“SEO is Dead!” the expert on X new technology loves to exclaim. It’s an interesting concept that Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or Snapchat, or Mobile Apps, or Virtual Reality would supplant the practice of SEO as the main need for online businesses, a practice which predates even Google itself. The majority of consumers still use a search engine for most of their purchase intent needs, at least that’s what I believe to be true (yes I know many start on Amazon for retail purchases now). And while I’m known to proclaim the inevitable end of websites as the open web is assaulted by Google, AT&T, Verizon, Facebook, and the FFC; I wanted to know how much truth there might be to this often made claim of the death of SEO. I’ve spent time researching and digging through data to see if there’s anything compelling enough to make a case one way or the other and found some interesting data I thought I would share – all of it points to SEO being alive and well.
Local Intent SEO Keyword Volume
To start off I gathered the top 50 cities by population in the United States. I did keyword research as if I owned an agency in each one of them in an attempt to look for search patterns. I found that most often consumers tend to use a keyword that resembles [name of city] + [seo], for example “Dallas SEO” or “Las Vegas SEO”. I inputted these keywords into Google Adwords Keyword Planner and set the time frame to as far back in time as I could go, November of 2013. The results were beyond what I had anticipated. As a group in November of 2013 these keywords had an approximate search volume of 33,540 and in October of 2017 the search volume had climbed to 74,760 a staggering growth of 122.89% over the nearly 4 year time span. Keep in mind this is only representing fat head queries often used by local businesses to begin their foray into SEO. This doesn’t include non-local intent keywords such as “local seo”, “link building”, or even “seo” itself.
The number one city for [name of city] + [seo] search volume over this period btw is Denver with an average monthly search volume of 3,600 searches per month.
Interestingly enough searches for [name of city] + [seo] also seem to occur more often on Desktop versus mobile devices with mobile search volume having dropped over the past 12 months.
Google Trends SEO vs. Everything Else
Next I used Google Trends to see how SEO stacks up against other types of online marketing such as Social Media, PPC, Content Marketing, etc… and how interest in these topics has changed over time. Note I set everything to United States only and used the ‘search term’ selection for each topic.
When comparing SEO to Influencer Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Content Marketing; SEO absolutely dominates the others.
We do see SEO losing ground to the search term “Social Media” in February of 2011 as denoted by the green line in the graphic below. However, Social Media could be more considered a type of entertainment and less a valuable business asset when looked at broadly, so this search term could encompass all other kinds of uses that have no bearing on business intent and would not lend themselves to “killing” SEO.
When we compare SEO to PPC in Google Trends we find that early on PPC actually had higher interest than SEO, but around January of 2008 SEO overtook PPC in interest and has continued to climb since then while PPC dropped in interest and eventually stagnated showing little growth or decrease since 2008, even with a few updates from Google designed to improve the quality of Google Trends data over that time.
Broad SEO Keyword Volume
I took the keyword “SEO” and a lot of broadly related terms and phrases such as “link building” and “rank tracking” to determine how many broadly related SEO queries were being performed in Google over time. I again looked at the furthest back date Google Adwords Keyword Planner would allow me to (November of 2013) and found that in this month there were approximately 216,970 broadly related keyword searches to SEO. In October of 2017 this number had climbed to approximately 259,000 searches a month, a modest growth of 19.37% over the time period. There were spikes in the search volume throughout this time period with a very noticeable spike in March of 2015 (pre-Mobilegeddon update) of about 383,620 searches per month.
To me the case is pretty clear. While Social Media Marketing, Influencer Marketing, and other types of digital marketing come along and provide value to businesses, the clear most sought after and needed service is still SEO. The other types of marketing certainly have their merit and using them has proven highly effective for some businesses, but SEO appears to be something that still has broad demand. If SEO is dead, then consider me a highly-evolved zombie.
Share this post with anyone that tells you SEO is dead so they will know they are “gravely” mistaken.