This is a question that gets asked often, and it’s a very heated topic to boot. There are plenty of folks in the industry who say it’s alive and well, and plenty of others who think it’s on the way out. Long-time SEO Jill Whalen recently announced she’s ending her SEO career because “Google now works. The tricks to beat and spam Google no longer work as well… This means, my friends, that my work here is done.”

For more evidence of the changing times in the SEO industry, look at the SEO industry’s poster company, Moz, which recently changed its name from SEOMoz, by which it had been known since it was founded in 2004. Are we witnessing the beginning of an exodus from professional association with SEO?

I caught up with Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing and a widely published expert in the SEO field, for an interview to assess the state of the SEO industry and answer the question: Is SEO dead?

Jayson Demers: So, as an SEO myself, I’m not sure there’s ever been a more loaded question…but seriously, is SEO dead?

Sam McRoberts: Honestly, the answer really depends on how you define SEO. If, when you say SEO, what you really mean is manipulating search engines to place sites that don’t really deserve to rank well at the top of the SERPs…then yes, I’d say that’s dead (or dying at least, as some manipulative tactics still work quite well).

However, even though some SEOs work to game the system, I’ve never really felt like that was the correct definition of SEO.

Because we so often use the SEO acronym, we forget sometimes that it stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO, at its heart, is the process of making websites more accessible and understandable to search engines. It shouldn’t be, and really doesn’t need to be, manipulative.


Demers: So SEO isn’t about manipulating rankings?

McRoberts: To be fair, SEOs have always been split into two (often overlapping) camps; those who work to actually make sites better, and those who work to game the system to get crappy sites (that don’t deserve to rank better) ranking better.

And again, in all fairness, most SEOs do (or have done) a bit of both.


Demers: Would that be the difference between white hats and black hats?

McRoberts: White hats and gray hats really, since true black hats are exceedingly rare, the outliers of the SEO industry. I actually think that gray hats make up the bulk of active SEO practitioners, something that Google is fully aware of.


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