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SEO is not dead: Why there’s a new normal

It never fails. Every time I see a blog post with “death of SEO”, I skip right over the post and jump to the comments. Because there’s always a boat load of them. Scanning them tells me exactly what I need to know about the post, as the author spends time clarifying and talking overreacting SEO’s off the bridge.

Case in point was Ken Krogue’s blog post on Forbes on July 20. Titled “The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR and Real Content,” Ken writes about how the focus on SEO has changed from old-school tactics like on-page optimization and link-building to continuous, high-quality content creation. And it’s not just him saying it. He quotes an SEO that he respects, Adam Torkildson, who says that “Google is killing the SEO industry.” Here’s what he meant.

“We hardly do any of the old SEO stuff. It still brings results, but not like it used to. Google is pulling the rug out to provide better search for their audience. They are routing out the counterfeiters. Now it must be real, valuable, content, and lot’s of community value and interaction.”

In a clear and compelling way, Ken wrote about how social signals have become a much bigger part of Google’s algorithm and that link building, which over time became more shady is less important. What generates social signals like Google +1′s, tweets and shares is great content that is generated on a continuous basis, which Google also rewards now through other algorithm changes that looks for freshness. This regular stream of great content generates an “opt-in” audience of followers that engage with and share it.

While SEO’s may have disputed what Krogue was talking about, many other marketers validated this view, as a chart published last week by Marketing Sherpa clearly illustrates.

This chart shows is the result of a survey of B2B marketers on their most effective SEO tactics. What stands out in this chart is not just the fact that content creation ranks number one, but the wide margin it holds over the second tactic on the list for most effective.

I’ve held the position for a long time that PR is the most experienced and the most qualified to lead the kind of content creation efforts that matter. Google is rewarding freshness and social signals. Success depends on creating content that is incredibly timely, that it relevant to the conversation and real-time trend among both influencers and buying community members alike, and provides insight or actionable advice readers can take with them to do their jobs better. Specifically, here is what I wrote two years ago when Google became a real-time search engine:

To Google, reputation is the most important thing.  This is true of basic web content, but now there is the added dimension of social content.  This is determined by how important others think you are, how credible you are to your public, and how much you help meet the needs of those in your (buying) community.

To me, this points to the importance of reputation management, something that communications and PR has owned for a long time.  As with many other things in business, reputation management is becoming more critical than ever now that a company’s buying public can turn to peers for information and opinion as easily as traditional sources of information.

So none of this is really new. SEO is alive and well — just look at how fast SEOmoz and its community are growing.

It’s just changing and the most recent set of discussions is just another reminder of how valuable PR is in this “new normal” marketing environment. The fact is that  PR and SEO pros can benefit by working together to deliver the best service to its marketing clients.

Do you agree or disagree?