August 7, 2014 | Paul Jahn

Way back in the old days of search optimization…

When I got my start in SEO, it was probably around 2001 or 2002. Back then, it was pretty much all about tactics. How long should my <title> tags be? Should I pay the money for Web Position Gold (remember them?) to check my rankings during non-peak hours? Can I fit words like “snowboard,” “snowboards” and “snowboarding” all into one product description page?

What’s a blog? What’s a Twitter?

In December 2003, I had the chance to learn a lot about what you may now consider digital marketing. I won a contest from Jill Whalen to an SES conference in Chicago.

This was right after the infamous Florida algorithm update (remember that?). Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, was speaking specifically about Google PPC during a session and then fielded questions. Everyone who asked questions wanted to know why their organic SEO “rankings” had disappeared and how they weren’t going to be able to put food on the table for their kids. I sort of held my head down in shame.

SEO isn’t dying — it’s evolving.

Fast-forward many years, and SEO sure has changed. Semantic search happened. Social Media happened. Local search really happened. Content marketing and, most recently, native advertising happened.

SEO didn’t go away. It changed. Trying to manipulate search results won’t happen anymore. It’s less about rankings and tactics, and more about marketing strategy, sharing and building trust with your audience.

In fact, here’s a Google Trends graph for interest in the term “SEO rankings”:

seo rankings google trend graph

Also, here’s a trend for more terms folks in the industry would consider more modern. From top to bottom, “social marketing,” “digital marketing,” “content marketing,” and “native advertising:”

google trends graph for online marketing terms

All of this is part of SEO as we know it in 2014. When people search for your business online, there’s a good chance they’ll use Google. But these days they aren’t simply looking for your website. They certainly aren’t basing purchasing decisions based on how high you show up for your favorite keyword in search engines.

Rather, they want to see how you interact with customers and how much you’re trusted in your online network. They can Google you and find you on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Avvo, Amazon, Wikipedia, etc.

One good example is Red Wing Shoes. People use Google to search for keywords such as “work boots” and will see their website at or near the top of the SERPs. Depending on how people research a product, some are ready to buy right away and even know the SKU number. Some want to learn more about a company first, so they’ll perform more searches. Once the name of the company is in their mind, maybe they’ll want to see what else they can find out.

These days, people aren’t just searching for your website.

Today’s searchers don’t just want to see your website. They’ll be looking for more information.

When people Google Red Wing Shoes, for example, they’ll discover many different marketing profiles:


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn


  • Yelp
  • Tripadvisor
  • Citysearch
  • Local store locations

Online Shopping

  • Amazon
  • Zappos
  • Nordstrom


  • Wikipedia
  • Hoovers

It’s not just about creating unique and compelling content on your website nowadays. SEO in 2014 is that, plus having these different industry profiles. The important part is not what we call it. Some will say SEO, others will say digital or content marketing.

The most important thing to understand is that all these are part of an online marketing strategy, rather than tactics.

So, SEO didn’t die (nor will it). Instead, it’s evolved into something much bigger than I could’ve imaged way back in the early 2000s. Can’t wait to see how much more it changes in the years to come…



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