We’ve been writing lately about all of Google’s new updates from AI first to Google’s search journeys to Google’s contextual signals and it demonstrates how search is changing. That, combined with the 2015 report that social media now drives over one-third of traffic has led some experts to say that ‘SEO is dead’ but that cannot be further from the truth. So, don’t abandon your search engine optimization strategy just yet. Let’s explore the fact that Google is changing but is SEO here to stay?
In short, yes, SEO is here to stay.
SEO is still alive but old tactics are not
There’s a film called SEO: The Movie produced and directed by the CEO of Ignite Visibility which features key figures in digital marketing including Barry Schwarts of Search Engine Land; Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz; Rae Hoffman of Sugarrae; and Brett Tabke, founder of Webcon. The film documents the early days of SEO where marketers could spam keywords all over their blogs (called keyword stuffing) to rank in the top spot of Google’s SERP. Then, they explain how the more modern “white hat” tactics are far more successful now and how Google penalizes the old practices.
Quality links over backlink quantity
So, just as you’ve had to update your SEO strategy since those days, you will still have to keep on top of trends to stay relevant now. For example, in the past, you needed all the links to seem relevant (link building) including marketers who used strategies like spamming links all over digital directories (a no-no now). Now, the quality and relevance of your links matter over quantity.
Click-through results over number-one ranking
You might also be interested to know that being the number one ranked spot in Google is also less relevant than it was. Since Google now has more ads, featured snippets, and question boxes, even the number one spot might be buried. Users now understand that sometimes you need to scroll to find what you want. Instead of rankings, your new focus should be click-through rate, which can be optimized by enticing headlines and compelling, interesting meta descriptions. If you see a featured snippet that outranks you, reword your content to answer the question posed more directly so your content may be chosen instead.
More engaging content over keywords
Google is smarter at knowing what your pages are about. Before, you had to optimize, optimize, optimize for your keywords. You don’t need to keep repeating your keywords in your content. Optimize for readability and style instead. Make your content more helpful and more engaging. (This concept ties back into keyword intent.) Ranking is now about the highest quality answer and overall user experience.
Focus on higher-quality content
We’ve said before to crank down the content. Although having content quantity does help you rank higher, it also has to be quality, compelling content and it doesn’t have to cover the same topic in twenty different ways. Google can also rank your pages for several keywords at once so just write good content without targeting one specific keyword. Be as helpful as possible to your target audience.
User experience is key
Long-term sustainable businesses focus on providing the best user experience for their customers. Why? Because repeat customers bring business and happy customers tell their friends (and unhappy customers tell even more friends). The Harvard Business Review notes that if you focus on increasing customer retention by 5% you’ll grow your profits by 25% or more. So, that means you need a great website that works for mobile, that has a great design, and great user experience.
Keep your customers happy
Plus, you need to ensure that each customer has a good experience in your business overall whether that’s online or offline. And if you’re lucky enough to hear customer complaints, then you have an opportunity to address that issue and turn that experience around; hopefully, retaining repeat business. Keep in mind that 96% of unhappy customers will not complain but simply never return. That’s a lot of people! If a customer is complaining about something, listen. Sometimes those complaints will be relevant and they will highlight an issue that needs addressing–and sometimes the complaints won’t be relevant, but customer feedback is invaluable nonetheless. A customer who has had their experience turned around usually tells people about it, which can increase your business opportunities.
Things are changing but organic search is trusted
Another reason you need to keep your SEO strategy going is that people trust organic search results. Sure, people are influenced by social media marketing, their friend’s reviews, and Google snippets, but organic search results still work. People prefer organic search results over paid ads and the good news for businesses is that organic search is cost-effective for you. Once you’ve paid for a piece of content (be it your in-house marketers writing it or your freelancers), then you can continue to enjoy a good ROI over time. If your piece is well-written and helpful, you’ll continue to see gains from each post. Further, it saves your business money overall because often customer questions and concerns can be answered by reading your content. Content also goes a long way to converting leads to customers so a lot of the work is already done before they step foot in your store, contact you online, or give you a call.
“Experts” have been fear-mongering about SEO dying since 1997 and SEO still hasn’t died! SEO is more than just your on-page SEO. SEO is more complex and Google’s use of SEO is complex. If your business continues to evolve with trends, then you can keep doing what you’re doing. Keep abreast of changes, adapt and move forward. Just like you wouldn’t still be using 90s fax machines to send documents in your business today, businesses that adapt with the times continue to stay relevant.
Elaine Frieman holds a Master’s Degree and is a UK-based professional editor, educational writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, traveling, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.