Advance apologies for those people earning a living out the subject matter (SEO) in this article, I still believe you are part of the mix, just not as important and influential as it used to be. Certainly no apologies for those who have already cleaned up, made their money and now moved on leaving clients to wonder WTF do we do next?.

The thrust of this article is based upon the simple premise that the traditional rationale for driving traffic to your website is changing at a seismic pace, and that Tsunami of change is being driven by us the consumer, leveraged by the increasing use of Social Media and how its influencing our pre-sales decision making process.

All websites are put together from an 'internalised' perspective, they are basically designed for B2B as a 'brochure' to describe what/why we do, in B2C land its become a shoppable experience for the consumer, but they are essentially what you say about YOU.

Your website is 'what you say about 'YOU'. Why, because your in control of the message, and you only show the good reviews.

B2C & B2B companies spend lots of cash on SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques to help people find them. Since Tim Berners Lee (Godfather of the www) kindly gave us the internet as we know it today huge businesses around the globe have been created to serve the needs of this activity. Agency land before, and during the Dotcom Bubble were quick to acquire companies who could assist clients become 'more visible' and competitive, they did this to help them articulate why you need to spend marketing budget to own those keywords that can push you higher than your competitor.

It was (and still is to some extent) the days of the internet 'Gold Rush' and the ones making most of the cash just happened to be the ones selling the digital 'picks & shovels'. Many of these companies do an amazing job in guiding you through the technical and functional requirements in order you can stay within the rules of the Google algorithm game.

But is it still important?.

Lets not beat around the bush, these days unless your a Footsie 100, or Fortune 500 company spending zillions in SEO land its unlikely your going to get a seat at the 'Google' table. These guys get the privilege of some advance warnings of any major changes in SEO land, the rest of us just wake up to find our business being decimated due to the latest Google 'whack a mole' algorithm change.

But why do we continue to spend money on SEO?

Because that's what we have had to do since Google wrote the rules many years ago, its their Bat & Ball so if you want to be seen you need to have your website structured in a way that Google can easily crawl and index it for relevant words, terms and content (including video hence why they acquired YouTube) which can then show up in 'people' driven searches.

Google are in the business of interruption, aggregating data and commercializing it at our expense.

SEO falls into 2 key areas, and whilst not wanting to get to deep into the technical aspects these are;

  1. Onsite (your website) and;
  2. Offsite (basically anywhere else you might show up on the web).

The primary focus is on getting traffic to the website so your customer can continue to do most of the heavy lifting (or not) before they contact you or even consider making a sale - well, the world has moved on.

What if you no longer were held at the mercy (and increasing cost) of Google, and the media agencies that 'feed' off their rule book?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t optimise your website, I just can’t evidence the same effort, investment & commitment when it comes to social media. Most successful social media driven businesses started on Facebook or Instagram as small home ran operations with little to no funds, resource or business knowledge - no SEO, and little to no advertising!

I have personally witnessed single parents grow businesses on social media platforms because of their ‘necessity’ to provide for the family, work from home (at hours to suit them) combined with something they are extremely passionate about. They have done this with nothing other than a mobile phone, WiFi connection, consistent effort and sheer spirit. As a result, they have managed to build huge audiences who are keen to see what they are up to daily, occasionally buy some of their product, and in many cases emulate their perceived success.

There are several established businesses around the world who appear to have unlimited resource, finance, and business savvy but are stuck doing stuff the way it’s always been done e.g. outbound marketing and driving traffic to the website to complete the sale. I get it, you made a big investment, you have agencies and teams of people all relying on your website for job security.

Unfortunately, today's (and tomorrows) consumer and your potential competitor isn’t really bothered about any of that. 

What else is disrupting the 'let's drive traffic to our website strategy' scenario.

The traditional push advertising model has been the stalwart for all media companies on the web, however that model is increasingly coming under threat as consumers are empowered with the ability to ‘skip’ and ‘block’ those online ads.

According to research, around 30% of all internet users now use ad blockers, which can be problematic for businesses trying to reach their audiences, and tech platforms looking to demonstrate the value of their ad tools.

Major advertising and marketing houses are facing an existential threat in losing customers and revenues, including the lucrative retainers they have traditionally commanded to manage major advertiser spend.

Tech-savvy, Social Media aware consumers are rejecting blunt, intrusive push-advertising that targets the occasional ‘click & buy’ result and has dominated the on-line advertising space for the past 20 years. Today’s consumers are looking for evermore immersive experiences where extra information relevant to their current social media activity enhances their experience rather than detracts from it and access to related products and services are a convenience. In a world where the traditional 'push advertising' model is effectively the sale of 'attention' - intrusive advertising is rapidly turning audiences off, across all devices, yet the opposite is happening with Social Media- Why?

Very few companies (leadership teams TBH) understand that the social media space is a treasure trove for highly engaged potential customers/clients, the ones in buying mode are already there. If companies thought about SMO (social media optimisation) with the same effort and investment as they do with SEO & paid media the spend vs return would be huge. 

Problem is, most brands/companies continue to use the social media space to talk about themselves & post product pictures, they're in constant 'selling mode'.The consumer is looking for 'social proof' that you (and your teams) are better than others selling or providing the same widget, gadget or service. Of course using the right keywords will continue to help with Google etc but we are looking for context not just 'keywords', this context is best expressed via social channels because it doesn't just give the brand/company view - it gives the experience, opinions and conversations with others.

Here at ‘Digital Leadership Associates’ (DLA) we transform the whole organisation. Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, Internal Comms, Customer Service all with social.

Stephen Sumner is an Associate Director of the DLA & International Marketing Consultant.