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If you go anywhere online today looking for information about internet marketing, chances are you will see this debate: “Is SEO dead?” On one side you have people saying that Google has gotten so strict that all SEO services are now a waste of time and money. On the other extreme you have people saying that all you need is more SEO to get the same results.

So is SEO dead? Well, that depends on how you define SEO.

If your idea of SEO is paying $100 for 1,000 PR2 and higher backlinks or having an article written for $10 and blasting it out to 250 article directories then yes, SEO is dead. Particularly with the Penguin updates in April 2012 and May 2013, Google has gotten much stricter about which links they consider healthy and which links fall outside their Quality Guidelines.

Some of the things Google now penalizes were once staples of SEO work. Building links from directories and social bookmarking sites, posting articles with keyword-rich links on article farms, and commenting on blogs using your target keyword as your name can all get you in big trouble with Google. You could get away with them just a year ago, and they probably would have even helped you. At least for a little while.
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Does this mean that there is no future for the SEO industry? Not at all. It only means that SEOs need to now do what they should have been doing in the first place: providing real, valuable marketing for their clients. What is gone are the days of throwing a few hundred links up online and ranking on the first page of Google a week later. And, believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

What Should You Look For?

So what should a company do today to increase their exposure online? They need to wade through the mire of SEO companies that still promise guaranteed rankings, plus the moon, in two months and for $500. Unfortunately, these companies stay afloat by turning and burning companies that are stuck with a 20th century mindset of the internet. Don’t be one of those companies. Find an SEO that will provide robust value to your marketing plan.

Two huge goals of marketing are promoting your brand or public image and driving real eyeballs to your products and services. Can good SEOs contribute to these goals? Yes. Does it take more effort than building a bunch of random backlinks? Yes. Can it take longer to see results than it used to? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Consider These Potential Situations

Let me give you two scenarios:

In one, an old-school SEO built you hundreds of links on random sites that no one ever went to except to add links – think about it: when was the last time you went to a directory to find any information? These sites gave you great link juice and you enjoyed solid rankings on Google and were riding the wave of traffic.

Then, a few months or even a couple years later, Google realizes that no one goes to these sites that don’t add any real value to anyone’s experience on the internet, so they stop giving you a rankings boost for these links and your traffic drops. Or worse, Google decides that you have done nothing but spam your site across the internet and drops you from their index altogether. Does this sound familiar?

Now consider this: You hire an SEO company that uses a holistic marketing approach in their strategies. They form relationships with website owners, and those relationships open up into opportunities to post content on their websites. This content drives referral traffic to your site, plus the site owner promotes the content on his or her Twitter, Facebook, and Google +. This results in even more traffic, as well as new followers in your own social networks.

This SEO also takes the time to repurpose some of your content into an eye-catching and informative infographic. Maybe this one doesn’t quite go viral, but all of your social media networks see it, and some people share it with their followers, resulting in a few more sales for you. You have also increased your brand awareness and trust among your followers, because none of your competitors have taken the time to present their products to their customers in such a distilled, unique way.

All of this buzz on legitimate, trafficked websites and social media also has the side effect of catching Google’s eye and causes them to increase your rankings. However, the lasting worth comes from the interaction and value this SEO has created between you and your customers.

Are You Finding Value in Your SEO?

Websites and linking strategies become obsolete and die but Google and, more importantly, your customers place value on websites that are able to engage real people and enhance the online experience, rather than cluttering it up with a bunch of meaningless links.

What has been your experience with SEO? Is your SEO building you links or doing marketing for your website and brand?