How I stopped worrying about SEO and learned to love Paid Advertising

In Blog by VladimirLeave a Comment

Several years ago I wrote an article called “SEO is not dead”.

SEO is still not dead; it probably will stay alive for a while yet.

But SEO is now dead to me. Over. Out. Finito.

I am no longer offering SEO services.

I got yet another query saying “I have a 1.000$ budget, can you make me rank Number 1 on Google?”.

Say what!?

No. I can’t. Not for 1.000$, not for 10.000$. Get off my lawn.

You can consider me rude, but I am done wasting my time on – how do I put this diplomatically – ignorants on a budget?

If you have ever spent ten minutes reading about SEO, you should know that there is no guarantee about ranking number 1 in organic search results on Google. You should also know that those promising that are hustlers and that you will never see your money again. Or number 1 ranking.

But still, ignorants on budget keep piling on.

Why I finally stopped providing SEO services

As I started out my online marketing career, I never intended to be SEO expert only; from the earliest of times, I assumed a holistic approach to the business of online marketing. SEO was just a part of the equation, but somehow it always got into first spot. “Oh, you know SEO? Are you good? Can you please help me my website rank higher! How much would it cost?” Eventually I found myself doing more and more SEO, far more than I was planning to – but since I got some pretty good results with it, I gave in. Soon, I was known for SEO (everything else was secondary).

Same thing, all over again. SEO. Get cheap SEO. Get number 1 over night. Earn millions. SEO can do it.

Eventually I gave up and decided to pull a plug. Offering SEO services involved – for the majority of my contracts – too much education. Too much explanation, to much justifying. Every client required “expectation management”, looking at me as the proverbial “rainmaker”. Most of them thought SEO to be a sort of modern alchemy.

Well, it isn’t. And so the reasons to quit providing SEO services piled and piled. Here are the top reasons why I gave up on SEO for the benefit of paid advertising.

SEO is a long distance race

Unless you are taking refuge to black hat SEO techniques, search engine optimization is a lengthy process with no real short-term results. It takes time to create high quality content, optimize it, work on link building and finally manage to rank high for specific keywords. I repeatedly told people that SEO is a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.

Which is what makes SEO largely unattractive. Most investments made these days are expected to make a ROI as quickly as possible. Especially when you don’t know when those returns are going to start kicking in.

Paid advertising, in contrast, is eminent and very quick. It can start producing actual results within hours of its launch.

SEO is becoming harder and harder to measure

Say what you want, but Google is not crazy about SEO – mostly because people are using SEO to break or bend rules far more often than they try to adhere to them in order to provide better content. Also, SEO does not bring any money to Google, whereas paid advertising does, and very much so. It is becoming harder and harder by the day to work on SEO – it is like trying to do housework in a very dark room, and there is someone there, with you, moving furniture around and occasionally tripping you.

One of the most praiseworthy attributes of online marketing is the fact that it is measurable. With hidden/not provided keywords for organic ranking, this is becoming a mission impossible for SEO, and it is becoming harder and harder to explain and justify any investment in SEO to clients and bosses.

On the other hand, paid advertising is easy to measure and results are clear-cut.

SEO is in constant change

This constant change requires that we a) keep up with the new trends b) test new theories and c) making sure your websites comply with the new list of “don’t do these things in SEO” that just came out.

Imagine doing guest blogging because Google is putting high value to guest blogging and suddenly see how the long practices suddenly no longer matter. Even get penalized because of that.

But I did exactly as everyone else, you complain! I need to be competitive! I cannot miss out on guest blogging! It was all the rage last year!

Well, that was last year, now the rules have changed. Pick up the pieces of your ranking and go hunting that high quality content.

Paid advertising is undergoing very little changes. When they occur, it is usually about improvements of the entire system, not an attempt to make it more difficult to use. 

SEO requires “high quality content”

Honestly, I have written this worn out phrase so often, it could easily fall into the stop words category for me, but I am still unclear on what exactly “high quality content” is.

After ten years in this business, it seems that “high quality content” is “Most linked, most viewed, most shared content”.

Not really sure how this coincides with “quality”.

I am personally always reminded about that crappy (pun intended!) joke about flies and horse dung. “Eat… dung – millions of flies can’t be wrong!”

Check out all the YouTube videos with Spiderman and Elsa with hundreds of millions of likes and shares and you will know what I am talking about.

Quality of paid advertising? It can be summed up as following:

  1. Choose good keywords
  2. Make an appealing ad copy
  3. Make a good bid
  4. Have a well converting landing page and quality offer
  5. ???
  6. Success


SEO is full of uncertainties

Yeah, that old chestnut. I always referred to SEO like arranging furniture in a dark room, being guided by a memory of how things used to look back when there was more light illuminating the scene. The truth is that nobody is 100% sure about a majority of factors in SEO. Google doesn’t want us to be. If there is a perfect percentage for keyword density, nobody knows for sure. The best SEO experts are doing is testing and guessing. Astonished? Yeah. Who would have thought.

I must admit, there are things that are well documented and fairly certain, too, but other than that, there is a vast, dark see of uncertainties the SEO experts set sail upon, hoping for the best.

Paid advertising, on the other hand, is very transparent and obvious, from revealed keywords to competition and your own standings.

SEO has a miserable reputation

When doing SEO you start feeling like a snake oil salesman from the old western movies. There are many cheaters and hustlers out there, and if you don’t deliver, you might be joining their ranks, at least as far as the client is concerned.

Have you seen “The Good Wife”? Incredible show, I recommend you catch up on it if you haven’t already. In an episode called “Two Courts”, a young man is accused to have murdered his father. The man is concerned that the jury might dislike him because of what he does.

Stop right there. Here is a young man, wearing a suit, a tie, neat haircut, Harvard boy material. What could he be possibly doing that is so vile and repugnant? Is he a drug dealer? A pimp?

“But the judge will see your job is irrelevant to the crime,” says lawyer.

“Just…People hate what I do,” young man answers.


“Search Engine Optimization,” the young man corrects him.

Wow. The hate of SEO has reached mainstream. Can’t say I am surprised. Brave new world we are living in!

Paid advertising is still a long way from being a line of work you need to be ashamed of.

SEO is being pushed to the back seat by paid advertisement

I will not blame Google for putting a stronger emphasis on paid advertising; it is, after all, where more than 95% of their income comes from. It is only natural that they are slowly, yet inexorably moving towards more advertisement and less SEO shenanigans. The SEO results are being pushed lower down the SERP, with four ads now being displayed at the top of each page and three ads in the bottom. The right hand ads? They never really amounted to much. Besides, mistaking an ad today for an actual result is a child’s play. The again, millions of surfers don’t really care, as long as they get what they are asking for.

Do I need pointing out that paid advertising is on the rise again?

This is the end, my old friend

A colleague asked me the other day how come you are no longer providing SEO services? What’s with the change of heart? I mean, you have only recently published a book about How to do SEO in 2017? Why are you giving up on SEO?

I am not giving up on SEO; I see no reason why not to use it in the future as well for my own projects. In fact, I am writing a more extensive book on SEO, one that will showcase all my experience with this online channel I gathered during the past ten years in online marketing.

But I will no longer provide SEO services. I am now focusing on paid advertisement services only, from AdWords to all types of social media marketing. It has simply become too troublesome and too complicated and no longer bears fruit. The competition grows daily whereas benefits diminish and are harder and harder to get.

This is no reason for you, dear reader, to do the same; if you love SEO, keep at it. If your work bears fruit, by all means, continue with it. SEO is not dead, might be around as long as there are search engines as we know them, but with all due respect, I have had enough. SEO is dead to me.

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