Written by Scott Orth –

I’ve been in SEO (Or Search Engine Optimization) for about 16 years. That’s about as long as Google has been in existence – and before there was ever blackhat (tricks and cheating) or whitehat (clean and honest). In fact, I would argue that ALL SEO was blackhat in the early 2000’s until some actual rules and guidelines were developed (mostly by Google). But I digress.

I’ve been called:
– an SEO
– the SEO Guy
– SEO Guru
– SEO Wizard
– Black Magic Man (but to be clear, I’ve always been a whitehat guy)
– Smoke and Mirrors Wizard
– or from some of my elder family members ‘the guy that works on the Google’

Ten years ago I enjoyed most of these titles. I was good at what I did, and to “be an SEO” was pretty hip and cool. I held a businesses ability to succeed or fail online in my well-manicured little hands.

But over time, this path has changed. I don’t mean changed like Google updated their algorithm again. I mean, SEO has morphed into a much broader online marketing expertise. If you simply optimize a website and that’s it (still considered typical SEO) then you’ve failed. You’ve missed the entire reasoning behind SEO.

SEO is about building a foundation. Creating a platform from which to build your business. It’s critically important… but it’s only the beginning.

Think of an Egyptian pyramid. Have you ever wondered how they’ve stood for so long? We’re talking about 4,000 years or longer. Do you think they could have stood strong that long without a solid foundation?

You should think of your business like a Pyramid. Build it strong on the bottom, so it can stand the test of time. You might get beaten up, take some hits, have some good times and bad… but if you’ve got a solid foundation, you’re more likely to be around in years to come.

That pyramid foundation; the first level secured within the ground, and by which the entire rest of the pyramid is built… that is your SEO. It’s the foundation… but it’s also only the beginning.

Why just the beginning?
Online marketing today is vastly different than it was several years ago. Even though many of the channels are the same (i.e. SEO, Pay-per-Click, Social Media), the way these are managed and the manner in which people use them are very different. You can no longer ONLY do SEO. Instead, you’ve got to truly understand the entire customer environment. We must now be ‘Digital Marketing Experts’ or DME’s.

We must know the importance of SEO as a foundation, but also be experts in PPC, Social, Usability, analytics, flow-through, retention. We must be like a marketing Sherlock Holmes… experts in forensic investigation and logical… or oft-times illogical reasoning. We must understand the searcher and website visitor, and have the forethought to know what paths we want them to take to get to our designed goal (purchase, lead, contact).

Take a look at this attribution chart from Google Analytics. It shows the various different ‘clicks’ it took to get someone to purchase from a website.

Google Analytics Attribution-chart

This is just one example of how people use the web. It’s no longer search-click-buy. People browse many areas, websites, social channels. They mix-it up – click on organic ads, paid ads, referral links, and the like… all in an effort to make their own personal decision. I’m using an ecommerce example here – but it works exactly the same if you’re a service company looking for leads.

The way people interact with a website is also different these days. Content architecture has never been so important. You must look at where your customer is coming from… but then, what page did they land on and what additional pages did they peruse while on their journey through your business (website).

15 years ago we built websites to focus on the home page. 90% or more of customers would land on your home page and then figure out where to go from there. It’s also why back then HTML sitemap pages were so important. People often couldn’t find their way, so they needed a sitemap (like the Index section of a large book).

Today people land on just about any page of your website, based on their search query and your marketing efforts (or lack thereof). Yes, it tends to still be heavy loaded to the home page. But now you may see that only 30% go to your home page first – where all the rest of your traffic is spread out across multiple pages of your website. We need to understand where they might land on the website, based on varying search queries. Sure SEO is involved, but we must put our DME hats on to really create success.

Here is a user-flow diagram to show just how complex your customers paths can get.


Now for some fun… try to tie together the attribution model above, showing all the varying sources of traffic, to the user-flow chart so you can understand where people go on your site.

But let’s not forget the final component… conversion, or action. Of all of these visits, and of all of the pages visited, were you successful? Did your visitors engage or take an action on your website that benefits your business? And what sources, pages, or influences did they have prior to that purchase?


If you compile all the data from what is happening above, you’ll realize that though SEO was involved to some degree in just about everything – the success of your website and online business is really about the much-larger picture. You need marketing expertise, sales expertise, and to some level psychology and sociology expertise to obtain online growth. You need to be a Digital Marketing Expert with a well-rounded understanding of the big picture, or you’ll simply have a handful of pieces to an otherwise unfinished puzzle.

So why am I sick of SEO?
SEO is far more than simply optimizing website pages… SEO is just one little piece in a much larger picture. SEO Guys and Gals are a dime a dozen. You can find them anywhere. Some are good at optimizing websites. Some couldn’t figure out a properly optimized page if it were drawn out for them in Crayon.

SEO is but one small cog in an otherwise huge and complex machine. It’s still super important – and should not be automated. No, it needs a human touch. Useless tools like these can only see data. They have no ability to understand flow or the human intention. And if you’re a DME you don’t need them!

If you’re an “SEO Guy”, you’re not enough. You’re important (if you do it right) – but you’re not enough. Problem is we’ve been silo’d into this SEO Title. People tend to think of anything search marketing related (or even website related) as ‘SEO’. I’ll give a presentation to an organization on proper user-friendly web design. Inevitably I’ll get feedback like ‘Great SEO speech’. But I didn’t even cover SEO!! Ugh!

I’m tired of hearing “We hired an SEO once – didn’t work out.” My response… “That’s right – because that person didn’t know Internet or Digital Marketing… they only knew SEO.”

Or I’ve heard “SEO is easy – it’s just about sticking some words on your website and bam, your business grows because of Google.” Oh, how I wish I could perform the Vulcan Mind Meld to share all of my history and knowledge of the web, SEO, and Google with these naïve people.

In 2014 alone, we worked with three ecommerce clients who had seen nothing but declines in their organic traffic and sales, even though they had each worked with at least two different keyword-focused “SEO” firms through the prior year.

Because we at Thrive understand it’s NOT just about words… in fact, it’s not just about SEO – it’s about the entire search + user experience, we were able to create over $5 Million dollars in NEW revenue through total-shared traffic sources and customer path flow improvements.

But if you were to ask them how they achieved it, they would simply say “Our SEO guys did it!”


Scott Orth is the Owner of Thrive Business Marketing and an independent contractor focused on the stability and growth of online and on/offline merged businesses. His expertise in online customer acquisition and customer experience design has directly created over $100 Million in revenue for his clients in the past 5 years.