Technology & InternetDebunking SEO: Adam Torkildson

What does it mean to be listed in an online search? How do Google's updates influence page ranking and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? How do brands gain exposure with these recent updates? Below are answers from SEO marketing leader, Adam Torkildson.


Adam Torkildson is the VP of Operations at Customer Hook, a viral marketing company that helps businesses gain exposure, increase ROI, and create strategies for customer generation. Though hailed as an “SEO guru” - in recent years, Adam has begun to question the future of the very tactic that has helped him establish his career. Here is Adam's take on our current online landscape and what this means for SEO. 

When you first learned about SEO, how did you integrate it into your strategy? 

Adam: I integrated SEO into a blog I was writing as an intern at a PR agency in Provo Utah, called The Walton Group Inc. I was very rudimentary at it, and got links mainly from blog commenting, forum commenting, and an occasional blogroll link. However, the blog started to rank for Utah PR keywords, and the firm actually landed a client who found the blog, rather than the main site, online.   

Ken Krogue (Forbes) quoted you as saying, "Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in two years." Can you explain what you mean? 

A: Every new algorithm change, all the new mobile initiatives, the localization and personalization, and the tightening of referring data in analytics all lead me to believe that Google is actively trying to put SEOs out of a job, and turn their search results into something impossible to influence in any way. I give this process two years, because of Moore's Law: namely, Google's algorithm and search results get doubly harder to manipulate/influence every 2 years. And this year marks the biggest shift in that strategy by far. So in 2 years from now, their algorithm will most likely make SEO's obsolete.      

Are there current examples that show SEO is already dead? Can you give examples? 

A: I can't give examples of it being dead already, but it has changed dramatically. No more can you pay someone in India to do blog commenting, forum spam, spun content, or any other spamming technique. What works now is all about PR and content marketing. Eventually SEO is just going to turn into PR; it will fall out of our vocabulary and simply merge into being named what it actually is right now: Online Public Relations.  

What are the advantages/disadvantages to Google's Panda and Penguin updates? (For the user, marketer, search engine, etc.) 

A: The major advantage is for marketers: If you have a big enough budget, you will win, and no one can beat you. A disadvantage for smaller budgets is that the playing field is no longer level. An alternative advantage for marketers is that social sharing and viral marketing can now compete with (and beat out) organic traffic on a regular and consistent basis.   

Why have these changes been implemented? Who benefits/suffers from these updates?   

A: Google benefits because more people have to rely on Adwords to get the same kind of traffic. Marketers suffer because they have to sell off their once mighty organic websites for pennies on the dollar because 80% of their revenue came from organic traffic. (Speaking from personal knowledge in the travel space.)  

Do you presently use SEO? If so, how?  

A: I do. I use content marketing to get links to my clients' sites, journalist outreach to get press in major/local news outlets, social/viral marketing to build social sharing, and press releases to get massive traffic. I use email to drive content sharing as well, and have a database of 215 million consumers that I use on a monthly basis. I know who's on what social network, and what content they like to read.   

How do these tactics of content marketing, social sharing and PR outreach involve traditional methods of SEO? Do you focus on keyword/phrases, anchor text, link building?

A: The tactics I use are for link building, but I don't focus on anchor text at all. The goal is to get our client lots of press so that they have at least two times the amount of editorial links (as well as new clients) because of media attention. The social aspect of it is mainly to build a large customer base that we can reach out to with specific campaigns, and secondarily, for the ranking signals those social metrics provide.

What is the optimal strategy to gain exposure and spread content, today? Do you foresee this changing in the next five years?

A: The optimal strategy is different per industry. But it's based around excellent content, great data (on consumers and influencers), outreach tactics, and list building.  


Why, thanks. I would like to read the next article in the series


ProfErin NelsonexploreB2B GmbHCommunication & Marketing Manager


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