View Full Version : Is SEO becoming irrelevant?
11-07-2003, 10:27 AM
I'm not a SEO expert by any means, so I'm curious what others who know more about this think. I find that in my business domain, the entrants to the search engine placement challenge who pay Overture rank at the top of Google and Yahoo (I know there are others, but those are the main search engines I use).
At Yahoo they are noted as Sponsored links however, there's little to denote this paid placement at Google other than the yellow bounded box around the listing and I'm not so sure that most search engine users really care whethere they are sponsored links or not as long as they seem relevant to their search.
If it is the case, that pay for click placement pushes optimized sites down the search return page, is it becoming less relevant whether a site is optimized for a particular search engine or not?
11-07-2003, 02:22 PM
I find that in my business domain, the entrants to the search engine placement challenge who pay Overture rank at the top of Google and Yahoo.
Pay-per-click advertisers enjoy no advantage whatsoever in the regular Google search results. I have several client sites that month in and month out top the SERPS while the Adwords advertisers appearing on the right are found several pages deep.
I think what you're seeing is that in the categories you're referring to, the top PPC advertisers also have the best optimized sites.
PPC and SEO both have their places in the world of site promotion. They compliment each other well, but they have zero bearing how how well the other affects rankings.
11-07-2003, 02:29 PM
I just re-read your post and now I better understand what you're talking about. In the context of sites that display paid results directly above the regular listings, SEO alone would indeed place a site below the paid results.
That being said, SEO is still very important because without it, your only option would be to pay to be listed on the first page of the SERPS. PPC is a great way to get fast results, but to give up on the free listings (ignore SEO) would be a big mistake IMO because it is indeed possible to get listed on the first page with SEO alone. My clients do it every day.
11-08-2003, 02:50 AM
That is the main reason I don't care for the ppc engines. They only take into account the amount of money you are willing to pay for a keyword and if you are highest bidder, your #1.
In our search engine, you can also buy the top position in your category but we only allow your site to be listed in that category if it fits. When you are working with a meta engine, it doesn't mean a hill of beans how well you optimize your site, if you have the bucks, you can show your stuff.
Good point to remember though is if your site is not optimized, ppc engines are the only place you can do well.
11-08-2003, 11:12 AM
FWIW, as a searcher I like both. I prefer using Google because they tend to have the most up-to-date search results. I also like that I can browse both paid listings and optimized listings at the same time. In my mind, if someone is paying to be listed, then they're most likely relevant and they have updated information. I don't have to worry about hitting dead sites.
When I'm searching for something, I tend to look at both paid and optimized listings. I usually click through a few of each, depending on the headline.
Those engines that list paid results at the top instead of off to the side are different, I agree. I don't use them as a searcher often, but many people do and I suspect it's for the same types of reasons: up-to-date information.
As a business though, most of the traffic that comes into all of my sites is from well optimized pages. Even those sites that have paid listings at the top usually limit those to 3 or 4, so those sites that are optimized well for a keyword or phrase are still returned on the first page or two.
So in my mind, SEO still has a critical place in the overall strategy.
The only problem with SEO is that everyone is starting to find out about it ... :-(
Only 10 sites can be listed in the top 10 ...
11-10-2003, 12:42 PM
When I search, I use Google 100% of the time (who, as a side note, just released their Google deskbar for Windows - very cool: http://toolbar.google.com/deskbar/), and I only ever look at the non-paying results. This is when I am looking for information.
If I am searching for a commodity (e.g. digital cameras, web hosting, aftermarket car parts) I will typically only ever look at the paying results.
The reason for this is the way in which the results are generated. They are generated based on link popularity, keyphrases, HTML organization, etc., which is extremely relevant for informational purposes, but not for sales.
Take a search for 'web hosting' as an example. If I want to find out 'what' web hosting is all about, I will look at the non-paying results. If I want to purchase web hosting, I will look at the paying results.
This is, of course, my own personal preference and I have no idea whether anyone out there searches in a similar manner. But perhaps this can help to give you a new perspective on your question about the relevancy of SEO.
11-10-2003, 01:12 PM
When it comes to PPC you canít ignore the fact that you can reach a large audience relatively quickly and easily of course there is a cost involved maintaining that. However if you study the results of your PPC campaign including the number of impression per keywords, click troughs, and conversion rate it can give you clues about which keywords you should concentrate on optimizing your web pages. Even if you are a fairly established site (one year+) and you have over two dozen keyword phrases that work well for you, itís almost impossible to rank in a top 10 position for all of them. We have complimented our search engine marketing campaign with a very focused PPC campaign on the keywords we donít already rank well.
11-10-2003, 01:13 PM
Why would you consider paid results more relevant than top results for a purchase? Is it because you think having money to advertise means you'll get better service? A better product? A better price?
I would say, the truth would be you are not guaranteed to recieve better anything from a paid result vs a free result. I say this because in the field you mentioned 'web hosting' one of the biggest advertisers also has been reported to have some of the worst customer service. I won't say that all advertisers are like that, since I'm sure they're not, but simply "buyer beware".
The same of course could apply to free results, but paid certainly doesn't mean better...at least not imo.
11-10-2003, 01:14 PM
I can't recall the exact reference, but I recently read (I believe it was on the Pew Internet Project site http://www.pewinternet.org/ } that the trend seems to be in favour of searchers trusting and using the organic results generated by search engines, as opposed to paid results.
I'm paraphrasing here and undoubtedly adding my own twist to this (or the thoughts of a great many other resources as filtered through my little pea-brain), but what follows is my understanding of what has been observed.
The theory that was proposed to explain this phenomenon of trust preference for organic vs. paid listings, whether rational or not, is that there is a relationship between organic and paid listings that is similar to the relationship between church and state. This is a relationship that has long been used to explain the difference between paid advertisements and publicity in the tradtional media such as newpapers and tv.
Where the state represents the corporate world with its inherent potential unexpressed financial motives that may lay beneath the surface of someone's actions; and where the church is implicitly trusted as the non-biased reporter of information.
In this context, it seems that the public psyche is geared towards bestowing a level of trust upon organically generated search results that the search engines may or may not deserve. But deserving or not, the search engines have inherited this perceived level of public trust and hopefully they will manage to meet their corporate objectives while still delivering what the public expects.
If they fall short, it may be that the organic listings will lose relevance. But in the meantime, by providing ethical and content-based SEO to our customers we are actually supporting the long-term viability of the public's trust and expectations.
You could choose to see this as an important mission if you like. I do! The internet and it's searchability for reliable information exist as a "5th estate" for the public's benefit. And I hope that it will remain so.
11-10-2003, 01:30 PM
To respond to cbp's comment above:
Yes, that's true and has been a problem for a while now... but here's a little secret:
There is almost an infinite amount of keyword phrases that people use to search with.
If your site is optimized for a narrow range of those phrases, you are in direct compitition with the other site that are doing the same.
If your site is optimized for a broad range of what people search for, you are going to get more traffic with less work and will NOT have to do any on-going maintenance to keep the traffic levels up.
And I think we are going to see a major "shake-out" on paid search results soon. Most searchers are not clear on the difference and that's deceptive to me, and the FTC.
Google has once again led the way with the way it should be done: Related advertising that is rewarded for quality and good results, and not-to-be-confused-with real search results.
I also think that it is just a matter of time before PPC advertisers get sick on the rampent fraud that is going on and when something else is available, it will take off like a Titan III!
11-10-2003, 01:37 PM
This is an interesting topic, and there are some fascinating and useful views here from people with a range of backgrounds.
However, surely the real decider on this is which results are being followed more often, ppc or organic ?
Is there any data out there on this ? Presumably the search engine companies themselves have it, but is it in the publuc domain ?
As an entirely personal opinion, (trying not to be biased in my capacity as a SEO consultant) I would LIKE to believe that organic results are taken more 'seriously'. I for one, when I'm searching, hold a lot more respect for a site which has earned it's listing through it's intrinsic relevance, rather than one that has simply bought it through brute financial force, so to speak.
Having money, and being the answer to the searcher's question, can have precious little to do with each other.
11-10-2003, 01:39 PM
In my market one retailer (numerous domains) holds between 20 and 25 of the top positions for any given relevant search in google. The small company that cannot afford quality SEO services is left in the dust. PPC become a necessity, until you have the knowledge and ability to compete.
Thanks for all the info,
"The only problem with SEO is that everyone is starting to find out about it ... :-(
Only 10 sites can be listed in the top 10 ... "
Due to the fact that SEO is how I make a living I, for one, am happy that people are finding out about it. From my vantage point, ppc services and SEO absolutely BOTH have a place on the web.
The only problem I see is that everyone thinks that they can do it. They've no idea how much work is involved...Oftentimes, my bids sit around for months until those that thought that they could do it themselves call or email in total desperation because their site is getting no action.
When a site is first built and operational people do not flock to it simply because it shiny and new...that is the one of the biggest mistakes many
e-entrepreneurs make. If you want your site to be noticed immediately and get traffic flowing, ppc services are the only way to do it. Optimizing the site comes afterwards. It doesn't have to but the fact is that most designers don't work with SEO's- I think we'll see that changing as more folks realize the value of the work.
It can be a long process to optimize each page/product for a specific kw phrase. You must analyze the competition and KNOW with the utmost certainty what users are putting into the search box (Google or any other) that will bring them to your site or one of your competitiors before throwing money around.
When a client enlists my services the first thing I do before touching any of the code or metatags is put everything through the keywordtracker.com engine. This generally takes a full 4-5 solid hours. Armed with this info I sign them up for Adwords and develop several different advertisements for their products/services. THEN I get to work on optimization. Several weeks later I have enough data from Google to go to town.
I have found that my clients ppc marketing dollars could be cut by 50% within a year of the site being optimized and maintained. Not only will their ads come up at the top of the sponsored listings but they will also be on the first page of results. This is the best of both worlds.
SEO is most definately an integral part of your sites success. SEO used effectively in conjunction with sponsored advertising can make a world of difference.
11-10-2003, 01:49 PM
Surely it is the other way around.
If budgetary concerns are a limiting factor then optimised results hold more potnential than ppc.
With seo you have the option to read up on it and get your ranking for free (it's not as hard as some 'consultants' - who have vested interests for saying so - would like you to think).
With ppc you have no choice but to pay.
11-10-2003, 02:04 PM
I would have to agree that if money is tight, go with the SEO, since the results will last longer over time if done correctly.
And yes, site owners can do it themselves and that is why we make our hand submission list available... but the fact of the matter is that most site owners have a business to run and just don't have the time to learn how to do it AND do the submissions and other promotion work needed for the best results.
I know how to change the oil in my car, I used to do it all the time. I don't any more... I pay someone else to do it.
11-10-2003, 02:18 PM
I posed the same question about six months ago and didn't get any response for about two weeks--It was as if I had spit on the Holy Grail of the internet. Sorry folks--some of us have found out we can make a good living on the internet and respect results of making money with the visability PPC offers-- while others are contemplating the the "true" meaning of the internet. As an opinion,I rather suspect there will come a time when organic rankings take into consideration whether or not a site is spending money to be ranked with PPC!--This industry has been built by the Golden Rule ie.Bull Gates and will continue in that direction. "He who has the gold Rules"!
"Surely it is the other way around.
If budgetary concerns are a limiting factor then optimised results hold more potnential than ppc.
With seo you have the option to read up on it and get your ranking for free (it's not as hard as some 'consultants' - who have vested interests for saying so - would like you to think).
With ppc you have no choice but to pay."
I respectively and heartily disagree. A good SEO consultant will work within a clients budget limitations; regardless of what they are.
Of course you can "read up on it" We can read up on anything and learn enough to get by. Hell, by your standards I could be an expert in nearly anything by "reading up on it"...
You are making the assumption that folks that own an online business actually want and have the time and want to take the risk to market their businesses.
Here in the US (and for that matter- all over the world) we have thousands of brick in mortar businesses that have great merchandise at great prices. The problem? None, until they decide to do their own advertising.
Some of these folks think because they are so good at their respective businesses they should make their own television or radio commercials and save the money it would cost to hire professionals.
You have to admit that these are quite possibly the WORST commercials ever produced in the history of mankind. You all know what I mean... the guys that own a car dealership or a furniture store and hawk their wares using cue-cards to get through a 30 second spot; these ads grate on your nerves...it's painful. You change the channel or mute the station just to get away from it.
WHY is that our reaction?
Because they have absolutely no idea of what they are doing. They are experts in their field but not marketing experts. These ads can kill the good feeling we once had about a business, take away the credibility they'd built up. The do-it-yourself approach can cost you far more than you ever dreamed possible.
This was my point in my previous post. I do all of my SEO work by hand. I do all the copywriting for my clients- it IS an enormous undertaking and I only take on 1 job a month as a result.
Possibly you work differently than I and the work is automated; is that why you think it's not so hard?
Do not presume to speak for me and tell the world that "it's not as hard as some 'consultants' - who have vested interests for saying so - would like you to think."
It is a specialty that has taken me 3 years of very hard work to become very proficient at and to stay on top of. The rules are always changing.
As noted earlier by Mike:
"The small company that cannot afford quality SEO services is left in the dust."
11-10-2003, 03:02 PM
Many people view Search Engine Optimization as "THE WAY" to achieve top placement in the search engines. This myth is perpetuated by thousands of people willing to mislead the general public for their own financial gain. You may ask why they offer such an incomplete service, and the answer is simple. Obtaining top 10 placement requires diligence, and lots of it.
SEO is only the beginning! Optimizing your Site includes (In order from most important to least important):
1: writing content that includes your target keywords/phrases (and perhaps variations) as often as possible.
2: Using your top 3 keywords in your Title and description
3: Enhancing your page names and navigation to include page names like your_keyphrase.htm and links like
website builder (http://www.ibuilt.net) or free website design (http://www.ibuilt.net/free_website_design.htm)
4: use your keywords in a short paragraph that is displayed at the bottom of each page.
5: and for the more out of date search engines, you can even include your keywords and phrases in your keywords and description meta tags.
After you optimize your website, it is possible that you get top 10 placement for a few keywords or phrases. Usually these phrases are so unique, that almost nobody searches for them, so you should not stop there.
Go to Arelis.com and buy their software. Then target one keyword/phrase at a time by using the link structure:
Your Keyword (http://www.ibuilt.net)
and include your keyword once or twice in the description of the link...
Generally, Google finds links at the beginning/end of each month and you get credit for them within 30 days of that time.
Now, the question is, can you justify the time spent on the link popularity campaign? That all depends.
When iBuilt.net entered the PPC arena, we were spending as much as $200 each day. Our customer acquisition cost was about $75 and we did very well, per our standards. During the time we were paying for clicks, we also pursued a link popularity campaign for the keywords that worked best for us, and once we achieved our position, we saved over $50,000 in advertising. Was it worth it?
You raise some very valid points. When I optimize a site I complete the 5 steps you outline in your post for every client. Simply submitting is NOT enough. Arelis is a terrific tool and I've used it for about a year now. I believe you are right on with your opinions. Linking one site to another is how the web was built to begin with.
I just read todays Search Day News. For those of you following this thread a free Webinar is being offered this Thursday:
Here is an excerpt of the article. Right on target to todays rather heated discussion:
"Until recently, the most effective way to get good search engine traffic was to spend time and money "optimizing" web pages to achieve high rankings. Now, anyone can get top rankings simply by placing the highest bids for specific keywords that appear as "sponsored listings."
But those results are "leased" -- the moment you stop outbidding your competition you get tossed off the top of the heap. This webinar explores the differences between "leased" and "purchased" search engine results, a concept first introduced to SearchDay readers by guest writer Susan O'Neil.
I'll also look at the whole concept of "investing" in search marketing, and how to balance the mix of techniques and approaches to best meet your own needs.
This webinar is free to qualified attendees, and will last about 45-50 minutes. There will also be a Q & A session at the end of the presentations.
11-10-2003, 04:44 PM
Absolutely no disrespect intended in my post. Please don't think there was.
In fact, why would I disrespect 'seo consultants' - I am one !
I have been (quite successfully) making my living for some time now doing exactly that, and have many very satisfied clients.
All I'm saying is that, speaking not perhaps for you, but for myself and many of my collegues and others in the seo consultancy community I mix with, it is frequently a surprise (although a pleasant one) that more website owners do not carry out their own seo.
Perhaps I'm being too honest for my own good here.
Many seo consultants are self-taught - certainly in the UK at any rate. Here there are no college courses, or university degrees in seo (at least not that I have noticed), so most people do exactly what I said originally, they teach themselves by reading up on it, experimenting with what they've read, practicing, perfecting, visiting forums like this and so on.
In fact I would caution any future seo client to be very wary of a 'consultant' who doesn't read up on his or her subject extremely regularly, as keeping up to date is very important if you want to be any good at it.
I have never seen an 'official' course on 'How to become an seo expert', and even if there was one, the skill is such a new one that at some point in the recent past, someone (the first teacher) must have taught tehmselves by...yep...you guessd it...reading up on it.
And yes, your right, you'd be surprised what else you can become an expert in if you put your mind to it. It's one of the most rewarding things you can do in life, in fact it is an important part of life.
Do you hire an 'expert' to cut your lawn, tie your shoe-laces, brush your teeth, or did you at some point in your life figure out how to do it for yourself, and find it's actually quite easy once you've worked it out (and a lot cheaper) ?
11-10-2003, 10:51 PM
I only ever look at the non-paying results. This is when I am looking for information.
This single sentence sums up a great deal about why SEO is still of vital importance and IMO always will be.
When I first came on the net in 97. (using Netscape Composer to design some very rough pages). I do not think there was much payment involved anywhere, "GoTo" being one rare exception.
I started out BTI (Before The Internet) selling at most 10 or 12 of my product a year and paying over several thousand $ a year to magazines, newspapers etc. After setting up on the net I have not paid out a single cent for advertising. Laughed at Looksmart when they tried to extort money from us. All I have ever done is optimise my own site to the best of my ability. Today my sales are now almost 10 times the BTI figure and I am always in the top 10 results (not the sponsored ones of course) at Google and Yahoo and quite often at MSN as well ( which my logs show as only having 10% of the traffic for my keywords anyway.)
So is SEO still relevant? Too Bloody Right it is !
11-11-2003, 04:36 AM
There seems to be a lot of opinions being circulated.
Google adwords returns between 1% and 4% clicks per view, anything less than 1% and the key term linking to the adword is closed.
Using Adwords it is possible to estimate the numbers of people doing a search on any particular search term, using site stats it is possible to see the incoming site visitors per search term to your site.
With a realistically focused title and description I expect to get a 25% click through rate on google per entry that is within the top 5 - ie visible without the user scrolling down. This can decline to about a 10% return from an entry on the 1st page. Subsequent percentage clicks on my site per search where I am on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th page or depends on the relevance of the entries ahead of my site.
These stats are consistent and are based on about 50 one and two word search terms in the top 5 positions and an equivalent number spread through the bottom 5 on page 1 and subsequent pages.
Relistically google adwords is important and a key part of my web promotion strategy, but has to be considered as just one (and a minor one) of many ways of getting visitors.
11-11-2003, 06:37 AM
The truth of the matter is anyone can do SEO. You will also get more hits from the free listing then you will get from the paid listing.
Anyone can do SEO it is not hard. However it does take time. The problem is not that it is complicated but that most business owners have more important things to do then try and get there site in the top of the search engines. That is why people that cut your grass and wash your cars have successful business. Because they offer a service for people that do not have time to do it themselves.
If you read and study you can become an expert at anything. The question is do you have the time to do it yourself?
There is enough information on sites like mine and rlrouse for anyone to get a top listing.
The question is do you have time to do it yourself?
If someone ask me a question I have no problem giving information to help people that want to do it themselves and I get a lot of emails from people that have done it themselves.
That's how I learned, I did my site myself because I did not have money to pay someone else to do it.
11-12-2003, 03:03 AM
Jeeze, I must have been sleeping. This thread has kept going..
Interesting stuff. I too started in 1997 when there were very few search engines. Getting on Yahoo was just a matter of finding and submitting to the right category and waiting. I remember getting a letter from a person who indexed my site saying it was indexed and he had moved it to a better category than the one I had placed it in.
That was then and this is now!
Now we have Google who really are the king-pin of search engines. MSM, and we all know dmoz has died or at least is in the final throws of life. Netscape owns the database which is filled with dead links but new engines are being launched every day with the focused hope of becoming the next "big one".
I am not an exception. We launched our search engine 3 years ago now and have our own data base. We recently partnered with Kanoodle and genieknows.com and push a few of their paid listings. One thing I found out that was interesting, most of these ppc engines do not even own a data base and only have a meta search script that pulls from up to 25 separate engines.
So... back to the topic.
There are as many ideas on how to make your page do well on the search engines as there are sites. I got an email from a friend not too long ago that the answer was not meta tags, keywords or any of that traditional stuff. It was recipicol links and only linking with pages that have a higher ranking than you on Google. Also, you had to have some content on that page that you were linking to that contained the same keywords as the recipicol link...
SEO's keep up the good work. You keep the flame going and the search engines just have to change the rules and all your hard work is down the tube. I know what I look for. Content. Does your page offer something, is it relevent with your keywords and description, is it easy to navigate and most important to me, is if I have to wander all through the page or scroll down 4500 words before I know what it is you do, you are not accepted. I follow a 15 second rule. If I can't see what you do in 15 seconds, I click it away.
One thing I learned in marketing 101 (way back in my university days) was focused advertising. I can be #1 on all the search engines but #1 for what. If I am selling computer parts in BC, and someone in Alberta finds me, I doubt very much they are going to buy. They are thinking shipping costs. But if I am #1 for computer parts in BC, and someone in BC finds me, it may convert to a sale. So.. that is where the SEO comes in, (I think) to help the customer understand how to market his or her site.
just my two cents