SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC

SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC

Reader Comments (104)

  1. I agree with this… especially as I continue to learn about Content Marketing.

    Simply focus on producing quality content and make it easy for search engines (and readers!) to find it.

    • Focusing only on producing quality traffic will not get you to the first page on Google. You have to build some authority by getting some quality links from authority sites like this one. 😉

  2. Wow, thanks for this, what an incredibly detailed blog post! I’d fully agree with your approach but not sure about the OC/DC acronym. Bit too much like AC/DC or OCD.

    A few years a go I’d have called myself an SEO (although I was never really comfortable with the term), and many clients still use this expression. I tend to talk about digital marketing or inbound marketing.

    • Ned, thank you for the comment. I wanted to have a concept that was more applicable to the actual work that many professional SEOs do; but that was distinct from digital and/or inbound marketing.

      Try using the term with your clients and see how it performs. I think you will find it something that will make your effort more distinct in their minds.

  3. Sean, great concept that clarifies the reality of my current SEO work.

    Terrible acronym, though 🙁

    How about Discovery and Conversion Optimization – #DCO

    The fact that high quality “content” works well for #DCO is just implied.

    What do you think?

    • I agree, OC/DC is too close to OCD which has it’s own negative, albeit sometimes adorable, connotation.

      Hashim has a good idea, I was going to suggest CDO&C, but DCO is better.

      SEO is DEAD! Long live DCO, or whatever. 🙂

      Have a great day!!

      • I like #DCO so much that I’m adopting it, starting today 🙂

        Thank you Sean. I’m re-reading this post just to absorb the concept a bit more.

    • I debated the title of this concept for some time and was influenced by the work of the Heath brothers in “Made-To-Stick” when I was thinking of how to encapsulate an idea that could easily be remembered and spread.

      I appreciate the comments about the acronym and my sincere hope is that we move the entire concept forward and hopefully all agree to stop using the term SEO.

      • Sean, I like the moniker “OC/DC” and LOVE that it is a bit like AC/DC or OCD. Onsite/External optimizations sometimes make you want to “Bang Your Head” and you’ve almost got to be OCD to do it (no offense intended). I think for these reasons, OC/DC has “Sticky” qualities.

        “Sticky = understandable, memorable and effective in changing thought or behavior. ~Made-to-Stick.” 😉


  4. A relief to hear this from someone far more experienced in SEO than I am. Early SEO tools seemed to do nothing but insist I do keyword stuffing, though later revisions seem to have dropped this. Selfishly, I also like the fact that OC/DC leaves room for human creativity in creating compelling content, and finding more effective ways to share it with the right people.

    But totally agree the acronym has GOT to go…:) Great post and thanks for hard, thoughtful work.

  5. BTW, would also be curious to learn more about “author attribution.” Is this like an online reputation based on quantity and quality of your content?

  6. Sean, thanks for the article introducing a new term that must become a new buzzword 🙂

    Although I am totally with you and like the trend to focus more on authority/audience establishing and content social/marketing/media marketing/brand building, there is still space for hard core SEO with all those spammy and other all-shades-of-grey hat link building techniques that are totally aimed at playing Search Engines.

    There are simply some spheres that don’t have any sense to be treated with full OC/DC power. I’m not in those spheres, but they still exist and will exist (until search engines turn into ultra-sophisticated artificial intelligence).

    So, to some extent term SEO (as well as a pure search engine optimization, especially ‘external’ as you call it) is not dead, but just goes deeper underground.

    Anyway, I am not arguing with the article. I wanted to show that there is still a ‘dark’ side over there, even if OC/DC (together with content/social marketing and media) comes to the light now.

    • Michael, the truth is that gray hat SEO is becoming incredibly hard as well.

      Yes there are those that focus solely on link building; which helps since an entire industry is being created to disavow all those links as well.

      In the end, the idea that most professional SEOs are embracing is to go beyond the individual tactical ideas and see the entire process as a cohesive approach.

      As for the rest, they can call themselves “SEO Gurus” because we know what they really don’t know 🙂

  7. Great post, Sean, but I have to agree with Ned and Hashim. Don’t really like the acronym. Like Ned said, too close to AC/DC and OCD. There must be some other catchy acronym to use. It might be difficult to change, now, though with the infographic already created.

    I definitely agree SEO has gotten a bad connotation connected to it and I really like the infographic and the idea of changing to some other term.

    I also appreciate the links to all those tools, etc. you mentioned.

    You packed a lot of info into this post! For one thing, I definitely agree we need to be very focused on having responsive themes. Mobile technology is only going to get more advanced as time goes on and we need to keep up with that technology within our site themes.

    Great stuff here. I’ll have to go over it again to absorb it all. Thanks!

  8. Sean, I agree with what you’re trying to do, but semantics can be a real pain in this instance. Trying to find another term for SEO reminds me of attempts to find another term for “race.” We now know that there is no such thing scientifically, yet we have become so used to using the term to address discrimination based on color and related issues such as culture, that we have made it a convenient catch-all. Unfortunately, the more we use the term, the more we encourage and reinforce the original misguided meaning. I substitute “color” and “ethnicity” as much as I can, but “race” has become so pervasive as a descriptor that I often can’t get around its use in what I write and say. Obviously, SEO isn’t as important as “racism,” but the semantic dynamic is the same. I wish you luck in finding an acceptable replacement but I’m not convinced it’s possible. Maybe work with the purpose and call it Content Optimization (CO), which encompasses the larger proposition. In the meantime, I hope you will keep sharing your ideas about how to do “it” well — such as your recommendations about repurposing content, headlines, leads and calls to action. Repurposing should be part of any website audit, especially since it’s so obvious, looking at most websites, that very few people do it.

  9. Sounds like what you are explaining here is SEO, just with another label on it.

    Good SEO was never about buying backlinks or spamming people for article placement. It is all about creating great sharable content that people want to engage with just like this info-graphic on OC/DC that you have created here.

    • Bruce, to quote…

      “Yes, SEO is officially dead. Not the practice, but the term.”

      I think that professional SEOs have always known that the scope of the profession was not just links and spamming.

      The problem is that the term SEO is too small, too spammy and too silly to describe the essence of what professionals do in the optimization of content for discovery and conversion.

      You are correct, it starts with great content but then the hard (and fun part) comes in the amplification of this content using OC/DC.

  10. I want to be an early adopter of the term OC/DC. It’s going to take a while for clients to catch up though. I’ve been asked by 3 new clients why their site is not ranking for certain keywords. “Um, because there’s no content on your site that includes those keywords. “

  11. SEO didn’t become a poisoned term because people were using the tactics correctly.

    SEO became a poisoned term because there were bad actors who were repeatedly, brazenly, operating under the term while performing high-risk/high-reward tactics.

    Merely changing the name won’t fix this. Those bad actors just have a shiny new term to continue operating under.

    • Bradley, this is true. But the broader point is that the term SEO is used to describe a broader strategy that simply optimizing for search engines doesn’t encompass. That, and the negative connotation brought about by the black hatters, is what necessitates a new term.

      • I’m totally with you on the usefulness of adopting SEO practices into a broader strategy. It’s something even the article admits that we all do.

        However, changing the term gives the Black Hatters/Bad Actors the following line:

        “Oh, we don’t do SEO anymore. It got too spammy. We practice OC/DC now.”

        And then the poisoning continues.

        • What they have been saying already is “We don’t do SEO anymore; we do content marketing.” Of course, THAT isn’t true either.

          Another term I have difficulty with is Social Media Marketing. How many folks do I know think all that entails is blasting automated links out on every given channel?

  12. I like your acronym, Sean.

    When someone figures out a way to turn the OC/DC process into spammy black-hat tactics – they can totally use “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

  13. Can anyone point me to a good resource that provides up to date information on how to optimize a site for small businesses? It seems to me that while this approach and strategy would work great for content marketers or medium sized businesses, that a small restaurant or roofing company in a city of 100,000-400,000 people would never really have the time or money to invest in something like this. I know, because this is my market. How can a small business with a limited budget get noticed in search?

    • Derrick, the content approach is even better for small businesses in small cities. Here’s how I would advise a client like that:

      1. Meet with your sales and service people and write down the 100 questions your customers and prospects ask. Hat tip: Marcus Sheridan of Sales Lion. (3 hours)

      2. Once a month, record yourself answering 5 of those questions. Have someone else lob you the questions, like it’s a Q&A. (1 hour)

      3. Use this format for your answers: A. state why the question is so important, and relate to your customer’s point of view B. give the common answer, the way everyone does it, or the way it’s always been done C. explain why your company’s approach is different or better D. ask them to contact you if they want to do business

      4. Have a staff person transcribe the audio once a month. Or hire a freelancer to do it. The Authority forums are a great place to find someone, or a referral. (3 hours)

      5. Post one article a week, mostly using “How to” and list headlines. (1 hour)

      6. Join online communities where your buyers hang out. Once a week dive in an help people. Post links to your articles in response to relevant questions. (1 hour)

      7. Every quarter release a collection of your articles as an ebook. Give away the ebook to everyone who joins your mailing list. (3 hours)

    • Derrick, in many ways, a smaller market for a smaller business is even easier with OC/DC – less people to identify, less competition to worry about and more opportunities to be unique without being redundant.

      Hashim has some great ideas worth considering and you may find that it will take less effort to be successful with a smaller business in a smaller market.

  14. Great explanation on the problems with “traditional” SEO and an intriguing introduction to an alternative.

    I have been working on a client’s blog who insists on “SEO.” When asked to define what that means to him, he says, “You know, search engines can find me.” I’ve been patiently explaining that simply wanting SEO is meaningless. The real issue is to define why you’re blogging in the first place — who you’re targeting and what results are you looking for. I can’t even get him to get a self-hosted WP site (although I did finally convince him to pay the 30 bucks to get rid of the ads!).

    Your first point of “Improve content symmetry” is so very helpful. I’ll definitely be looking through my past blogs and reworking them as recommended.

    Thanks so much!

  15. As one of the early marketers in the search marketing space I have used the term far too often. With my new website last year I attempted to move away from the term SEO with the following statements –

    The New Wave of SEO
    “SEO” is a dated term – old, out of step with current practices, and rooted in the days of spam tactics to get high search result rankings. A new wave of integrated search marketing practices are rolling over SEO, incorporating its remaining useful elements within more encompassing practices of content marketing and content optimization – modern integrated search marketing that delivers high search visibility through relevant content and effective distribution.

    My clients find value in my strategy and tactics to increase their visibility in all things search through OC/DC, but they call it SEO.

  16. Sean,

    Very much enjoyed the article. Being a longtime fan of Copyblogger, I look forward to the insights.

    Today, I decided after all these years to give something back.

    I even wrote a post on it entitled, “Dear Copyblogger, This One’s for You”

    It provides some VISUAL inspiration that this article conjured up. Please share with Lauren Mancke as well since as a designer, I suspect this will give her some “eye-candy” joy.

    Enjoy and I hope you dig what was done with the OC/DC acronym.

    Thanks for the continued great work.

  17. Thanks for a great and uplifting post, and the news about SEO’s death.

    Uplifting because I’m just about to content-create my (new) blog – so this is a doubt-resolver and time-saver – music to my ears. Allows me to just forget about SEO and go full sail with OC/DC.

    Whether it’s a case of a rose is a rose is a rose, or the end of one thing and the beginning of a new (remember “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” – Richard Bach) – is immaterial, to me. What matters, OC/DC – with or without better acronym – makes more sense than what was there before. The definition of a no-brainer?

    Now I’ve got to freshen up on “Build keyword context across your site” – any tips?

    Thanks again for this breakthrough moment!

    • As for building up “keyword context” I would take a hard look at the pages of your site and make sure they are around a consistent theme or idea.

      As an example, if your site was about car repair, you would find that the keyword context of your site would talk about things like “repairing a flat tire” or “how to replace a transmission”, etc.

  18. Although I’ve taken my focus off gaining numbers and put it more toward creativity, I still use many of the methods suggested in your post. One I have not used much, but have started is repurposing existing content. Great ideas.

  19. I like the term SEO, purely because it has traction, and an easily explained acronym. Unfortunately you seem to have been caught up in the issues around the many new approaches that want to replace SEO with a new term such as content marketing, SEM or Search Engine Marketing and many others.

    SEO or search engine optimisation is no longer exclusive to the technical in-page stuff that it used to be SEO, but nowdays includes all the work done to ensure that your online information is found by your target market audience when they search the internet using a search engine.

    Your so call OC/DC would thus just be a subsection of SEO and deserves to be treated as such. I believe you are on the band wagon to collect customers by using misinformation techniques and telling them that SEO is dead, when in-fact it is alive, well and very much in demand.

    • First, content marketing is not a new idea. The practice was in use prior to the introduction of SEO and predates the web itself.

      Second, if SEO is alive and very much in demand, then why have so many reputable SEO leaders morphed into content marketers? Yes many still offer SEO type services, but usually all within a bigger scope of service than the pure “we help you rank better” approach so often found with SEO neophytes and scammers.

      Third, and most important, the success of SEO has typically been based on the success or failure of ranking in a search engine. And yet, THE most important aspect of online marketing is in the conversion of visitors to a CTA. Where in the description of SEO you provide does the word conversion appear?

      Based on your definition, I guess anything beyond getting the site ranked is not the job of an SEO.

      What an interesting value proposition that your idea of SEO offers – all the ranking and none of the results.

      Embrace the future and appreciate that the skills learned in the crucible of SEO have applicability far beyond the narrow scope you describe.

  20. This is a really good article, but has three problems (not of the author’s making, by the way). First, the problem is not the term SEO nor it’s history, but the changes in Google that have made some aspects of it obsolete, or to small businesses unable to source professional SEO, out of their reach. Second, it is like many industries, an industry in decline or at the least evolving, and a new name is not the answer. It seems to me that content optimization or content strategy is the game for smaller businesses doing it on their own, and SEO as such is really now only for those businesses able to afford it – SEO is now a professional specialty for bigger players, while smaller businesses can still do a limited amount on their own. Smaller businesses have to learn to see their websites as a means to greater word of mouth rather than a way to get on the front page of Google at all costs. Last, the acronym, though clearly well thought out, will conflict with the rock group AC/DC, who have the monopoly on anything that sounds similar. Really good article, well thought out and provocative. Thanks.

    • Geoffrey, you are correct, businesses must see beyond Google if they are too be successful online.

      Google and Bing are important, just like social media sites can be in drawing traffic to a site.

      But the idea I seek to introduce with OC/DC is to view the overall optimization process as a holistic idea with Conversion as important (if not more important) as Discovery – regardless of the size of business.

      • Sean – yes, that’s precisely the view that needs to be popularized, that SEO is an holistic process, not just links and keywords and the esoterica that has surrounded it.

  21. This is what I call an optimized redefinition of content optimization. Your post has distinguished true optimization from gimmicks.

  22. Yeah, two characters more to use on Twitter! 😛

    Jokes aside: I love the approach. It’s been time somebody mentioned it’s not all about search engines. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time.

    It’s important, we leave this dependency of Search Engines and Social Networks as soon as possible. People treat them as if they were the ultimate solution for a business. But in fact: They are businesses themselves. And as soon as they decide to change something about their algorithms there is potential for our business to get fncked over big time.

    Start creating great content, and edit old content as needed. Provide a great service and the rest will work out just fine. Obviously, Social Networks and Search Engines can be a great pro for our businesses. But it’s important, we stopped obsessing over them.

    Thanks for the great article!

  23. Hi,
    I love the idea, although the term OC/DC sounds like a condition I need to get under control by medication or a serious routine under a health professional. infographic is clear and to the point. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Discovery and conversion from where? Your acronym is not a good one. I’ll stick with SEO.

    • Discovery from all sources on the web, specifically the ones where you can attract your target market. Conversion from/on your website. The acronym works pretty well. 😉

    • Thank you Matt.

      Re-purposing content is just a few of the ideas that come up when we stop thinking about SEO gamification and start thinking like content optimizers!

      Appreciate the feedback.

  25. This is my very first time of hearing the word “OC/DC” and i must say that it’s really great, SEO might be officially dead to google, but it’s seriously living right now for decades because the term “SEO” has not even gotten near a grave yard before.

  26. I love this post because I am tired of explaining people what I do in SEO. Maybe that’s the reason SEOMoz dropped the word and just became MOZ. I currently use the term Digital Marketing as it covers all the areas of seo, social media, content writing/optimization, etc. OC/DC sounds gr8. Already feel like a rockstar!!

    • Ever notice how former SEO types now call themselves content marketers? I think it is because we (including me) found that the skills nurtured in the crucible of SEO had applicability outside of Google or Bing.

      Unlike my peers, I am more than happy to embrace the new ideas and terms while relegating some of the old ones to the dust bin of history.

      Of course, considering that I started my career online as a BBS operator in 1994, I am use to acronyms fading as new concepts come up.

  27. Indeed. Call it what you want. At the end of the day, search engines serve people. And websites are made for people to read and interact with, not for search engines. Quality content is still king. If we keep the user experience in mind and make it as easy as possible for the user to find the information they want as quick as possible, and it’s honest, then in most cases the results would be success.

  28. Nice post.

    SEO companies are already subscribing to the OC/DC paradigm. I like how organic marketing is getting bigger and bigger with search engines no longer being the sole place to attract traffic.

  29. Really? We’re going down this road again? Look, SEO isn’t dead. As long as search engines exist and tons of people use them, SEO will not and can not die. You can slap on whatever label makes you feel better about optimizing for search, but at the end of the day you’re still doing SEO.

    You guys are great at publishing things that get a lot of eyeballs and I certainly can’t fault you for that at all. Still, the idea of re-branding SEO yet again seems like nothing more than a PR stunt. This post even highlights the fact that SEO is still part of this “new marketing” that you’re introducing.

    Search is still a massive traffic source and there’s still plenty of room for people to specialize in optimizing specifically for search engines. Not every marketing person needs to be an expert at everything mentioned in this post, nor should they be. The fact that the scope of marketing has expanded means we need more specialists not more broad, sweeping generalists.

    When I need my face reconstructed after the mob of Copyblogger loyalists beat me half to death for this comment, I’m not gonna go to my general practitioner; I’m headed to a reconstructive plastic surgeon. Just sayin. 😉

    • Robert, you make good points … I think you just missed the point of the article. SEO, the practice, is never going away. But the term itself has connotations now that go far beyond just optimizing for search engines. And, unfortunately, some of the connotations are negative thanks to unscrupulous practitioners. The goal here is a new term for the more broad strategies people simplistically use “SEO” to describe.

      • I get it, I just don’t see why SEO needs to die in order for new things to live. In my view, it’s totally possible for the various aspects of content marketing to live alongside SEO.

        Why does everyone want SEO to die so badly? It’s still a highly popular, widely understood term. The general population is finally starting to nod in understanding when you tell them your job is to optimize websites for search.

        I guess my point is that I’m too lazy to explain the difference between OCD and OC/DC at every conference I attend. 😛

  30. Thanks for this Sean. I’ve been saying essentially the same thing for awhile now. People always want to know “how much does it cost to ‘SEO’ my website?” like it’s some magic potion we put over it.

    “SEO” is really only one small piece of the pie, and like you said, there are so many ways to get found online. People want to connect in different ways, and “SEO” (or search) isn’t the be-all end-all. It’s just one avenue.

    Do the SEO once on the website and forget about it. Then spend time on three core pieces: content creation (blogs, videos, etc.), promote them on social media, repurpose the content in e-mail newsletters (which can then be saved as a web page). Finally and optionally, do some paid promotion (PPC or strategic optimized press releases) for lead gen (not necessarily sales).

    This is the key for most busy business owners.

    I agree with the others about the acronym. How about we just call it “marketing” and forget the nerdy acronyms. 🙂

    Thanks for a great article.

    • While I agree with your core point, I do believe the way we classify things via the terms we use is important, especially as we try to educate our staff/clients/customers so that we avoid any confusion.

      If it is too broad, it looses meaning and if too narrow (like the term SEO) then it becomes ambiguous.

      And while we may differ on the name (or acronym), we at least agree on the general premise, and in the end, that is what matters.

  31. Good article. SEO was always a bit of a lazy term for something involving a complex array of duties. OC/DC makes me think of an overrated metal band, but it’s a bit of an improvement. It’s not about optimizing search engines anymore, it’s more about creating great content and being an active, useful online contributor. Which one tries to carry off with aplomb, but I don’t know if I manage it.

    Still, good to know the whole SEO/AC/DC thing is heading off somewhere, rather than petering out miserably.

  32. The problem is that your customers will type the term “SEO” into Google and not “OC/DC”. Also, SEO has become something like a general term that the general public sees as something standing for social media, online reputation management, the “real” SEO etc.

    • I wonder, how did consultants sell the idea of SEO before clients started asking about it? Did clients one day wake up and say…”I need to be #1 in search.”

      Or was it through public awareness/education and the sharing of the value proposition that clients started to discover the benefits of search optimization?

      Yes, any new idea or term will take time to make its way to the awareness of the general public.

      My hope is that by sharing it with the forward-thinking audience of Copyblogger, that the idea and term can be re-shared by knowledgeable and respected practitioners who see beyond the here and now and are looking toward the future.

  33. Hello Sean,

    Thank you for introducing your creative concept in digital marketing. For me, what you did here is a part of SEO; sharing authentic content that may create buzz/awareness/traffic in your website. Though, you truly have the right to use the term of OC/DC. Salute!

    CMIIW, SEO is good since it brings more job opportunities. There is a lot of new professions came up from the euphoria of SEO; content strategist, content administrator, content manager, traffic analyst, etc.

    Actually, we may say that SEO is quite similar to a knife. It may be a good tool when used by a chef, and be a bad tool when used by a robber. The connotation of SEO depends on its practitioner.

    What we should do as the netizen is to educate others about the main function of SEO; connecting the Kingdom and the King through the Kong.

    King is the content. Kingdom is the community. Kong is the data. Yes, relevancy is the currency. Most of us give negative connotation to SEO since many of its practitioners did not use the proper data, such as web visitors demographic, behavior, and trends. Thus, it results in spammy link building.

    So, let’s have no fight for the acronym 😀

  34. Sean,

    Now is a pivotal moment for inbound marketers. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is so far from what the user needs that it has almost become an exclusively blackhat tactical approach with no value in brand building. The opposite of not working is networking and actually building an experience around the user, not the keyword. We can choose to adapt to an industry that transitions from an IT function to a marketing role by helping businesses discover opportunities with data, testing, story-telling, and building a larger network of connections. I have a feeling the folks pitching “SEO” a few years from now will be considered dinosaurs. Even relabeling “Search Experience Optimization” doesn’t even begin to encompass the our role. Unfortunately for some of us fellas that have been tune to the industry… rebranding will be painful.

    I love love love your post!

    • Search “Engagement” Optimization seem nice term, because now search engine especially Google really serious about rank a better blog that have better engagement with readers.

  35. Probably people don’t like the term SEO, but they still practice it on regular basis, Google is really killing the SEO techniques and content marketing companies should reconsider their SEO strategies 🙂

  36. As someone from the ‘old school’ I’ve always known that content is King and that it’s the most important element in any ‘SEO’ activity. Giving people more chance to trip over you by creating information that sticks and resonates is always going to win more friends amongst the search engines. After all their core business is making sure that users come back to them time and again because they get the right results first time. It’s only be consistently providing this level of service at the search level they get to earn the advertising revenue. It’s about time someone challenged the phrase and I love the idea of OC/DC – it means my normal nature is now fashionable 🙂

  37. Yes! I educate my clients about this day in and day out. Such an important re-think. And looking forward to you the local focused SEO post, as well.

  38. SEO is the widely known acronym that might be around for a couple years(or is it months) longer, but terms like Web Presence Optimization and lately OC/DC like what Sean proposes feel more up to date and in line with developments. To me in the end it all depends on my audience: To the conservative client-yes there are a lot of them- I will mention SEO to get things going and gently point out how being found has evolved to incorporate factors other than search engines.
    To conclude my two cents I would like to imagine that in the near future introducing oneself as an SEO would be equal to saying, ‘I am a used car Dealer,’ (think underhand tactics and short term solutions that prove ultimately disastrous)

  39. I am in total agreement.

    The term “search engine optimisation”, where used to be an innocent label for the practice of structuring a website in a way that made it’s purpose easily identifiable by search engines is now synonymous with practices that could be better termed “search engine manipulation”.

    An abused internet is a useless internet.

  40. I’ve been saying similar thing for ages…SEO is dead (as position) and Internet Profitability is coming…google ‘Internet Profitability Specialist’ and you may see who has first two positions :p

This article's comments are closed.