SEO Is Not SEO Anymore

There is a shake-up in the SEO industry that, like climate change and dieting, has its non-believers and some practitioners in denial. The headline is not that “SEO is Dead”, but “SEO is Not SEO Anymore”.

Gorilla facing camera

Search engine marketing practices have changed over the past 20 years.  What has not changed is how SEO’s battle one another over the details.  Since the first instructions about how rank by doing mathematical equations or how to optimize for 125 search terms first began, the industry has been a showcase of ego’s and maniacal hissy fits with gorilla chest thumping, making for a yearly spectacle and rousing bar conversations at each annual Pubcon.  In other words, search marketers are a fun bunch.  And they can be…well, see for yourself.

A member of the WebmasterWorld forums drafted 2015 Google On-page SEO Ranking Factors List” where he writes:

I want to split off on-page from off-page and discuss solely on-page ranking factors, including the deprecated factors. What’s your list of important on-page factors and those that are less important?

2015 Ranking factors
User experience metrics (all of them)
Shorter title tags
Original content
Engaging content that provides an answer, teaches, informs, is useful, delights
Original images
Quality site design
Descriptive meta description


Focus on long tail phrases
Focus on ranking for specific keyword phrases
Lean code

The responses were delightfully thoughtful and descriptive at WMW with some asking what the first item on the list meant. (I wondered too.)

Barry Schwartz reported the discussion  at Search Engine Roundtable.  For reporting on the WMW thread (as he has been doing for many years), he was hit with 61 comments (last I checked), the vast majority of them negative and argumentative with a dash of chest thumping.

What a load of old tripe – seriously. It’s making me sick to death with the amount of blithering idiots ‘thinking’ or using ‘IMO’ – everyone thinks that they’re a bloody SEO experts.

Most of this is a no brainer and the rest is just nonsense. UX is not a factor for ranking aside from with mobile or in the event sections of the site are hidden or the site is not mobile friendly. So “Quality Site Design” is wrong based on Google’s own admission with few exceptions.


Note To Clients: DO NOT HIRE the SEO FIRM who made this list. You will not rank well!

SEO’s can be counted on to show their true colors.  That has never changed.  Every community is different of course.  Cre8asiteforums looked into the WMW list too, in  Your Choices For Search Engine On-Page Seo Ranking Factors

If you go look at the “factors” that SEOs talk about in these surveys, you see very little mention of how visitors behave on the site.  Things like page views, amount of time spent, scroll depth, bookmarking, bounce rate are almost absent in the things that SEOs say are important.  They must be nuts.


Nevertheless, I finally buckled down and scoured through the manual that Google gives its human quality raters. An eyebrow raising read for sure! But IMO, much more thorough and meaningful than what’s being published on those types of SEO and webmaster sites. I figure, if I’m going to appease to humans, I’d better learn what humans (and not algorithms) look for.

As an “insider”, I listen to a lot of industry folks who talk about their work and companies.  What they are sharing with me are stories of leaving the business because they are no longer doing what they were trained to do because search technology has changed and the work itself is, to put it in simple terms, no longer any fun to do.

The Thrill is Gone. All Hail Google.

SEO audits and website monitoring have become narrowly focused on just one search engine and the work is only about trying to stay out of trouble with that one search engine.  Nobody is doing search engine optimization anymore.  They are doing Google search optimization.

Internet marketers struggle to see a future for the work they do because SEO used to be about optimizing for countless directories and many search engines.  Hence the term “search engine optimization”.  Before that, it was called “website promotion” in the 1990’s, because that was what companies with websites wanted done in directories and search engines.  Social media marketing, as an industry term, didn’t exist back then either, but the pioneers from those days will tell you that in fact, they were doing social marketing in forums, chat rooms, email lists, newsletters and places like Egroups and AOL clubs.

Yes, there is work out there for companies with money to blow and consultants with patience on hand to help websites crippled and damaged by past search engine marketing and web design practices that broke their champion site down after the third race. Winning at all costs is what humans do, creating industries of rescue workers.  This is another reason why some SEO’s are moving on.  They see no future in rescuing websites or they hate that they have to.

SEO is not it anymore.  Or is it simply a case of an industry in the middle of change, learning to adapt?