SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!

Dana Todd, Vice President of Performance Innovation, Performics

Fionn Downhill, VP of Strategy, SyCara Inc.
Todd Friesen, Director of SEO, Performics
Mark Jackson, SEW Expert & President/CEO, VIZION Interactive
David Naylor, SEO, Bronco

Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever seen Dana in a hair color other than pink. She’s sportin’ purple today and yes, she still looks great even with the wacky color.  The discussion is going to be mostly open forum, audience driven.

SES SFShe asks who is brave enough to declare that SEO is dead and no one answers until Todd so kindly offers to be the one to stand up for that belief.

She starts out with her 1st question: is social media eating SEO, and should it?  Dave says it isn’t. End of story…next. Fionn says that social media is eating up SEO budget and even though there is a need for it, it’s a crime to take up the SEO budget. Mark chimes in that social media is useful for links and Todd so helpfully says that budget should be taken from PPC, not SEO. Ha ha ha

Todd goes on to say that companies are starting to ‘get it’ and are putting money into things that will matter.  Performics is signing larger and longer term social contracts than ever before along with other disciplines in marketing.

An audience member speaks up to talk about how he has taken man-hours away from SEO and instead put them into social media. By doing so he hasn’t seen much of a decline in SEO traffic while the social traffic has increased.  He is declaring that SEO is ‘crap’ for him.  His business is maps – real paper type maps…not online maps as Dave accidently assumed. He’s not competing against Google Maps directly but indirectly therefore SEO is difficult for him.

Mark says SEO isn’t dead; the market is just making all of us better at what we do.  Him and Todd laugh about how all the sudden SEO is hard work.  [I’ll agree with that. It used to be much easier]  Also, it’s not just SEO of web pages but all digital optimization.

There was a slight sidetrack to talk about Mahalo going down in flames…sad sad story

A question from the audience member about what is good SEO.  Usability is a key factor as well as content.  One panelist also says it’s anything that gives you an edge.

Dave dives into a story about going to a friend of a friend of a friend’s company who was greatly affected by Panda. From the inside and visitor point of view everything was fine; from the developer’s point of view, everything was perfect (he then rolled his eyes) but from the search engine point of view it was a mess.

Lots of talk about Panda today…guess those wounds are still raw aren’t they?

Discussion turns to how most SEOs had to take a hard look in the mirror when Panda hit and anything they had suggested to clients had to be reviewed.  [All I can say is, if you would have been playing the game right all along, you probably wouldn’t have been hit by Panda.]  Fionn tells the audience a story about a client of hers that would never listen to her suggestions on changes that needed to be made. When they were hit by Panda, all the sudden they were all ears.  Two developers worked round the clock to implement any and all suggestion that Fionn’s team had and it resulted in the return of traffic and rankings for the client. There were blatant problems on the site that needed to be fixed and once it was done, things improved for the client.

Dave hits on one of my pet peeves – how traffic, huge spikes in traffic that may come from Reddit or StumbleUpon very very rarely lead to conversions.  It’s so true.  Instead, put your efforts into social media networks where your customers are.

Dana asks Mark how he defends SEO from a measurement point of view. His answer is that there are a few ways to measure ROI. Look at things like SEMRush, Google Analytics etc and try to narrow it down to a CPC value of the SEO traffic. Figure in any sales from Organic as well. You’ll never get a true number but you can get a number that will hopefully prove that SEO is working. With so many different components like maps, videos, pictures etc it is impossible to figure an ROI on SEO down to a true number.

Mark brings up a good point. Years ago SEO was measured by rankings but today it is irrelevant for the most part. Dana chimes in that we still produce them though ha ha ha. So true! Now SEO has to be measured by traffic and conversions. For any of us who’ve had clients long enough to see that transition with them, it’s hard to retrain them to think in terms of traffic rather than rankings.

An audience member asked if there is a ‘critical mass’ of pages to be added to a site.  The answer: as long as it’s quality, unique content then have at it.

Dana asks the panel what the decay rate of SEO is? Can you ‘set it and forget it’?  The answer is no, you can’t ‘set it and forget it’. It will eventually erode away.  Unless you have rankings for all your desired keywords then no, SEO is not done.  Every time you add new content or redesign or release new videos or release a new product, you need SEO.

Someone brings up the Goolge site speed.  The panelist agree…do not give Google your DNS!  Dana thinks that they will use it for monetary reasons like ad targeting. If you want to increase the site speed, go with a 3rd party cloud computing company.

Google paranoia erupts among the audience as the panelist gives everyone food for thought. The take away…it’s not smart to give Google all the information about your site because it can be dangerous. Especially if you’re playing outside the walls of the sandbox. Then you’re just begging to get sacked.

An audience member asks the panelist what is optimization?  Mark talks about how it’s optimizing all of your web assets and that it’s a lot of work. Some banter between the panelist about what kind of SEO everyone is because not every SEO is the same – some are social some are marketers some are spammers.  In-house SEOs have a hard time because they often have to do the job of a lot of people and they can’t do it all well. That’s why it’s important to have a team of people who are experienced in the different disciplines in order to get the most benefit.  It’s sort of like putting all your eggs in one basket.

The question comes up about the tattle-telling of public companies doing dirty work.  The consensus is that what goes around comes around.

As to be expected in any open forum session, things were a tad bit hodge-podge.  Dana did a good job trying to keep things on track and spurring on topics – but let’s face it, Dana’s just good. Period. That’s it for Day 2 of SES.



Once a hard working corporate type, Jayme traded in her office and business attire for cowboy boots and the Sierra Nevada mountains. At one time Jayme was the director of SEO for Bruce Clay Inc., then senior SEO analyst for WebMetro. She now spends her time out in the country. As a busy mom, soccer coach, weekly volleyball player, weekend hiker and hobbyist photographer she does manage to find a few hours a week to stay connected to the Internet Marketing world plus she is still doing SEO on a handful of clients. You won't find her active on Twitter or her own blog, because when she does have spare time she's usually away from her computer enjoying what life has to offer, away from the computer monitor. In fact her own website is sinfully neglected. Even though she has grand plans to one day put some energy into her own blog that day still hasn't arrived, possibly after her kids are both in school.

See Jayme's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (1)
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One Reply to “SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!”

“Years ago SEO was measured by rankings but today it is irrelevant for the most part.”

I still think rankings are a great metric for success. Can’t ignore conversions, but still what good is converting 100% on page 5?


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