A recent article on the Guardian’s website declared to its readers that “SEO is dead. Long live social media optimisation”.
Social media optimisation is, of course, about inviting people into a conversation rather than simply broadcasting a message to an audience. Now whilst there may be element of truth in the fact that social media strategies are yielding great results for sites that are boycotting traditional SEO methods, we’re pretty opposed to the argument that SEO is on its way out – it’s not a dying art. Far from it.
And unlike the Guardian, we certainly don’t share the same view that SEO “was always a flawed concept”. Sure, it has its limitations, but so does any field of business that relies heavily upon an ever-changing and evolving medium, like the internet.
The oversimplification in the Guardian article rests upon the assumption that there is a finite amount of internet traffic available to reach any online entity – this is not true. Every year people are spending more time on the web, consuming more and more information and using a much wider variety of devices than they were, say, ten years ago. The number of people logging on is rising significantly and slows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
So where has this growth come from?
It’s hardly a surprise that in today’s technologically-fuelled world more people are surfing the web and for longer periods than previously. But there are three main factors that have driven this growth in internet usage:
1. The amount of time people spend online is increasing
A report from leading digital marketing company eMarketer outlines the time spent using different media formats between 2009 and 2012. It highlights an increase in people’s web use from 26.6% in 2009 to 36.5% in 2012.
And these figures only showed the amount of time people spent consuming the media formats. It does not include the increased growth in internet dispersion around the world, so really it holds even better news for online marketers than first expected.
2. The internet is still growing
Besides the amount of time we are spending online, the total number of people using the internet is also expanding at an increasing rate.
According to the European Travel Commission (ETC), there were approximately 2.4bn internet users worldwide in 2012 (roughly equating to 34.3% of the global population). And in comparison to the year 2000, internet usage growth had increased 566.4% over the 12 years.
3. The internet today is so much faster
Everyone knows that the internet has increased in speed, you only have to think back to the days of dial up to remember how slow our beloved world wide web once was. Now as the internet is much quicker than it was, it means that we are able to search for more on the internet and consume greater volumes of information than ever before (and in a much shorter time frame too).
And one more thing
The final reason to dismiss the premise of the Guardian article comes down to the consumer. Consumer intentions differ greatly between search and social channels. Search traffic is highly qualified, so you are capable of targeting people at very specific parts of the consumer purchase cycle. Social mediums do not allow you to do this, so it can be very difficult to reach your exact demographic.
Let’s not beat around the bush here; social channels are great for encouraging product discovery, but not so great at targeting consumers who are certain they want to make a purchase and are looking for a vendor. You can use the medium to get your message out there, but when you want to actually transact, you’ll really suffer from a lack of presence in the major search engines.