Lee Odden

When Will SEO Become Obsolete?

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO

Recently I’ve seen some predictions that with the direction search engines are taking, search engine optimzation is going to become obsolete in 5 or more years.

That’s not too risky of a prediction, since 5 years is literally the half-life of the entire search engine optimization industry. Five years is a lifetime in internet time.

Do I think SEO will die a slow death? I think a slowdown in the impact of current SEO methods is a more accurate assessment. That’s not much of a prediction either, is it? The rules for effective SEO change more often than the rules for just about any other industry I know.

The need to optimize content to be relevant and fixing all the bass ackward web designs and HTML that continues to be pushed out to the web by agencies will never really discontinue. Links are always good for traffic, so link building isn’t going away either.

If you’re a search engine optimization firm, you’ve got to love all those award-coveting, Flash-obsessing interactive agencies out there that keep SEOs busy cleaning up and fixing code so web sites can get crawled.

Rather than SEO becoming obsolete, I think it would be more accurate to say that other tactics like traffic building through social media will simply become more effective. At least until those channels get replaced by something else. What won’t go away is the need for good marketing: Creative, smart, problem solving marketing never goes out of style.

As long as there are web pages and links and search engine spidering, there will be a need for optimization of some sort. The impact might be a lot less than other tactics, but the need will always be there.

As more and more online marketers are discovering, search engines are not the only way to drive traffic and sales via the web.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Piper Kinison says

    I’m sick of hearing about the death of seo, the death of adsense, the death of…whatever comes next. Things will change, but I agree, most of the basic principles behind SEO will continue on.

  2. SEO won’t die until the search box does! As long as folks continue to use that to find whatever it is they are looking for, SEO will be around.

  3. Piper, Cameron: Exactly! “As long as there are web pages and links and search engine spidering, there will be a need for optimization of some sort.”

  4. Avatar Michael Phipps says

    As Lee already said, there will always be a need to clean up crap websites so that search engines can crawl them.

    I do think that the death of Blackhat SEO is coming though. Relying on blackhat, you’ve always gotta be changing your focus, as blackhat techniques become a negative impact to your site.

    The focus of SEO is going to get back to creating quality content and well built websites, and by well built, I mean valid x/html that search engines can read, and an easy to follow navigation method for both users and crawlers.

  5. SEO won’t “die” per se, but it will evolve.

    Look at SMO (Social Media Optimization) and how it is shaping future needs of an SEO.

    In five years (a lifetime online) you might be able to forecast a number of things, but online activity is a tough one. Five years ago the only thing that was probably predicted correctly would be streaming video )although they probably suggested dvd quality).

    Jeez Lee, so many thoughts. Now I’ll have to post on it.

  6. Seo will not die, it will grow and create other avenues such as social networking and be adopted and blended into traditional media.

    Traditional media has no choice but to accept seo.
    Some things will never change but rather have to blend together

  7. Avatar Jon Henshaw says

    It’s not going to go away, but it may look somewhat different. Seems to me that to say something is going to look different on the Internet five years from now is to state the obvious. However, if I were to make a prediction, I would say that it’s not going to change all that much. What will change will be the functionality of browsers and the new and updated languages that go with it. I think SEO will basically remain the same in regards to 1) writing code that helps search engines comprehend your content 2) creating link bait. Last, good SEO includes some forms of marketing, so I’m not sure why you differentiate it.

  8. Hey All,

    I think I’m in agreement with most of what has been said here. The biggest thing to take away is what Lee Odden says here:
    “Rather than SEO becoming obsolete, I think it would be more accurate to say that other tactics like traffic building through social media will simply become more effective. At least until those channels get replaced by something else.”

    SMO here we come?

  9. SEO will evolve or mutate, but it won’t die.

  10. Avatar Cryptblade says

    I love prosnosticators of doom. Whether in the pulpit or in SEO forums. I love the drama. But history shows that the end almost always come in a whimper – thank you T.S. Elliott.

    But then again, the end is never really the end – it is simply reborn like the phoenix out of the ashes…

    Yes, melodramatic – but so are doomsayers. All they want is attention to try and validate that their existence is somehow, worth something.

    But SEO will go on. SEO is nothing more than a marketing tool. Without the marketing necessity for SEO, SEO would not be so big. SEO is about marketing – and so SEO will evolve as the Internet (the living organism known as the Internet) evolves. Absolutely SEO as we know it now will be dead in 5 years – just as the Internet as we know it now will be dead in 5 years. 5 years ago the future of the Internet looked so bright…then suddenly looked so dark. 5 years ago, too many people envisioned the Internet to be like… a brave new world of broadcasting. New Dotcoms came up with visions of making lots of money selling advertising in an infant communication medium.

    Now, the Internet is probably more explosive than most people realize. The idea of “Web 2.0” was birthed out of the ashes of the dotcom bust. That was 5 years ago. The next 5 years will bring more changes, more evolution.

    Change is inevitable – SEO will change. SEO is accustomed to change. True SEO experts change. It’s the do-it-yourselfers who THINK they can do SEO that will not change. But then again – it leaves more business for the SEOs.

  11. I agree about SEO evolving, not dying. Doctors didn’t become obsolete when penicillin was invented. There’s always some jackass out there playing with a chainsaw who will need some stitches, just like there will always be a site out there in dire need of SEO 😀

  12. “There

  13. Hmm, maybe hack web designers are the hillbillies of the web.

  14. I don’t feel that SEO will become obsolete. If anything, it’s forcing developers and designers to start coding sites to web standards. This is helping move the internet forward in terms of usability, relevance and great content. What qualifies as a good site today will be substandard tomorrow. Evolution of the web I suppose.

  15. IMHO Lee, SEO will never die. No matter the breaktrough in technology, filters, AI, or other aspects of the search engines, there will always be methods.

    As for links (for websites) they don’t come in ontheir own. Someone with at least a basic to medium knowledge in the industry must take care of them right ?

  16. I appreciate all the comments, but more than appreciating the fact that there are so many people committed to the future of SEO, I am left wondering: “Did anyone actually read this post?

    Contrary to some comments, I don’t think SEO is going to die and the post says as much. This is actually a very interesting situation.

    Note to self: Most people read blog post titles and go right to the comments without reading the full post.

  17. I read the first two paragraphs.

  18. Avatar Igor M. (BizMord Blog) says

    The beauty of SEO is that tactics change with the algorithm. How can something die if it keeps growing and changing?

    SEO will never be obsolete. With algorithm, search, behavior, etc… changes SEOs will make adjustments accordingly.

    At the end of the day SEO is part of a technology. Technology is constantly evolving.


  1. […] The old debate (or should that be “link bait”?). SEO is dead, SEO is dying, SEO is alive and well. […]

  2. Starked SF, Unforgiving News from the Bay » Blog Archive » Talk of the Town: Tuesday says:

    […] When will SEO become obsolete? […]

  3. No Competition in Search · SEO Buzz Box says:

    […] Most SEO’s have all their cards on the table for social media marketing but will this have any value in GOOGLE? […]

  4. techipedia: anything tech. » Blog Archive » Will SEO ever die? says:

    […] I personally do not think that SEO will fail, and as newbies gain more knowledge, so too do the experts. With that said, I would also like to extend this to Lee Odden’s blog on SEO becoming obsolete. […]

  5. AlleNation » News From The Hood - Home of Young Blogger & Entrepreneur Allen Heat says:

    […] Lee Odden ponders: When will SEO Become Obsolote?; “Rather than SEO becoming obsolete, I think it would be more accurate to say that other tactics like traffic building through social media will simply become more effective” Lee says. […]

  6. Step Two dot Net :: Modern trends of SEO and e-marketing says:

    […] SEO dies – The importance of search engine optimization is getting lower and lower. If your only interest is high position in Google, be careful (read the article Seo Dies a Slow Death or When Will SEO Become Obsolete). Timely finding of traffic alternative for your website is significant competitive advantage for future (some inspiration can be found here: 5 Website Traffic Alternatives to Search Engines) […]