Is SEO still critical for on-line visibility?

I met a young guy at the event very recently and I was very impressive with his knowledge on the latest website marketing techniques that I wanted to find out his mantra of successfully marketing his products on-line. After conversing with him for a while I found out that he was focussing on marketing techniques using social networking, paid ads, and back links, and these were working out very well for him, he did not think much of SEO. In fact his feedback was that “SEO has no role to play, and with the readily available, easy to use, free WordPress themes that are designed to be SEO friendly, knowledge of SEO is absolutely not required. A website/webpage only requires back- links in order to rank, and that is all that is required”.

This got me thinking…I could not discard his feedback…it did have some logic.
Was that the ultimate truth, can we really do away with SEO and still get all the traffic and rank well too?

I have been following a lot of conversations around this topic lately and I have gone through several sites that apparently use SEO-friendly templates, get reasonable mentions from social networking sites (likes from facebook, Pluses from Google plus, and other sites) but I can’t find them in organic results.

Are we missing something here?

Can anyone with decent contact, a good number of bank-links counts, and a decent amount of mentions in the networking sites, rank well in organic results?

I would say, Yes and No. It is difficult to answer upfront without doing some research, but what I know that this may be true for less competitive search keywords, for very competitive keywords it tends to be extremely difficult to rank on the top.

Some of the most critical factors according to me, (of the very many factors) are:

1. Content & uniqueness
2. Relevant keywords/Key phrases
3. User engagement
4. Domain authority
5. Website user friendliness
6. Mobile friendly factors
7. Website navigation

New technologies have made it easier to convert a website into a mobile friendly site, and do basic stuff like 401 redirect, write relevant titles, meta description, and perform similar tasks without human intervention or knowledge. And I certainly cannot disagree with him; new technologies have enabled a lot of people to implement SEO factors without having to know anything about SEO. SEO friendly templates come by default an are easy to install and maintain. But can a person through the motions of applying all these techniques without knowing why they are doing so, without even understanding why these changes are required, and how these techniques will impact their website’s ranking?

To me, a marketer must have a basic knowledge of what needs to be optimized in order to strive for visibility in the organic world. Some of the key success factors that I have mentioned above depends upon optimization. For instance, the content that goes into a website; writing content and stuffing the content with target keywords in not the end of an exercise, this will not fetch the desired results. Optimizing the content and making it relevant for the audience is when SEO steps in and that is the way to go.

SEO today as we know has merged and has taken a different form. It is difficult to tell where SEO ends. The demarcation lines have blurred and will continue to blur and evolve into something that will be all encompassing. But the basics and the application of the optimization techniques exist and they will continue to exist. Some of us may be doing it unknowingly and getting a decent ranking because of the not so competitive nature of what is being marketed.

The difficult part is to continue to keep the rankings, to be able to rank in a very competitive scenario without applying SEO techniques or having any knowledge of SEO.
And going forward how does one go about making improvements in a website without having any knowledge of SEO?

Isn’t this a bit like taking medicines for fever and perhaps recovering from it easily
without having to consult a doctor, but when recovery does not happen, one has to go to a doctor who has the knowledge of the human body and can provide the correct diagnosis, and therefore the right medicine for the problem.

What are your thoughts on this? I will be eager to know your feedback.

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