Wanted, Dead or Alive: SEO and Big Data

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel of leading marketing and PR practitioners as part of a Philly Startup Leaders University event about marketing on a budget. After the panel finished regaling the importance of SEO as a primary tactic for budget-conscious online marketing, someone in the standing-room only audience cited a recent discussion in the blogosphere about whether SEO was dead, and asked what did I think about it.

I was psyched to have some learnings from Delphic’s own rock-star SEO Chris Countey to share with the audience. But I also got a little excited (peeved maybe?) at the broader implication that trying to drive traffic to your site through good, solid content and thoughtful technical architecture might be dead.

To me, these discussions are just a fad. It speaks to the impulse to find the next great thing that will let you get lots of high converting traffic with little to no effort…such a thing doesn’t exist, believe me. I have been so struck by the faddishness of some in online marketing that I even included in my response that evening that “SEO is dead” is about as trendy as the other more recent meme: “it’s all about Big Data.”

My exact quote was “if I hear the phrase Big Data one more time, I’ll puke.” And if you know me, you know that I live and breathe data. I dream about it. I get excited when clients let me see the data diagram for their massive new database. Yeah, I’m that geek. So for me to make that statement during the Q&A was really speaking to the need for practitioners to understand that there isn’t a silver bullet within online marketing – we should approach our work as a never-ending cycle of analyzing data, where we come up with actionable tactics and measure results. Rinse and repeat.

You can make things really golden by having the best minds define and ride that cycle with you. To measurably improve your ROI, you must rely on quality of ideas to test and execute and know ways to streamline rote tasks so that you can speedily execute value-laden tactics. Nothing more, nothing else. So no, SEO is not Dead. And Big Data is not Alive.


Anita Garimella Andrews is a passionate data geek who believes things that can be tested and measured ought not to be discussed ad nauseum. She’s also our General Manager of Analytics & Optimization.

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