Is SEO Dead?In a recent business meeting with the owner of a fast-growing web design company he asked me how we could actually run a successful business with something like search engine optimization (SEO). When I asked him what he meant, he said “Well, Google changed their algorithm and they are trying to get people to rather opt for pay-per-click advertisements, so isn’t SEO dead?”

These opinions are shared by surprisingly many people, so here are our answers to that.

Google changed their algorithm

Yes, Google changed it. They’ve changed it countless times over the years. And they will keep on changing it, hopefully, because changing the algorithm is a good thing.

But you have to understand what the algorithm is and what it isn’t.

The algorithm is essentially the calculation process that happens on Google’s servers when a website is crawled and indexed by Google, and then again when certain words are searched for. The algorithm determines which websites that match certain keywords will be placed in the top positions on the first page of the search results. This is done automatically based on the processes dictated by the algorithm, and it is done to ensure that the sites that are listed in the search results have content that’s perfectly relevant to what the user searched for. In other words, when a user searches for “the killers” it is Google’s algorithm that determines if it should offer up a website about the Indie Rock band or a site about mass murderers. It’s about giving the user what they want.

Nowadays many so-called SEO specialists figure out how the algorithm works, and then they try to manipulate the system by doing things to boost certain sites even if they don’t provide the user with useful information. Google obviously don’t want this, so as they find out about these “tricks”, known as “black hat SEO”, they update the algorithm again to block people that use those systems. That’s why many people will buy expensive SEO services, see huge growth in their web hits, and then suddenly experience a total drop. Often those sites are then blacklisted by Google because of unethical SEO practices.

Does that mean SEO is dead?

No, definitely not! Certain SEO practices are dead, as they should be. But there is always room for a good, ethical SEO approach that takes the time to improve your website’s content and quality in combination with other techniques to boost your website’s organic search ranking. If you don’t try to manipulate the system but rather align yourself with Google’s goals and systems, you will have nothing to fear from algorithm changes and see lasting SEO results.

Google would rather have people pay for their pay-per-click ads

This is true, of course. Google wants people to pay for advertising, because that’s how they make their money. They are a business, after all.

But you also have to keep in mind that Google needs to maintain a balance. As an example, let’s say I decide to launch a newspaper that I will distribute free of charge and pay for by selling paid advertising. If I sell ads but I stop distributing my newspaper, how long do you think the advertisers will keep on paying for their ads? The answer is simple: they won’t, and they will probably ask for their money back.

The same applies to Google. They show ads primarily on their search results pages (yes there are other places, but Google aren’t in control of that so they prefer to boost their search result ads). So if there are no search results, how will they continue to show their ads? The answer is, they won’t. So yes, obviously they will want to sell pay per click ads. But the ads depend on the organic search results to work properly, which means that even with pay-per-click advertising, SEO is still a big part of the package.

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