Posted by David Oates 2 years, 8 months ago

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As plans get underway for 2016, many marketing predictions will be made. Here’s mine - next year might very well be the beginning of the end for stand alone Search Engine Optimization firms.

I can hear the cries of “B.S.” already, but hear me out. Years ago, firms like these were popping up almost as fast as their bots went screaming across cyberspace creating bogus backlinks for their clients. The truth is the popular schtick of “gaming” Google worked for a time. Many companies were falsely lured into the apparent instant gratification of seeing their rankings go from the obscure to the first page seemingly overnight. Yet as soon as the search engine behemoth caught on, they tweaked their algorithm to ignore all the link farms and BINGO - back Client X’s site went to the ranking doldrums.

Consumers are getting more savvy about keyword-laden articles that are more advertising puffery than substantive, educative content. In other words, the mainstay of many SEO firms’ approach is quickly becoming irrelevant, obsolete and - most important - ineffective.

So where does that leave us next year? Here’s my prediction. SEO firms will give way to PR agencies that are versed in understanding what digital analytics marketers need in order to understand, review and leverage to strategically attract, engage, convert and retain valued clients. They will formulate activities to do so not by trying to play itself against Google, but instead by creating credible, thought-provoking content that engages audiences in discussions around topics of interest to them as well as the organizations they represent. They will offer opportunities for their intended publics to read more, education-oriented pieces and engage in candid, nearly instantaneous dialogue via email, social media, video and the media. These individuals will then, in turn, share this information with colleagues, friends and family. In doing so, companies will see a rise in their qualified web traffic, unique visitors, page views, conversion rates and search engine ranking that is not only substantial, but also stable and long-lasting. 

SEO, like PR, is evolving to one that can longer rely up on spam-oriented, fluff pieces that give audiences false hopes when they click through. It is one that will require good writers who relish in executing marketing strategies that quantifiably show their value in increasing an organization’s digital presence and deal flow. This movement will most certainly freak a lot of marketers out, but for those of us that have been praying for our industry to tie their efforts directly into how they make a quantifiable difference for organization, our time is finally here!

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