Despite the danger of over simplification, I rather like the acronym D.E.A.D. as a reminder on how to approach modern, multi-signalled, SEO

It's not really dead btw...

D: Data

D - Data

Data has always been important for SEO. Even now when we’re in the Renaissance Age of SEO with suitable focus on engaging content, clever social ideas, linkbait and outreach there are still many reasons why SEO experts are also Excel experts. 

Although Google removing keyword data from analytics is a pain and a hindrance to the SEO service it has the effect of raising the value of data.

It also adds SEO expertise back into task of working out which natural search keywords are driving actions. 

Modern SEO involves mapping PPC keyword data to Webmaster Console data to analytics landing page data, non-Google keyword data in order to show value and justify tactics. That’s just one example of the importance of data in SEO.

E: Engagement

Modern SEO, I argue, is a specialised form of social media. With a social media campaign a brand will be looking to engage people (a group, an individual, a demographic, etc), earn and harvest from that engagement.  

SEO today requires the ability to engage people and do it in a particular way that’s likely to earn the links and other signals search engines require, in relation to the specific pages and assets that a brand has, in order to target the right keywords.  

The social media understanding is the basic approach behind an SEO campaign and the SEO expertise is the ability to engage in such a way as to achieve a ‘search engine objective’. 

Examples of engagement being paramount in modern SEO are found with both outreach and content.  SEOs need to be fully empowered and very good at reaching out to bloggers and other publishers with editorial opportunities.

Content produced with SEO in mind isn’t just relevant on a keyword level but able to entice the right actions from the audience; such as social shares, links/coverage or sales.

A: Audience

One of the most important questions an SEO must answer is; “Who cares?” This question applies to new content being added to a site with a search campaign in mind.

Before any content is created the SEO should have a strong idea of who the target audience for that content is, what sort of content they like and how that audience tends to react.

For example, there’s little point adding linkbait content for an audience with a very low propensity to link in the first place. Nor is it wise to add very commercial content when the intended audience tends to react badly to sales pitches, logos and adverts. 

Equally, a fantastic understanding of audience is essential before starting any outreach campaign. The SEO needs to know what his intended outreach audience wants.

Do they want content? Are they bloggers with a good understanding of the difference between advertorial and editorial content? What topics will float their boat?

D: Discovery

Lastly, SEO is about matching intent with discovery. The very nature of search is about discovery and SEOs need to master it. This means looking beyond the keyword and to the other ways in which users discover content from Google and other search platforms.

For example, Google+ and Google Now, AppStore recommendations and how Open Graph meta tags influence presentation, shares and clicks.

Modern SEO also needs to know how to use paid media in order to promote content and reward bloggers. Discovery platforms like Reddit, StumbleUpon and even sites like Buzzfeed are often hugely important for any content marketing for SEO benefit campaign.

That’s why D.E.A.D. is a pretty good way to remember modern SEO. If you’re always thinking about data, engagement, audiences and discovery as you plan your campaigns you’ll have a far greater success. 

(image credits)

Andrew Girdwood

Published 14 October, 2013 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technologies at Signal and a guest blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here.

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Comments (36)

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dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Fabulous post, and fabulous idea for a post.

Here's my suggestion for expanding still further!



almost 5 years ago


Pawas Gupta

Great post Andrew. Love the way you structured your post.

SEO is not going extinct. Just the ways to do it are evolving. Our jobs as SEO's is no more to just rank websites high on search engines, it's to make the Web a better place to find information.

almost 5 years ago



Still informated site the best way to ranking, in a simple words "useful information for audience" will ranking better than others pages.

almost 5 years ago

Sarah Alder

Sarah Alder, Managing Director at ICAEW

That's a headline worthy of the London Evening Standard (RIP). It catches the eye, makes you divert from what you were intending to do to read it, only to discover that the article doesn't say what the headline does.

But of course, you weren't trying to mislead us, you told us straight away that SEO wasn't really dead. And then you gave us some really great ideas for cracking on with SEO and remembering why it was important.

Thank you.

almost 5 years ago


Richard Hussey


almost 5 years ago

Andrew Isidoro

Andrew Isidoro, SEO Manager at GoCompare

Cracking post Andrew. I think what many used to call SEO has kinda evolved into something much more, which is why the "SEO is dead" type posts just won't go away.

I guess you kinda summed it up above, but modern SEO is much more closer to "Search focused Marketing" than anything else. Sure we have different metrics but our overall KPIs are the same.

almost 5 years ago

John Readman

John Readman, CEO at Ride25

Andrew - a good post and i would agree with your points.

We are at a point that good SEO is just proper old fashioned marketing executed well on-line?

Thinking of the audience, what content is actually interesting and relevant has always been at the centre in all other marketing disciplines. Historically, SEOs have just had the pleasure of been able to short cut this in the past through various questionable means.

SEO is now part the main stream of marketing activities and should sit across the whole organisation.

Some people still think that you can just have one person in a dark corner doing clever stuff and it's enough! Fortunately for all SEO has changed for the better.

See my views at the recent Funnel event at the Festival of marketing.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Lloyd Gordon

Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Digital Marketing Expert, Speaker and Trainer at New Terrain Limited

There's a clue in the name why S.E.O. is dying or as your article points out Andrew, is d.e.a.d.

The concept of 'SEARCH ENGINE Optimisation' focused attention in the wrong place i.e. on 'doing well' IN the search engines. This led to an unhealthy obsession with manipulating SERPs.

What was always a better approach - and is required even more now - is an obsession with providing a great Customer Experience Online (CEO).

I suggest, therefore, that former SEO specialists are retrained and rehired to become CEO's :)

almost 5 years ago

Adam Stafford

Adam Stafford, MD at Fresh Egg

This stuff is sometimes called marketing aswell

almost 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof


almost 5 years ago

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson, Digital Analyst at RSPCA

At Brighton SEO last year, someone responded to the question of "Is SEO dead/" with the answer "SEO may be dead, but the SEO Skillset is definitely alive and kicking!" I think this perfectly sums up the effectiveness of the marketing techniques developed during SEO's heyday. Blending technical skills with PR knowhow is the best tactic for successful online marketing.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

Good stuff.

On "SEOs need to be fully empowered and very good at reaching out to bloggers and other publishers with editorial opportunities" - isn't that what PR people are supposed be good at already?

Another reason for PRs and SEOs to work more closely together?

almost 5 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

Nice article. Quite a refreshing look at the area when many people are banding around the notion of simply going back to ranking monitoring in the wake of Google's SSL changes...

almost 5 years ago




almost 5 years ago


John Blackmore, Program Director, Web Marketing at IBM

To be a contrarian--This article and others point out SEO as a separate practice is on the decline. It is being "reborn" as basic delivery of good content people want. But to be first have to d.i.e.

This is an important distinction. My team gave up SEO as a separate practice akin to alchemy a few years ago because even when we won significant, non-branded terms, we didn't see the flood of traffic people predict. We decided to write good pages that humans would want and benefited the business, and the search spiders would follow.

Losing keyword data to link action and result to me forces people to give up their alchemy and superstitions and do their fundamental marketing jobs--understanding customers; understanding you can't trick them; delivering them what they want in a way that supports your organization's goals.

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood, Head of Media Technology at Signal

I'm not sure I agree John. In fact, I make mention of the Renaissance Age of SEO in the piece because there have been several different eras. In each era the techniques, expectations and steps were different but the overall objective remains the same. Evolution not rebirth.

What's the overall objective? Improving how well your site does in search. I like to think "Search Engine Objective" is a better match for S.E.O. than "Search Engine Optimisation" ever was but we're already neck deep in acronyms in this post.

I certainly don't subscribe to the idea that I was practising an alchemy to trick customers in the past. I've always wanted to give people a good search experience.

The biggest, most thorny issue of them all? SEO traffic predictions? Now there's an inexact science that needs some serious thought.

almost 5 years ago



Great article, however try explaining all of that to a client who still see's search positions as the main aim of hiring an SEO.

almost 5 years ago


John Blackmore, Program Director, Web Marketing at IBM

Thanks Andrew for the response. When I raise "d.i.e." I am thinking of two points:
1) The promises or "expectations" we set for those we report to...
2) The day-to-day decisions of what we do to drive the business.

I have seen SEO (and that means optimization, not your better term of objective) sold as alchemy. An executive says "I want to win this word" and SEO people enable that behavior. This is the "tricking" people effect. I think the loss of keywords may stop this practice.

For the second point, digital marketers have scant resources and huge deliverables. Hence, I focus now on doing my best to deliver good pages and experiences using language people understand. And importantly--doing something business-wise with my traffic.

So I will agree with your term of evolve, rather than reborn!

These comments also may reflect an experience of a larger organization that has a complex search profile and large traffic.

almost 5 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Andrew,

Always good to see an article that prompts debate.

I think people get too worked up by the term SEO. Doesn't matter whether or not you think it conjures up images of dark arts or keyword obsession, the fact is most people still find things via keyword searches, as @danbarker pointed out in our #EcomChat on (not provided).

So understanding how search engines work and how to ensure that the content you produce has the greatest possible chance of being indexed for relevant searches is still hugely important. Anyone who says it isn't needs to be taken out and put in stocks. Or worse.

However, the ways in which you should go about achieving this visibility have evolved, very quickly in the last few years. It has thankfully made poor quality approaches like link spam and keyword cramming less likely to achieve results and more likely to be penalised.

So yes SEO is very much alive and well and the skills required to be good at search marketing are hugely important to any business serious about its online presence. Just take the technical side of SEO - it's more important than ever to ensure the site has an intelligent IA and there are no barriers to crawling, or no anomalies in how your webpages are served.

The whole NP debate is a brilliant example - we're seeing intelligent marketers find creative data solutions to answer the important questions that clients still seek answers to.

I still find it incredulous that anyone could think SEO dead - i just think people's notions of what SEO means need to evolve with the times so we can focus on how to do it better, not whether or not to do it.

As @priteshpatel pointed out, is the real challenge a re-education piece to reset the dial?


almost 5 years ago



I think panda is the most dangerous update. If you are creating unique high quality content but the content is no mean to visitors, then you are zero. I think first we must focus the need of users and after that quality matters.

almost 5 years ago


Brian Mathers

Thank Goodness for Great Scots
Alexander Graham Bell for the telephone
John Logie Baird for the Television
And today a friend and industry colleague Andrew Girdwood who IMO comes out with some of the good stuff, and is amongst the pionners.

Reading all the comments in this thread, I always remind myself that this is US - here - those who work in the industry.

There is no doubt all of us in this thread are passionate about what we do, as some of us have been at this for many years and aren't we all STILL LEARNING from the web marketing challenges we are constantly faced with?

But, as in many of these much valued forums, who don't we see commenting here - YES - the BUSINESS OWNER - our customer with the website that has to win races for him or her. They are dependant on us to advise them, increase their sales and have the website win races. But I find myself more and more EDUCATING them. And this is an important part of the service hence why I my commitment to business owners today is to achieve OnlineXcellence through best practice marketing techniques.

There is an unbelievable amount of business owners who are still fixated on just wanting to be NUMBER ONE. We all know this is not the strategy. There are also some web agencies I know here in Scotland that go out there way to say not to bother listening to us who still use this ACRONYM that is SEO. These are the letters business owners relate to but it is very important that WE spend a bit more time as part of the service to explain and educate what the job actually is today.

I know my customers have welcomed this and I give them just enough to help with their decision making.

Driving a website is like driving a car. Once the business owner has passed the test on how to drive it, you continue to take them on advanced driving courses to be even better at winning more races and that equals Sales + Profits.

almost 5 years ago


Cody Butler

Very good post, I really think you have hit the nail on the head. SEO is now all about proper data segmentation, audience, reach and most importantly matching message to market.

If this is done properly then keyword rankings will automatically happen. It's about thinking in terms of what does the audience need. I also agree with the paid aspect, Facebook promoted post and ads not only is great for SEO, it's just good for business in general. Getting the right message to the right people is 100% what SEO is truly about.

Great content and proper delivery is the future of SEO.

almost 5 years ago


Christopher Skyi

"Modern SEO involves mapping PPC keyword data to Webmaster Console data to analytics landing page data, non-Google keyword data in order to show value and justify tactics. That’s just one example of the importance of data in SEO."

Interesting, but could you provide just a few simple examples of how this helps deal with the lost of organic keywords in Analytics? I'm not able to quite fill in the details (or it's too late in the day and I'm tired).

For example, analytics landing page data is now disconnected from organic keywords. If you mean using the query report in Google Webmaster tools to drill down to the landing page of those queries, that makes sense but what's the point of bring in PPC data? How does that help?

almost 5 years ago

Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood, Head of Media Technology at Signal

Christopher, there are a few ways to skin the keyword cat by using PPC data (even going as far as to restructure accounts to better map the relationship).

I suspect lots of agencies are busy working on their own systems for doing so - doing it better and a scale. I talked about how this adds the expertise back into the service and I think we'll see some "propriety algorithms" touted in pitches.

I'm going to hold back from sharing exactly the systems I've tried. However, do watch as last Monday a number of us discussed this solution on Twitter and James & Dan will likely have the write up of that on the site shortly!

almost 5 years ago


obat herbal alergi

just listen..

almost 5 years ago


Ben Bunce

Did Google kick the hornets nest?..I think so:

SEO has changed before and will change again, it's just a matter of changing our approach which is what we all seem to be doing :)

My thoughts earlier this week:


almost 5 years ago



Nice article. I think there are five factors we should think about when doing SEO in this day:

1/ Social interactions
2/ Depth articles are as long as 2000-5000 words with quality
3/ Claiming your own Google+ Authorship for your content
4/ Link building is networking
5/ Looking for some 3rd party tools when key words are not provided

It's just my idea.

Thank you

almost 5 years ago


Deepak Rawat

Great post Andrew, you have changed the meaning of DEAD. Now I would like to say that seo must be DEAD.

almost 5 years ago


Mary June, Marketer at SMD

Good article. I must also add that we really need to change our views about SEO. SEO is not just about algorithms anymore- it is more about thinking of your target market- their views, behavior, and what they are looking for. This is why we need to really consider putting up good content for them, not just for the search engines.

almost 5 years ago


DAMIES Technologies

Well, engaging with the correct target audience is a high requirement undoubtedly and it is needed at high to get the desired results. I was really shocked to look at the title of your post, but you very nicely and uniquely abbreviated entire SEO with these 4 letters and 1 word. Availing new and useful user friendly useful data to the audience is always a great need for overall betterment of campaign and this must be followed now.

almost 5 years ago


Steven Fromm

What a great acronym; so easy to remember and catchy too. Very nice post with some great advice and things to always keep in mind when blogging. Thanks for the insights.
James made some good points above too. Do you agree with post word length of 2,000 to 5,000?

almost 5 years ago


Sotiris Spyrou

SEO is Dead... Long live SEO.

If I had a penny for each time I had heard that over the years I would have.... Um, possibly enough for a Curly Wurly.

Anyway, as with all forms of marketing, SEO should be numbers based. Obviously the numbers are a bit more complex with SEO than with something like trafficking with online media, but the fact remains, good SEOs have always been good with numbers.

At Eigemy use scalar and transformational mathematics across 12 dimensions, to look at 248 aspects and identify strengths and weaknesses across the websites that have achieved rankings for a given portfolio of terms. This is a numbers based approach to the extreme. You can read more here:

The point being, Excel (at least) is essential, but an understanding of broader mathematics is also needed in order to know how to turn the data into tangible results.

almost 5 years ago



I agree, SEO aim display most relevant information. If the google create such technologies to find the most accuracy information. automatically No SEO it's possible to dead. So that instally decreasing and removing all tools.

almost 5 years ago


Chantel Vinish

This is a great article. My immediate response was, oh no another post about SEO being dead. However, the way you showed D.e.a.d was in an informative, eye catching way to actually show us SEO is alive!

almost 5 years ago


Perry Bernard

Nice acronyms everyone!
I like to think that SEO has evolved and has become somewhat more 'intelligent', no longer relying on mindless numbers of link stats and inappropriately located mentions of keywords.

Hooray for SEO! SEO lives!

almost 5 years ago


Karl Parry, Operations Manager at BrightCarbon Ltd

Loving the post! Great content! We found the blog really useful, and decided to upcycle the material and create a video. We think adding visuals makes the content even more engaging:

What does everyone think?

over 4 years ago

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