2009 Sucked For Most SEO’s

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It really got kicked off last November 2008 when the guy who coined the term SEO, Bruce Clay, said that search engine rankings were dead.  Shortly after, Google engineer Matt Cutts, said that while they were not dead they are not as important as they were.  Matt went on to talk about how people needed to quit focusing so much on SEO and start looking at things like conversion.

Hmm where have we heard that before.  Oh,  I had written on that very thing only a couple weeks before Matt’s made his comments.

This of course was the last thing that the SEO conferences wanted to hear.

I had written for a while about why we no longer attend SEO conferences and why we do attend performance marketing conferences.  But to hear someone like Matt Cutts make the point was the nail in the coffin.  I do not have access to Search Engine Strategies numbers but by looking at who was attending,  feedback from both operators, and tweets from attendees talking about how dead the conferences were I am guessing 2009 was their worst year ever.

Also its no coincidence that companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have shifted their ad spend much more to the performance marketing space.  They put money where there is value… and the SEO fad has come and gone.

In 2009 you saw a lot of SEO’s switch to being Social Media Experts or Reputation Management experts.

In late 2009 Robert Scoble (who is a complete retard) wrote about why social media is better then SEO.  Thousands of SEO’s came out of the woodwork to take the bait.  Proving a complete retard like Scoble is smarter then most of the SEO industry.  The funniest part is when the SEO’s would refuse to link to Scoble… they just don’t get it…

Obviously though one of the main reasons we saw so many SEO’s out of work in 2009 was due to the recession.  In a recession companies can’t justify unquantifiable expenses… so SEO’s were the first to get the axe.

There is probably about 5 SEO’s that I would take advice from.  Aaron Wall at the top of the list.  You really need to read this post to understand.

62 thoughts on “2009 Sucked For Most SEO’s

  1. Andrew

    Happy New Year Jeremy

    Calling Scoble a retard makes this my post of 2010, regardless of anything that gets written in the next 359 days.

    I do not understand what the point of Scoble is. i think he is well known for being well known, like Victoria Beckham or Nicole Ritchie.

    Sure, they all get exposure on TV and the web but all Scoble is famous for is using technology.

    He sticks his phone in people’s faces so and streams the footage live, so….. he is the go to guy for companies wanting a video on demand strategy.

    He is a poster boy for action over substance, a completely pointless individual in my opinion.

    1. Doyle Lewis

      You do realize that Victoria Beckham was part of one of the largest selling female groups of all time, correct? The music sucked, sure, but that is at least a valid reason to be well known. Then couple that with being married to the highest paid athlete in the world (a few years back, anyway).

  2. James Morris

    Uh… What SEOs are you following? All the SEOs I work with long ago saw the changes in the industry and have already begun dissecting new ways to maintain a competitive edge.

    Sorry, Jeremy, but you better do your homework a little better next time. SEO is far from a fad and real SEO factors conversions.

    :: facepalm ::

    BTW… my income doubled in 2009. It was a very good year for me. I’m an SEO (among many things)

    ~James

  3. ZK@Web Marketing Blog

    Why does Google still have the Page Rank in the tool bar ?

    Matt has said on several occasions that webmasters should not focus on Page Rank anymore..and why does Google have a page rank update every 2 – 3 months when they say is not an important factor

  4. Dave Doolin

    That was an excellent article! Thanks for the pointer.

    I’m pretty suspicious of the whole SEO thing. In the end, it’s in Google’s in the search engines interest to ensure at least some of the results are high quality, and I can do that.

    Of course, when adsense links are the most relevant text on a page… but let’s not go there so early in the morning!

  5. Ecommerce Blog

    I have known that SEO was dying for some time now. With the over saturation of the market and companies not really knowing what it was, it is no surprise that it is falling apart. Oh well.

  6. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    Now to get ranking in search engine, there is only two things are important.

    # Regular update of quality and original content

    # Get links from the relevant and quality websites.

    Build the reputation in the eyes of google and get good ranking.

  7. Dave

    Besides a few examples, most SEO’s selling their services are people that can’t make money online. SEO/link getting is mostly a byproduct of good marketing these days. And anyone that has done any work on conversion knows that it’s far more lucrative, typically, to double your conversion rate rather than trying to write a million articles trying to double your traffic.

  8. Jason

    Hey Shoe, first of it’s RA-Tard… but I do have to agree with you on these points. I first heard the word Reputation Manager about 2 years ago and knew that the SEO industry was on the decline immediately. Now, I have 2 years worth of experience in conversion marketing and feel like I did the first day I learned about SEO. What resources out there do you know about or read when it comes to performance marketing? Love to see what you’re into and can’t wait to learn more about the Shoe money system…

  9. PPC Ian

    I agree from the corporate perspective that companies overinvested in PPC compared to SEO in 2009. During the 5.5 years I’ve been in corporate PPC, it has been amazing to see the market get hotter and hotter. 2010 looks to be another banner year. I wouldn’t discount SEO just yet, however. PPC costs have also been rising for the 5.5 years I’ve been in PPC and I expect companies to focus efforts on diversifying into other cheaper traffic sources such as SEO. The higher PPC costs set the stage perfectly for an SEO comeback.

    1. Mark Aaron Murnahan

      You said cheaper, but I would assert that to term it as such may be misleading. I will cost a whole lot more than the PPC on the surface, but the sustained result and the greater propensity for conversion leads to an increased ROI. Cheap? That almost denotes an expectation that the marketing cost is a net loss.

  10. thecompletist

    We must be slower here in Canada. My business doubled and so did a couple of other local SEO’s I know. Although I don’t lead with SEO. I tend to talk overall program of seo,ppc,conversion, testing and analytics. I like your blog but evertime I see one of your seo is dead raw raw posts its so obvious you were abit dry for content.

    How about Affiliate Marketing for 2010. Whats the crystal ball on that?

  11. Ogletree

    SEO is not dead or dying. Bad SEO might be. The reason so many people are moving over to social media is because they suck at SEO. Your not an SEO if you can’t rank for high traffic terms.

    Matt Cutts has always said SEO is dead. Matt’s job is to stop SEO of course he is going to say it is dead.

    Social media will die before SEO. Anybody who can rank for big terms is making a lot of money and turns down clients.

    1. Dan Nedelko

      I’m ranking for big terms both for clients and for my own domains.

      The terminology of “SEO” and what that means is the point here. (See my other comment for more on that).

      Social Media will not die.
      Search Engines will not die.
      Site Optimization will not die.

      They will however, change.

  12. Alan Rothstein

    95% of Google’s revenue is from Adwords which supplements organic search results. Without Google their is no SEO, but Google is not going anywhere so SEO is here to stay. The rules of the game just change a little, try to keep up :)

  13. MMedia

    In all honesty, SEO is the best it has been in a long time…for those who at least attempt to think as search engines do.

    SEO is getting harder, more complex and analytical. Title tags, keyword stuffing, directories and blog links don’t cut it anymore. It is becoming more about trust and authority, which can be signaled in so many ways depending on your industry.

    ^^ That alone ^^ cuts out the effectiveness of at least 75% of “SEO’s” in achieving targeted incoming traffic. It is no secret that the SEO industry as a whole is dying, but in truth it is really POOR SEO and SEO’s that are dying with it.

    I for one have never been so excited about SEO. We are revamping our business model, packages, and a lot of our strategy, and our clients notice the benefits.

    We and our clients quietly had our best year ever, and next year will be more of the same — Mostly due to SEO.

    It is also no secret that the affiliate industry or “performance marketing”(please coin a new phrase) is gaining momentum. But I would be careful to conclude that it is all at the expense of the SEO industry.

    Google is going nowhere anytime soon and everyday more and more people start using that search box.

  14. Pop Sift

    I think I’m gonna go on record and say SEO is dead. I hate to admit it, but it’s very difficult to keep a steady flow of traffic when you rely on SEO crap.

    SEO only works for the fat, rich companies. If you’re a one person operation you’re pretty much screwed. It use to be when you did a search you’d see a wide variety of results. Now it’s always Huffington post, Mashable, Digg, Wikipedia, etc.

    Basically the big companies have taken over the Internet and it’s a cesspool of the same type of crap you see on TV or the evening news.

    And that…. is my rant for the evening

    1. Contempt

      I’m going to go on record and say that you’re stupid. If you actually put in time and effort you can beat the “fat rich companies”. It’s not that hard for someone that actually does their homework and puts some effort into it.

      And that … is my rant for the rest of my life to people that say what you did.

      1. Pop Sift

        LOL… well it’s not completely dead… yet. All I’m saying is it’s not nearly as easy as it use to be.

        How about this for an idea… let’s settle this old argument once and for all.

        Make two brand new, fresh web sites and see which one performs better.

        One using only SEO… and the other using only social media.

        hmm

  15. Dan Nedelko

    Good post and I agree with you.

    For years I’ve been saying SEO is only a *channel* of Internet Marketing which includes email marketing, conversion optimization, display advertising, information architecture, campaign/product offerings and bunch of other channels.

    Optimizing for a search engine today means you are putting out a product with:

    1. A well designed site for the audience.
    2. A site with a strong architecture which will scale.
    3. A product which people want with strong customer service.
    4. Numerous forms of media that promote said product including blog posts, news posts, local optimization and the “traditional” SEO concepts of text based HTML content.

    …there’s obviously many more points here but you get what I mean.

    It’s really about *optimizing* the entire scope of your product and online presence not about “Search Engine Optimization”.

    All of the engines have changed so drastically with personalized search, social media and real time search that the term “SEO” doesn’t really make much sense and it hasn’t for quite some time.

    I’m a Marketer – specifically an Internet Marketer.

    I think you are too.

  16. Fionnd

    My income tripled in 2009 when I downsized my company and went back to pure organic SEO work which does include online reputation management. ORM is SEO just lots of it. I let go all the account managers, the strategists and the people with the great resume’s who do not understand the practical application of good SEO. At the end of 2008, I was broke in debt and did not know how I was going to continue not because SEO is dead but because I had deviated from what I was good at to an expensive business model that would probably not have worked in any economy but that’s another story. Half way through the year I made the change. The picture at the end of 2009 was very very different and I will NEVER go back to the agency model and plan on sticking to delivering down to earth advice and results for an affordable price that the client can make sense of. Results for me are about conversions always has been and I have been doing SEO for 8 years.

  17. Toby Schroder

    SEO hasn’t been SEO for a long time. It’s really been linkbuilding. Both the shitty kind implemented by crappy fake online marketing companies and the good kind which is done by online marketers who understand that only good content or money will get you a good link and really only good links matter anymore. Since the average business owner has not the time or inclination to create good content good SEO’s create remarkable content then hussel links using it. So really it’s online PR that happens to be done in a way that tickles the search engines in their bathing suit area.

    So long as the organic results are valuable SEO will be profitable. That being said you gotta move with the industry and yes I am going to offer social media services in 2010.

    That is until I build my empire using the shoemoney system. Launch that shit man. I’m ready to get rolling.

  18. SEO Pakistan Dubai

    Happy New Year!

    I like the pitch and focus of the article, but i think SEO is not dead! It’s just because of recession it has gone down..

    But obviously we can’t avoid the importance of Social media and performance marketing, they are at their place

  19. Cleansinf Fast

    I guess it depends on how you are defining dead….departed, separated, deceased….

    None of these terms have applied at all to my SEO operation over the past year…

    Not as important as it used to be? I am sure that applies to some, but I am glad it is not applying this way

  20. Mark Aaron Murnahan

    I have to agree with Fionnd. The right model will count a lot.

    The market has definitely changed, but it is far from dead. I have been marketing online since the dark ages (mid 1990’s). Like many good stories, I met a girl. Not just any girl, she is my wife. We merged companies in 2000 and spun it into filthy profits by servicing ISPs, hosting companies, and SEOs. We did great work as a wholesale Internet service provider … Kind of the geeks behind the geeks. I found that I was so filthy stinking happy that I quit working so hard and delegated a bit too aggressively. I took my Corvettes to the race track and spent more time having fun … all while slowly forgetting why I was able to have so much fun.

    In came 2008 and all of the sudden every middle aged guy who just got laid off down at the plant came home to unwrap his first computer and hang his shingle as the SEO expert (guru, maven, evangelist, and etcetera). This was a problem before, but it exploded in the past couple years. Competition was great … most of them made me look like royalty. We found a lot of talent to pull from, but we also saw a lot of the pains to the industry because in addition to Hank and his new computer, anybody could hire a $5/day con artist from a third world country they never knew existed until they needed an SEO. The industry was coming unraveled, but not dying.

    I lost more money in late 2008 and early 2009 due to my business model than most people I have met will earn in a lifetime. Why? I was counting on too many people and too many large and fragile companies (both network suppliers and clients). Today, I am witnessing a huge resurgence in profits by downsizing my client list and my expense list. I believe a lot of it also has to do with the bad SEO producing nothing but noise. The good SEO makes less noise and is heard a lot more. Another thing that I see happening is that the weak are starved off. Yes, survival of the fittest works here.

    As was pointed out, the SEO crawled out of the woodwork to become social media “experts”. It is funny, but that girl I met way back when … we met by way of social media. I am still not an expert, but I can attribute a fat sack of earnings over the last decade plus to this “new” thing they call social media. They will all starve, too, and as they do, it will be up to the strong to sweep up after them and redeem the industry.

    That’s my piece.

  21. scheng1

    SEO evolves rather than dying. Those engineers in Google just change a few factors, and everything is different. And that is even before the Google Caffeine takes over.

  22. RayA

    Our search marketing company is doing better now than it was 1, 2, or 3 years ago, and the SEO accounts are growing by keeping pace with changes in the industry. Hardly dead or dying or even a head cold from my vantage point.

  23. James

    All i gotta say is… you can only say or imply that SEO is dead so many times before it gets fucking annoying…. more and more people will spend money for seo year after year.. its not a fad and its not going anywhere…. No I don’t do client work nor would I… I’d rather focus on my own shit….

    Here’s a piece of advice for ya….

    I think you need a bit touching up on your seo…. all those damn spammy ringtone blogrolls :)

  24. Violet Pan

    It might have been a bad year..

    BUT ..

    I have been ranking several websites and made a six figure income in 2009 with my SEO efforts alone.

    SEO can only be discussed at different levels.

    Al.

  25. Gabe | freebloghelp.com

    SEO isn’t dead! It’s just that SEO is now a part (and still a big part) of the puzzle.

    Social media is getting a lot of attention because it’s the new girl in school but that, too, is just a part of the entire picture.

    Depending on the niche, sites need to strike a balance that works for them. There’s only so much time in a day to do write content, promote, optimize, etc…

  26. Jose│Internet Marketing Coach

    Am just starting to learn SEO and I find your post interesting.

    “There is probably about 5 SEO’s that I would take advice from. Aaron Wall at the top of the list”

    Would you mind telling us the other 4, Jeremy?

    Thanks.

    Jose

  27. WebsterJ

    If you think SEO is dead it just means you’re not good at it.

    You said SEO was dead 3 years ago, yet every competitive vertical where you can actually make money is filled with sites using SEO as their primary strategy.

    Show some evidence of a competitive vertical where social media is powering someone’s rankings.

  28. Steven van Vessum

    For me it’s quite te contrary, for me 2009 has been a great year as an SEO. In The Netherlands, one of the most competeted SEM markets, more and more companies are starting to realize they should be up there in the top 10.

    Yes, companies are looking to improve their conversion rates, but that goes hand in hand with SEO (and SEA, Bannering etc. for that matter).

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  30. Maxim

    Seo is not dead, you should consider the dofollow and nofollow links from googlebot check, having only dofollow will make your site Seo so much longer.

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