By Kenneth Krogue
President & Co-Founder
I had lunch back in March with Adam Torkildson, one of the top Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultants in Utah and one of the best in the country. Adam Torkildson, SEO guru, says Google is killing the SEO industry (as we know it).
What he said blew me away. “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete; SEO will be dead in two years.”
I posted his statement on my blog and immediately received a flurry of comments; many from his colleagues in the SEO industry who wanted to:
- Weigh in on my statement that Adam is great (or crazy)
- Promote themselves
- Accuse me of writing a title for “link bait”
- Declare how absurd Adam’s assertion was
- Agree and prophecy their vision for the future
Adam’s explanation about his claim made a lot of sense.
There is internal and external SEO. Internal makes up about 15 percent of the process (I’m told it may be much higher now), and it means to design your site so it follows the best practices proven to rank high on Google. External SEO used to mean to write articles, press releases, blogs, comments, and content with embedded keyword “backlinks” to your site. Now it is changing fast to include social media strategies.
SEO has been traditionally divided into “white hat” or “black hat.” Black Hat is the obvious villainous practice of gaming the system by doing things to raise rankings that Google doesn’t want, and White Hat is just more subtle.
But what does Google look for? Relevant, real content on the Internet that people want to read and tell other people about. If Google doesn’t bring you the most relevant content when you search, they aren’t doing their job.
So by definition, even the word Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means to “game” the Google search engines (and others) to get your valuable content ranked higher than it would be if left alone to the forces of the Web.
Google proved Adam right one month later (to the day).
That’s when it released “Penguin.” That’s the code name for the algorithm that decreased search engine rankings of companies that were using schemes to artificially increase their rankings.
Google decided to change the weight of their emphasis from “backlinks” more towards social media likes, shares, tweets, reddits, and 1+ (Google’s obvious favorite.) In the world of digital media the emphasis is on follows, comments, and views as well. (Note: I have changed the wording slightly to clarify my meaning and make it more precise since I wrote it four days ago.)
What does that mean? Google used to think if you linked to someone on the Internet they must have valuable content. Now Google seems to believe that if you promote content with social media it is more indicative of relevant content and less likely to be faked. Though many point out social media can be faked as well.
The bottom line is that all external SEO efforts are counterfeit other than one: Writing, designing, recording, or videoing real and relevant content that benefits those who search.
If you generate content and place it all over the Web promoting and linking to your specific content, it is obviously fake. (And that is basically a big part of the history of the SEO industry, both black and white.)
And hey, I’ve done it myself. That is how I met Adam in the first place.
It is the overly aggressive marketers who always spoil it for everyone.
Hmmm, let’s see: false advertisers, telemarketing at dinner time with predictive dialers, unsolicited faxing, email spamming, now SEO.
It was Seth Godin who said “all marketers are liars.” I’m a marketer, so I can say this. I think it means that if you have to advertise a lot to change perceptions, it’s probably being “spun.” Think media, the lack of advertising on fruit and vegetables, and the current presidential race.
Adam (pictured above) told me that it is hardly about the links anymore, it’s about the metrics of engagement on your site.
It’s about social “shares,” and you can’t fake that (easily). Now with recent policy changes, Google knows who everyone is once they open themselves up on the social realm. They will be able to tell the fake people. Facebook already knows. Adam did a test by creating 1,000 fake accounts a year ago, but today they have all been banned.
When I asked him how they figured it out, he said, “I’m pretty smart, but I have no idea. That’s why they hire PhDs! That’s why Google bought Twitter’s data. They failed to get Facebook data, but they rely on Facebook’s internal API. Now social signals are a much bigger part of the Google algorithm.” He continued, “I’ve already seen them using it, I know.”
So what do we do?
Adam grinned with resignation, “It’s the Hubspot strategy of great blog content with a massive opt-in audience of social followers. It’s your InsideSales.com approach with strong industry research that people follow.
And it’s old-school PR. PR has made a full-on 180 degree swing. I started in PR as a major. Now it is the ultimate, because it is about who you actually, really, know. It’s the buzz you create. And how much value you provide your community of followers in return.”
I summarized: “So great content is king, and communities of avid followers make the king? And my friend Cheryl, of SnappConner PR will rule the world?”
“Yes, basically.” Adam went on, “Dell does a really good job. They have 1M followers on just one account in Twitter. Their team answers all direct messages from their community, and stays on top of their brand and reputation.”
And, I asked, “So how has this affected you?”
“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 results for their audience. They are rooting out the counterfeiters. Now it must be real, valuable, content, and have lots of community value and interaction.”
And how does it affect entrepreneurs and business executives?
Simple. Invest in real, valuable, relevant content that your audience wants. Grow your internal thought leaders to where they can add value to your audience and positioning in the market. Follow internal SEO practices to make sure it is found and sees the light of day. Take the time to make it so compelling that people talk about it and share it.
Look to real social media community support, compelling PR, and real content; for that is where true SEO practitioners are also turning more and more.
Common sense, but not common practice.
For more information, on “Why Content Is King,” and how to list of guidelines, click here.
Illustration, above, Content is King by Michael Gibbs c2012
Editor’s Note: This article was originally printed on Forbes.com. As you can imagine, Krogue faced a firestorm of backlash. After all, he threatened the very well-paying jobs of loads of folks.
So Krogue responded in kind with this thoughtful article on The Death of SEO: Part 2
And, after thinking about the topic a little more, he shared these final thoughts on the subject.
As a journalist who is the owner of a PR firm, website development and publishing company, I was tickled to read Krogue’s article. Why? Because this is what we have been preaching to clients, colleagues—and anyone else who would listen—for years. Content is king! And good writing is always important—because good writing isn’t good typing. It’s good thinking that’s thoughtful, insightful, and well-researched. If there’s a good story to be told, and it’s written well, people will listen. And, sometimes, that story can change lives. It’s worth the effort. Plus, you can only spam people for so long.
So here’s to the death of SEO—and here’s to you Ken Krogue! Well done. We look forward to sharing more of your insights with our readers in the very near future. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher Be Inkandescent
About Kenneth Krogue
Krogue co-founded InsideSales.com in November 2004 and currently leads its marketing, business development, consulting, education, implementation, and support departments. He has more than 24 years of experience in sales, development, and marketing in both domestic and international markets.
Prior to joining InsideSales.com, Krogue was one of the original founders of UCN, now inContact (NASDAQ:SAAS). Prior to inContact, he built and directed the inside sales division at FranklinCovey (NYSE:FC), a leading provider of time and life management training systems. He has received many industry awards including being recognized among the Top 25 Most Influential Inside Sales Professionals in 2010 and 2012 by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP).
Krogue is a weekly contributor to Forbes.com and an active thought leader in the inside sales industry. His blog is the top-ranked blog in the world on the topic of inside sales. Krogue attended the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and earned a BS in Psychology from the University of Utah.
For more information about Krougue and his company, visit InsideSales.com.