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There are a veritable mountain of articles on the Internet describing how SEO — that’ Search Engine Optimization, for the uninitiated — is ‘dead.’ They describe how the 2012-and-beyond Google updates known as Panda and Penguin have made most pre-2012 SEO techniques either irrelevant or downright bad for your ability to earn organic traffic. Then there are an equal amount of articles describing how SEO is alive, it’s merely been transformed from a mostly-mechanical linkbuilding process into a mostly-artistic process called ‘Content Marketing.’
The truth is more complex — SEO isn’t dead, and it’s not been entirely subsumed into content marketing.
The fact is that while many SEO techniques of yesteryear were announced by Google to be “penalized” by various changes to the core, Panda, and Penguin algorithms, those announcements were (mostly) half-truths. Google didn’t magically create an AI perceptive enough to pick every guest post off of every blog and turn their backlinks into spam. They didn’t penalize every site with incoming links from bad neighborhoods, because if they did, many popular sites would have been taken off of Google by teams of malicious anti-optimizers attempting to destroy their competition.
No, SEO specialists are still working their magic, even using most of the same techniques. The big problem with SEO today is that there are relatively few people that are investing in researching new ‘mechanistic’ techniques. The big guys — Moz, SearchEngineWatch, and their ilk — are busy testing and re-testing to ensure what older techniques are still safe, and developing content marketing techniques like outreach and influencer manipulation. Very few intelligent, analytical folks are applying themselves to the development of “new old-school” systematic link-building methods.
No School Like the Old School
As is fairly normal in competitive environments like marketing, the balance of probability is that the person doing what few others are doing is going to be more successful than someone doing what everyone else is doing. Find a group that are using systematic methods of engaging in Panda- and Penguin-appropriate methods of backlink building, and turn the old school into your school.