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Rumors of the death of SEO have been, as Mark Twain famously said (back when he was still alive), greatly exaggerated. As you well know if you’ve been following this blog or are even remotely familiar with search engine optimization, people have been saying for years that SEO is on its way out, while others have scoffed at the notion.
The argument never seems to get old and has lately been heating up even more. Some folks insist that PPC (pay per click) is the way to go, but others argue that while PPC has its place, SEO is still a viable means of driving traffic to your site.
For a while it seemed that the SEO naysayers were winning, particularly after Google rolled out its major algorithm changes in late 2013. In the wake of that rollout there was increased buzz that 2014 will be the year that SEO is finally kicked to the curb.
Not so fast, though. It’s true that recent years have seen major upheavals in SEO, both as a strategy and, for that matter, as a profession. As the search engines become ever more sophisticated, it’s harder to game them, and the old-school tricks just don’t work any more. Moreover, the old days of being a plain old SEO specialist are pretty much gone, as you may have discerned by reading this.
In short, it’s a whole new world out there. Yet SEO still matters.
Whether SEO is dead or alive depends upon how you define SEO.
If you think of SEO purely in terms of the old techniques of manipulating the search engines into placing sites with poor-quality content at the top of the SERPs (organic search engine results pages), then yes, that kind of SEO is dead or dying. And that’s the big reason that many people are writing SEO off before its time.
The old black hat (or gray hat) ruses such as hidden text, cloaking, keyword stuffing, and other tactics that compromised the integrity of search don’t work so well any more, or at all. It’s true that, provided you know what you’re doing, some types of manipulative tactics are still pretty effective. But with each new major algorithm change, they will almost assuredly become less so.
Things are unquestionably different than they were in the bad old days when it was much more likely that a searcher looking for real information would land on a site packed with content completely irrelevant to the search.
These days, quality content matters nearly as much to the search engines as it does – and always has – to the human beings who use them. Google modifies its search engine algorithms hundreds of times per year, all in an effort to maintain and improve the integrity of search.
For some SEO pros it was always about the content.
The spammers and scammers who began emerging early in the game gave SEO a bad name. For many involved in SEO, however, it was always about the content. There have always been those who cared more about making sites better than about gaming the system – though if we are going to be honest, it’s a pretty safe bet that most SEO pros have done a little of both.
Web site owners actually gain very little by trying to game the system. If someone lands on a site and finds out that it’s irrelevant to what they were searching for, they’ll exit pretty quickly anyway, perhaps feeling resentful in the bargain because they sense they’ve been tricked. That’s not going to leave a very good impression. It’s certainly not going to inspire them to fork over their hard-earned money for the service or product being offered on the site.
The point is that good SEO doesn’t have to be manipulative and never really had to be. If you want traffic on your web site – the kind of traffic that matters – you need, above all, to provide quality content.
Good content matters whether you’re selling something from your site or not. Establishing yourself as a trusted resource for information can make a big difference in your rankings. You may have heard the saying, “Content is king” and dismissed it as a meaningless cliché.
It’s not meaningless.
It should be your mantra.
If you can’t provide quality content on your own – good, fresh writing and dynamite graphics – hire someone who can. There’s an amazing pool of talent out there.
Oh, and while you’re at it, get a good strategist on your team too!
SEO is dead. Long live SEO!
SEO, when you come right down to it, is simply the art (well, there’s a bit of science too) of making a site’s content more easily understandable to the search engines, and more accessible as well.
That’s been the idea behind search engines all along, despite the efforts of the tricksters. And while the “old” SEO is dead or dying, the “new” is alive and kicking. It’s a pretty safe bet that as long as there are search engines there will be SEO. In short, it’s a big mistake to write it off.
Even so, SEO is just one piece of a much larger and more complex puzzle that includes social media, advertising, PR, and community involvement (offline as well as online). SEO, like the whole wonderful World Wide Web, is an ever-changing milieu, but fortunately it’s not one that you have to navigate alone.
There are some fiercely proficient SEO pros out there who can help you achieve astonishing results. There are still some incompetent and unethical ones as well, so, as with anything else where the stakes are high, you need to shop carefully.
In any case we can expect more changes and upheavals in SEO in the months and years to come… so we all need to hang on to our (white) hats, because we’re in for quite a ride.