December 30, 2012

SEO Firms Are Dying, Here’s Why

SEO Firms Are Dying, Here’s Why

Nearly every new client asks if we provide search engine optimization (SEO) services.  We never have and never will.  We focus on branding and design and being amazing at those things. While we don’t provide SEO, I see so many of our clients getting duped into SEO packages that are either doing nothing or negatively impacting their search presence.

Today, what you might call “SEO”, can lead to being penalized by google or completely removed from their search rankings.  I have seen this happen and it’s not a good feeling when all of your traffic falls off. If your not a technical person I guess it’s pretty easy to get duped.  I know you have seen an email like this before, I get one a week. I cringe every time I get one of these and imagine businesses signing up for their SEO plans.

It’s easy to forget that Google isn’t the only search engine out there, but no one ever says “Bing it,” or “Yahoo it.” No, “Google it” is shorthand for looking something up online. This is why it’s no surprise that there’s now an entire industry devoted to cracking the Google code for sending Web pages to the top of the search rankings.  If you are hiring someone for SEO services, being on page one of Google is probably the result you are asking them for.

Google SEO has become a hot topic lately, since Google’s latest algorithm release named Penguin, is leveling the search playing field.  It’s no longer about buying your way to the top, but instead giving the best experience and relevant content for your target market.  It’s really as simple as that. Create good user experiences.  It’s time to focus on the basics like sitemaps, internal linking, title tags, micro formats, good content, and social engagement.

So what, exactly, are many crappy SEO firms actually doing when you hire them? Answer: not much that is actually helping you anymore. So in a way, SEO is dying. Yes, we said it.

This isn’t what many of these SEO consultants want you to think. In fact, an SEO “expert” might tell you that he or she is constantly coming up with new strategies for achieving optimized search engine results, or some such jargon. They are tricky like that. The methods used by many of these bargin SEO firms can negatively affect your search rankings considerably. Trying to manipulate Google’s algorithm in order to send a page to the top of the rankings doesn’t result in lasting significance anymore.  That ended in early 2011.

Unfortunately, if you try to achieve top ranking by sprinkling your web content with clusters of awkwardly placed keywords, setting up hundreds of social media accounts, buying thousands of backlinks, and (gasp!) sinister “black hat” techniques, then google will immediately smell a rat. The last thing any business wants is the perception that its website is crammed with useless, SEO-groping junk. Google will exact revenge on your website and fold you up like a lawn chair.

So are SEO firms irrelevant? Is SEO dead? Yes, and no. Personally I think the name should change as “SEO” is so yesteryear. I’d rather call it website optimization and content strategy.

Spending tons of money on frenzied SEO solutions without the content or the user experience to back up a strong online presence doesn’t make a ton of sense anymore  However, we’re living in the real world, after all; a page has to be accessible via search engine if it’s to have any significant traffic. The good SEO agencies will develop strategies to entice people to your site with relevant content and get them to convert into return visitors or customers. This is achieved with a well-designed pages and relevant, informative content. That is the future of SEO.

Oh, sure — you might say — it’s all well and good to recommend excellent, authoritative content, but that takes a lot of effort and who even reads it? Thinking like that doesn’t sell shoes. Or home accents. Or cupcakes, or anything that appeals to human needs, emotions and sensibilities. Google constantly updates its Web ranking algorithms in order to better serve its users, and any business that wants real, lasting search engine relevance needs to optimize its relationship with people first, search engines second.

Alright, all of you SEO ninja’s can put down your swords and throwing stars; we’re not saying SEO is useless. In fact if you are one of the good guys, send me your info and I might recommend you to our clients.

Many of our clients find their marketing departments working in tandem with good SEO teams which leads to excellent results. The incorporation of SEO principles into an existing strategy can be very useful. However, relying exclusively on SEO firms and promises of page one rankings rather than good content and user experiences will result in disappointment, wasted money, and possibly a whole lot of headaches.

Is SEO dead? Not yet. Is old school SEO dying? Yes. Fortunately for the crappy SEO industry, much of the website owning community just hasn’t realized it yet.

[notification style=”neutral” font_size=”12px” closeable=”false”] Checkout out our second installment of our bad SEO series right here. 8 SEO scams to watch out for. [/notification]


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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