO agencies continue to market and implement old SEO methods that are largely ineffective, generate junk traffic, damage online reputations, are often slow to achieve results and are very expensive.
This is why it’s much more important to think about raising and enhancing your online visibility as a long term strategy, rather than focusing on SEO in the short term.
EXPECT FALSE STARTS
Business owners who are going to pursue SEO as a main part of their online strategy must be ready to risk their time and money, and should be prepared for a rocky ride—at least in the beginning.
SMBs who have pursued the traditional SEO route tell me that it’s very difficult to produce good results on the first try. The common story is that the second or even third company works well. The problem is that this can take many months, and in the meantime the website has low rankings.
Jerome Daniels of SinlessTouch.com endured two false starts. “The first two companies we worked with got us no keyword rankings at all. They tried to push keywords that didn’t mean anything. The first company was just a black hole, we were just paying them monthly, and they handed us reports. They didn’t have a real strategy and there was no real communication. The second company focused on link-building only, and didn’t produce much. The third company was successful. They used a combination. Link building is one of the major components, rooted in keyword analysis and on-site work that needed to be done. And to make the site stronger to begin with they posted five or six articles a month, developed videos, link exchanges, tried to get more quality links and posted articles.”
The journey was also long and painful for Dan Eason of EnergizedSeller.com, yet finally ended in success. “SEO has been very successful, but only after a long battle and several false starts. We now get a seventh to 16th page rank in Google.”
FOCUS EFFORTS ELSEWHERE?
Of course, since SEO by itself doesn’t have nearly as much impact as a decade ago, the question many SMBs must ask is whether all the risk and many months of search engine anonymity are worth it. If there is a better way, in the form of a comprehensive online visibility strategy that incorporates in-house knowledge by creating SEO success with quality content, might that be a better way to go from the very beginning?
For Lesley Burton-Dallas of TurtleClan.com, her path to success led her away from SEO—straight toward blogging. “Since I started blogging about five hours a week on Active Rain I’m getting high rankings. It allows me to blog once and it goes to these other sites. It’s so easy to get results by just blogging. Within one week I was on every page that I needed to be on.”
The most telling fact might be her response to the question, “Do you think SEO works and will you continue to make it a part of your strategy?”
“No. Absolutely not. I found a much better way.”
It’s apparent that SMBs, PR professionals and marketers need to take notice of the diminishing importance and rewards of SEO. While SEO is still a viable part of an online visibility strategy, and will and be so for the foreseeable future, its effectiveness has been waning for many years.
This is bad news for SEO companies that raked in huge profits in the past, but it’s actually good news for both consumers and companies that do business on the web. When SEO was dominant, search engines directed us to pages that didn’t necessarily offer what we needed. But the game is changing and more relevant results are now delivered by search engines.
SMBs have more opportunity than ever to generate quality content via social media, blogs, feedback, videos and more that will help them serve their customers better and build lasting relationships. By seizing this opportunity they can easily leap ahead of their competitors who are still focusing on an old SEO model that is dying a slow death.