Yes, the title is a bit tongue in cheek, but it addresses a very serious question; is SEO still the go-to solution for marketing a website and online services?

I think the best way to approach this problem is to step back and take a look at websites in general. What is a website for?

Some Perspective

Most businesses would view their website as the modern version of a Yellow Pages add.  People want to find out about certain services or products, and when they look them up in the Yellow Pages they see the name of your business and give you a call.  In some ways many people are still stuck in this mindset; they see their website as no more than an advertisement for their business.

So it’s not much of a stretch to extend this paradigm to Google(or other search engines); Google has become the new Yellow Pages which lists your website based on its content and relevance to the terms people are searching for. It’s traditional thinking superimposed on new ideas and systems.

I’d like you to start thinking about your website as something far more than just an ad, I want you to see that a website is actually the motor of a digital marketing machine.  What does this machine do? Boiled down to its most basic, a website should take traffic, convert that traffic into leads, then turn those leads into customers, and then ultimately into repeat customers.

That is what a website is for! I’ll say it again, because this is incredibly important: a website takes traffic, converts that traffic into leads, turns those leads into customers, and then turns those customers into repeat customers.

So a website’s job is to ultimately convert traffic into repeat customers. This is done by funnelling the traffic through a trust building experience based on value. The implication here is that there is far more to a successful website than just generating traffic. We’ll deal with that in a future article, but for now let’s look at traffic generation and SEO.

SEO for traffic generation

Now that we have some perspective, let’s take a look at SEO. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, was for many years the traditional way to get traffic to your website. There are two parts to SEO; on-page SEO which optimises the website and it’s pages for indexing by the search engines, and then building a reputation for the website or brand (off-page). There is a great explanation of how it works in this SEO article.

There was a time when web developers could fill a page with keywords and be on Google’s coveted first page in a matter of days. This was great for designers and website owners, but for people searching for quality results- it was a train wreck.

These days, things have changed- a lot.

The search engines have become significantly more sophisticated, and there are hundreds of factors now used to determine a website’s rankings in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Page).

The bottom line is that Google has, and continues to, modify its ranking algorithms to ensure the highest quality and most relevant results for its users. The common practice of many SEO companies who constantly look for ways to beat the search engine algorithms is not an effective platform to base a marketing strategy on. Why? Because when Google becomes aware of work-arounds and black hat tricks that are being used to beat their algorithms, they modify them so those tricks no longer work. SEO companies who use these tricks and work-arounds are playing a rigged game of snakes and ladders with Google and Google ALWAYS wins. And who loses? The website owner who has invested the vast majority of their time and their marketing budget in SEO without realising they are playing against the house.

You may be aware that many of the big players in the SEO industry have started rebranding themselves and are repositioning themselves and their services. If not, here are a few examples:

So if SEO is not as effective a means of traffic generation as it once was, what is the best way? What is working now?

Well, Google is looking for websites and pages that are relevant to what their users are searching for, high quality content with equally high value. They will direct their users to sites and pages that they have determined demonstrate a reputation for providing these qualities.

The best solution for improving your rankings and overall online visibility is not to fight the losing battle of trying to beat the system, it’s working with the system; and the way this is done is with content marketing.

What is content marketing and how does it work? Stay tuned for our next article!
P.S. Don’t just take my word for it! Here’s some further reading:
Why I Stopped Selling SEO Services and You Should, Too
Does Chasing a #1 Search Engine Ranking Justify Your Time and Money?