When Will SEO Become a Losing Proposition?

Got a really interesting question from an AdWords client of mine recently. This client is extremely online marketing savvy (he used to work for an SEO firm) so knows the Internet landscape better than most.

For the last few years, he’s been using a very large company to manage SEO for his business. Initially they had some good success. Post Penguin/Panda, however, has been a different story and the client is very frustrated and looking to make change.

In fact, he’s contemplating giving up SEO completely. Here’s his email…

“Frankly, one of the questions I’m going to ask you (and some of my other online marketing geeks) is when will SEO become a losing proposition for everyone (website owners, SEO companies, etc.)?  It seems that as Google (and everyone else) gets smarter and smarter, each algorithm change eliminates more and more variables once relied upon by SEO companies to game the system.

And if we do all our on-page correctly at some point should we just pull the plug on SEO, let the search engines do their thing and reinvest those dollars into PPC?”

Here’s my reply…

“My short answer is that I don’t have any idea when/if off-site SEO will become a losing proposition. I’ll leave that for others to debate.

What I do know is that, when done correctly, it still works now (though it takes much greater skill to pull off effectively than it did even just a year or two ago). Over the last 6 months I don’t think there’s been a month where our SEO clients haven’t had a net improvement in their rankings.

I’d love to expand what we’re doing together on the PPC side of things. I think there’s a great opportunity for remarketing, potentially Display Network campaigns and an expansion/change in direction in the keywords we’re focusing on in Search.

But SEO can still send a TON of highly targeted traffic to your site and I don’t think it can be ignored.

And, quite frankly, I don’t ever see on-site factors being all it takes to get good rankings. The search engines tried that experiment years ago and it didn’t work.

They simply have to use outside factors in some way to deliver relevant results. Whether those factors are backlinks, social media signals, authorship markup, what Matt Cutts has for breakfast on any given day, etc., who knows.

But whatever the mix of factors), off-site factors HAVE to play a major role in determining where a site ranks in the search engine results.

If there were ever to come a day when it looks like SEO truly doesn’t pay, we’d be the first to tell you (and, believe me, as a company that makes most of its money from PPC, I’d LOVE for that day to come because people would flock to PPC is greater numbers! 😉

But for now, I can’t in good conscious recommend ditching SEO. There’s too much potential business to be won in the organic results to ignore it.”

Now it’s your turn to weigh in…are the days of SEO numbered or is it still a winning proposition? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Sharon Vandiver - April 9, 2013

Truly a great thing to know. I love his question but I can’t answer it, same as you I don’t have any idea on when will SEO become a losing proposition. I love to here from others thoughts.

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