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Every few months, I read articles or hear at a conference about how search engine optimization is dead. I've heard these statements for the last 5 years and they often attribute the same reasons for the demise of SEO (even years later).
Search engine optimization is still the single most important component for driving additional buyer traffic to a car dealer's website. Period. I would absolutely love to debate that point with anyone. There are shiny, bouncing balls that are valid such as social media and retargeting. They're important. They're just not as important as organic rankings on search.
Many look at PPC as a tangible, high-value method of driving traffic. It is. However, with less than 1/4th of searchers ever clicking on ads, it's simply not as powerful as strong search engine optimization that reaches nearly 100% of searchers.
The latest argument is about how Google and Bing have declared recently that they are making changes soon to attack over-optimized websites. This is true. We had 4 KPA people at SXSW this year and that was one of the things discussed by Google, Bing, and SEO Pro Danny Sullivan during one of the presentations. However, this is not a death knell for SEO despite a lot of people focusing on this small portion of the larger presentation.
What wasn't mentioned as often was when both Google and Bing declared that they appreciate quality SEO, even saying at one point that "we love SEOs because they make it easier for us to index pages properly."
Google and Bing are not coming after car dealers. They are attacking the viagra spammers. They are going after the websites that are automatically generating hundreds of thousands of new pages a day. They are going after the websites that are purchasing links.
A dealer website that is properly optimized and proactively working towards doing the things that Google and Bing want have nothing to fear. SEO is not dead. It's definitely getting harder - that much is certain. The search engines are getting smarter every day. Keeping up with the changes and adjustments is the reason that I still have a job.
If it was easy, everyone would do it well. Instead, it's hard, and at this point it's easier for people to say that "SEO is dead" rather than learning how to do proper SEO for their clients.