A former colleague recently mentioned that he wanted to rebrand the term SEO to the more cumbersome, but highly descriptive Digital Ecosystem Analysis. I thought for a second. DEA? Interesting, but isn’t that acronym already taken by government agents chasing down the Walter Whites of the world?
But seriously, I was intrigued by the thought of a 15-year veteran in the SEO business ready to discard that sacred term in lieu of something a little more new age-y and all-encompassing. Why would he so quickly dismiss a term that paid for his last three cars, an engagement ring and a down payment on a nice home? I needed to know. So I did what any self-respecting marketer looking for quick answers would do…I Googled “Is SEO Dead?” I wasn’t surprised that there were results for that search since I’ve read several articles on the subject over the years. But I was surprised by how many pages of results I found (about 16 million results). Page after page of results linking to articles, YouTube videos, Google Chats, Blogs and agency sites. I even found a site dedicated to the subject, definitively called www.seoisdead.net. On this site the author claims that all of the people who have left the SEO business now spend time convincing clueless clients that they are Social Media Experts and make money by creating worthless tweets. Pretty cynical, I know.
So it really is an old topic with a lot of diverse opinions. After reading more, I began to understand why someone in SEO would want to take the “SE” out of the term. Over the years, the business of SEO has come to mean more than just outsmarting Google or trying to manipulate search results. With the proliferation of social listening and advanced web data to consider, a lot more goes into optimizing digital experiences these days. And that is a good thing.
When I started in digital marketing in the late 90’s the great promise for digital was that it would be an accountable media. Digital was something you could optimize on the fly with relatively little expense. While this is all true, over the years I have realized that digital media is only as accountable as the people paying the bills. If a client is okay with pushing out content to users in the hopes of attaining “ready-to-buy” customers and then only measures success by clicks and sessions views, then they are not particularly holding anyone accountable for anything. And worse, they’re spending money to create content that people neither want nor need.
Marketers should stop thinking about their traffic goals and start thinking about audience goals and business outcomes. Develop content that is consumable (answers customers’ needs) and optimize based on tangible business outcomes across all digital channels. The blocking and tackling for SEO doesn’t change in this scenario. You still need to have good keyword choices and take into account all of your title tags, alt attributes and write appropriate content in order to get higher listings.
SEO will always be an important strategy for driving business because it is ultimately about surfacing the right content at the times people need it most. If professionals are sick of the term SEO, how about we simply call it DO? Digital Optimization. Anybody?