Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is Dead
Ok, SEO is not completely dead. But it’s growing old, and it’s increasingly covered in cobwebs. Troves of snake-oil salesmen vying to sell you an SEO package would like you to believe otherwise.
Here’s my take: I have sat in countless meetings with clients – prospective and current, large and small – to discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a big buzzword in the web design/development industry, but its importance isn’t what it used to be.
From here… think of “feeding” Google
I propose a new vernacular: Instead of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), think Search Engine Fodder (SEF). Reason being, optimizing a site is essentially a one-time thing; static pages are comprised of language and keywords carefully selected for the target audience. Great. What next? It’s not about keyword-density or optimization. It’s largely about staying fresh.
After you “optimize” a site, will you then secure a spot at the top of Google search results? Um, no. If it was that easy, everyone would do it and be done. Driving traffic to the site and ranking well with Google are ongoing endeavors.
Your Blog and Social Media – Google’s Fodder
Think of two aims for SEO:
- Drive traffic to the site
- Rank well in Google
Why blogging matters
When you blog, you’ll use keywords related to your industry/organization/craft. And each blog article is essentially a new “page”, meaning new [key]words, a new click for the visitor, new images, and new fodder to present to Google. What’s more, besides presenting Google with more content relevant to your industry, you’re also letting Google know that you actively maintain your real estate on the web.
At focus97, I used to pay for ads in Google. Yes, it drove a little traffic to the site. Blogging, however, sends a nearly continuous flow of traffic. And what’s more, visitors are able to comment, which is interactive/engaging on their end, and provides my site with more fodder for Google because their comments contain relevant content (generally).
Why social media matters
This is obvious, but not always taken seriously. Social media has nothing to do with SEO, really, but everything to do with SEO’s thrust – which is how you get your site noticed. It’ll be part of the ever-evolving algorithm, predicted here, as well.
SEO antiques – meta tags, link-backs, keywords…
Back in the day…in order to get your website ranked well in Google, you would place some “meta tags” (keywords hidden in the architecture of your site’s pages) so that Google would know what your site was about. Easy, right? Yeah, it was. So pornography sites embedded these meta tags into their sites for every conceivable industry in order to pull everyone towards their sites, even for non-relevant searches. Search for “cars” and you’d find…well…headlights (sort of) beaming at you.
Google caught on…
So meta tags became less important, in favor of keywords on the page. Then what did the porn sites do? They placed all sorts of random keywords on their sites, way down towards the bottom where you wouldn’t scroll. Another tactic was to put these keywords on the page, but color them the same color as the background of the site. So they were invisible to you, but visible to the search engines. (Sounds like a meta tag, no?)
Google caught on…
What then became important was getting link-backs, which is to say that another site links back to your site. So porn sites (and SEO companies) would buy a link on a link-farm that would link back to their site. A link-farm is a simple page/site with thousands (or more) links that simply link back to your site. Literally – just a page of hyperlinks. All going to different, non-related places. And your link-back sits randomly among them.
Google caught on…
There’s a trend here: Google catches on. Google is in the business of (well, too many things, but anyway…) being the best search engine. Which means returning relevant searches. If you search on Google, find useful results, you’ll likely return to using Google. So, they pay attention.
Shady SEO tactics described above became labeled “black-hat SEO“. Think of Dr. Evil learning the rules of SEO, then doing it in evil ways to manipulate the system.
So, toss a bunch of meta tags or hidden keywords on your page, or buy yourself a package with Captain Shady-SEO who would then sell your link to a link-farm, and you’d get docked by Google for incorporating black-hat SEO tactics. You might have been #2 in search results, but now you’re ranked #11,456, thanks to that black-hat SEO package you bought. Yeah, it’s a steep mountain from there.
The proper use of meta tags, link-backs and keywords (“white-hat SEO”, if you will) is still important. But barely. Google shifts, and thankfully so. One thing that has been important for Google in ranking your site is the content that is visible on the page. If it’s visible to the user, the user can then determine its relevancy. Google will know if a user finds the content relevant, because that user will stay on the site longer, click through multiple pages, and possibly return later.
Other items have become important for SEO, and they’re not obvious.
- Site aesthetics play a role.
If a site is professionally done, a user may find it to be more trustworthy, appealing, and inviting, so they’ll potentially stay longer (content has to be relevant, of course).
- How fast your pages load.
If pages, images, and features load fast, a user will deem this to be a more pleasing experience.
- Domain registration duration.
For how long is your domain registered? Do you renew it each year? If so, it’s not so good – Google may think you’re just setting up shop temporarily. Register it for 10 years, and Google will know you’re in for the long haul.
For us developers…
…Google publishes lots of development tips to help us enhance your site. Focus97 takes these to heart. It means we’ll make the site load fast, look good, and we’ll stay on task to see how things evolve. But we (and any responsible web development firm) will put your site in good SEO standing from the outset. We optimize the backend, as well as the site’s front-end architecture to put you in good standing with search-ability. What happens from there is what is key in the contemporary age of marketing a site…
Get people talking about your site…
…and they’ll visit and refer it to others. But then they’ll go away. It’s a bit like “today’s news will line tomorrow’s waste-bins”. So you have to keep staying vigilant with Social Media. And you have to keep blogging to keep sending the signal to Google that you’re a content-producer.
Yes, have your site optimized by a development agency you trust. READ: avoid the snake-oil from Captain SketchyPants, who will lure you with vitriolic, doomsday language akin to “You’re losing customers every day to your competitors!! We’ll get you bazillions of new customers!!” The language is always the same.
SEO, yes. But think of it as part and parcel to a larger endeavor of “staying relevant”. This means harnessing Social Media’s power, as well as constantly feeding Google. Google is a BIG search engine, so it needs to be fed a lot. And don’t forget good email campaigns, which is another story…
To think of this as an ongoing, dynamic process, think…