Online competition has always revolved around search ranking based on keywords, and SEO has been the godfather of online success. Unfortunately, some individuals devised mechanisms to trick and manipulate the search engine results into ranking some websites with poor content quality. To make sure that Internet users get the information they need, major search engines such as Google introduced algorithm updates that have changed how sites are ranked in SERPs (search engine results pages). People are no longer spending money on link farms, stuffing keywords, and even misusing white spaces in the hope of improving their ranks. The number of inbound and outbound links no longer matter, but the content quality still does. In short, the old traditional SEO strategies have become obsolete.
This begs the question, is search engine optimization dead? A lot of experts have varied opinions on that matter. If spamming and tricking the search engines into falsely ranking websites is your definition of SEO, then it sure is. It doesn't work anymore. Just because some tricks appeared to work, it doesn’t qualify them as proper SEO strategies. SEO should not be manipulative. Even with stringent algorithm updates, websites that were actually genuinely ranked because of the quality of their content, legit high PR links, and excellent user experience were left unharmed. Maybe some slight changes in ranking, but nothing significant.
Unethical vs. Ethical Strategies
These changes affected most gray hat SEO practitioners—those who lost clients and had to adjust to the right way of optimizing websites—the most. However, the transformation has been slow, because they have to follow all known white hat strategies or risk losing customers. Some experts have had to close shop and try something else, and online business owners who were clueless about the strategies SEO firms were using lost a lot of money when they woke up and learned that their sites were no longer ranked like before.
Reversing this is another tricky job, with some arguing that it is better to start from scratch. However, there is another crop of "experts" claiming they can restore a website that has been dropped due to algorithm updates such as Google's Panda and Penguin. It is, however, a tedious process that will definitely cost more with no guaranteed results. It is safer to start doing the right thing.
More than SEO
Techniques that used to miraculously deliver results will no longer work today. It's not just about SEO and the obsession with links anymore, but much more about social sharing, superior quality content that has to be updated frequently, content marketing, and an excellent user experience. There is no more room for pathetic guest posts, buying hundreds of backlinks, stuffing keyword phrases, clueless article distribution, pointless link exchanges, and some of the other things people used to do before.
SEO to Digital Marketing
Some agencies are actually moving away from the use of the SEO and adopting other blanket terms like “digital marketing”, which is rather broad in scope. Well-known SEO consulting company SEO MOZ dropped the “SEO” from its name in 2013 and is now only known as MOZ. With the bad experiences associated with search engine optimization, many people will not want to be identified with something that doesn't deliver results if not done right. Regardless of the name used to attain the highest possible online exposure however, especially proper organic ranking of target keywords, there is still the need to embrace some acceptable SEO techniques. Therefore, legitimate SEO is still alive, and its death is very unlikely.