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Is SEO Dead in 2021? Is SEO a Dying Industry?

By Tim Brown
Updated December 6, 2020
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IS SEO a dying industry- marketing spend 2020
Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

Have this post read to you in a natural voice, so you can do other things:

SEO is dead.

So claim the clickbait – raconteurs that are peddling scare-tactics for small businesses and to enrage marketing agencies.

What are the real claims, and why are some of them valid?

  •  SEO used to be really easy – so some of the people saying it’s dead, are just mourning the loss of when you could do a ‘link-wheel’ and rank the next day for $50.
  •  SEO used to need no involvement of subject matter experts, and so you could farm out content to India for $5 a post and win with a little bit of time on a Saturday.
  •  SEO simply went through a transformation – from a simple problem with a lot of easy black-hat tactics, and became a very difficult one – albeit one that is still very lucrative if you master the new game.

IS SEO a dying industry- marketing spend 2020

Source: Statistic from Statista.com

Company’s spent more than $79.27 billion on SEO in 2020 – which is more than triple what it was in 2010 (22.1B) So SEO isn’t dying, its 3x-ing every 10 years.
 
Traffic from Google and other search engines drive more than 50% of all website traffic today! (That’s more than paid ads & social media combined!)
 
What about that giant chunk of ads at the top of Google?
 
Where you want to be is in front of the 70 to 80% of people searching focus on organic search results, completely skipping all of those ads at the top. (Well, you probably want to be there too – you want to be in all of the most visible places on the internet like Youtube, and Facebook as well.) 

 
How much business can SEO drive?

Depending on your industry –  40% of many company’s business from Google search! So for instance for a $1,000,000 company – an average company – 400k of it might come from Google organic!
 
But does Google search traffic and leads turn into business?
 
SEO has a 14.6 percent close rate on average. 

How does that compare to other types of marketing?
 
Compared to traditional marketing, that’s amazing. Shockingly, it’s 8x the close rate of traditional marketing, which is all the way down at 1.7%.

Get a partner that cares focused on Web design and SEO to Hook better leads: Start the conversation

Is SEO dead in 2020 – 2021?

It gets harder as competition grows – but the opportunity keeps growing too.
 
The best time to to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.
 
SEO is a long-term system – and it may take 6-9 months to really show significant growth, but that does not mean you should avoid it. It means you should learn about it, enough to hold your SEO company accountable.

Why do people say that SEO is dead?

 People say SEO is dead – because SEO is harder, and it’s harder to do crazy hacks your to get to the top of Google search, where-as in many ways you used to be able to.

You could use machine written content, and spam links from low quality sites. That game is over.
 
The new game may be more difficult and frankly, a lot of work. That’s why you need a partner working vigorously on your behalf. Or you need to take it very seriously internally, and hire experts.

Depending on your industry – this may be one of the first type of marketers – I would have on staff if I was a new company. That, and a graphic and web designer could be a great pairing in the long-term game of dominating search, social, and also support your other offline marketing habits and activities with high visibility. 

Some other people’s perspectives about the death of SEO

“SEO will never die as long as people are searching for things on the internet. I’d bet all my money on SEO continuing to grow for the next couple decades minimum.” – Ty Frankel of Shut Down Emails 

“I can honestly say I forever skip the ads at the top. When I started freelancing and learning about SEO I realized it is KEY. For businesses, it’s an investment that will pay off over time (not instant gratification) but it pays off in such a huge way. Especially for businesses in smaller communities where people are literally just looking for someone to solve a specific problem. Whatever comes up first (after the paid ads) will be considered. You’re setting yourself up to be the expert in your field in your community. Invaluable” – Karli Steffani of Barton Associates Inc. 

“It’s definitely not dying, but the way that people are discovering products and services is changing. People are often discovering on social media, in communities, on podcasts, on review sites, etc. All before they ever come to the search engine. This is forcing SEOs to expand outside of just optimizing sites and blogs, but also optimizing podcast feeds, review listings, etc.” Mike Grinberg, Proofpoint Marketing

I would agree Mike. I’ve always put SEO into three buckets (on-page, off-page and technical). Nowadays, much more emphasis needs to be put on off-page and technical). I helped a small, local business drastically reduce their ad spend and close more business through organic just by keeping their local business directories updated.” – Amando Beto, Honore Holdings

SEO isn’t dying, but it is changing. I won’t say evolving either, I’ll devolving is more like it. With the advent of Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and a host of others we are getting back to asking questions vs just typing in keywords. Consumers also expect a more intuitive return on their queries. When someone searches “checking accounts” they want more than just a return of banks that offer checking accounts. They expect to find different kinds of checking accounts, how they are different. They want to know which one is best for them. If you want to know where SEO is headed, look at how companies with younger audiences are looking at it and not how established giants are using it. Look at the differences in returns between typing in a true question and just the key words you’re looking for.” – Ian Martinez Christian, I=MC2 Consulting

“Is SEO Dead? Yes…and no. I’m beginning to believe “SEO” as a niche industry is dying if not dead already. I would never hire an SEO company to execute or strategize for me; I would pay attention to how they weave SEO into their core competencies. But SEO hasn’t died. It’s evolved. “Search” “Engine” “Optimization” no longer means Google. It also means YouTube. Facebook. Amazon. Any website or service with a large number of users that has a search functionality component, with rankings, winners and losers, algorithms for discoverability, etc. Many of us got into SEO because we were creators who wanted our stuff and our client’s stuff to be seen and known. Then we learned there was a game at play and focused on how to win the game, and lost that one thing that mattered most to all of us in the process. SEO as an industry absolutely needs to go away or evolve. But the principles and concepts are here to stay.”  – Stuart Blessman, August Ash

 

How to Win at SEO in 2021 

Move to where the ball is going, not where the ball has been.

Don’t push into traffic for traffic sake – prioritize bottom funnel searches more quickly in your efforts, and watch out for the temptation to go after glamour metrics, no matter how fun it is.

  • MAKE LISTS: like 10 Best Home Builders, or adjective based lists like 10 Healthiest Dog Foods. Can also target adjacent products or services.
  • STOP PUSHING ON LINKS for ‘Link Saturated Sites’ – which bigger agencies probably see all the time, but basically if a company has 20 authority links… each subsequent link is less likely to move the needle. (Unless of course it’s super keyword / niche specific.)
  • CONVERSION FOCUS – Our priorities have just continued to be heavier on conversion-focused terms, as tends to happen – and any efforts that increase them. Not new – but just pushing on low hanging fruit first – via search console, landing pages for the best money making keywords. Location focused + niches.

5 More things to push into in 2021:

  1. Content – Video connection (this is huge for dwell time – which effects your rankings.)
  2. Create 10 pieces of content with 1 pillar piece of content to scale out Subject Matter Expertise.
  3. Use statistics + original studies – to attract links on auto-pilot.
  4. Scaling list based content. People love lists – but try making a list of 20 lists that people who really want to buy what you’re offering would search for.
  5. More Gutenberg / interesting content blocks – with Schema built in. Modular / content styles.

Overall SEO isn’t dead – it’s an evolving game that’s getting complex

That being said the basics – and going heavily on them is still the most important aspect of SEO.

  • Links – you need to find ways to get more and better links all the time.
  • Content – written articles and landing pages that are targeted at keywords ideal customers are really looking for.

If you do these things regularly and always use Analytics and Search Console to double down on what’s working and grow through those efforts – you can earn more ideal customers and expand your footprint.

Mindset wise – most people won’t do what it takes. Most people won’t write that post, most people won’t reach out to guest post on that website – most people won’t pitch 5 people on ‘Help a Reporter Out’ on a Sunday. I will. You will. And that’s why we’ll win.

SEO is a competition – the more high-value activities around CONTENT and LINKS you do – the better you will do in search. Of course, you need to learn some technical SEO as well, and get better at targeting – but the fundamentals are absolutely crucial.

SEO isn’t dead – most just won’t do the work it takes to actually get results. Most won’t prioritize it enough, and won’t invest what they need to in order to dominate. Don’t be that someone, make moves today.


 

Watch this quick video to see how savvy businesses save time and hook better leads:
 

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Tim Brown
Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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