September 6, 2016 | Jamie Bracken
A couple years ago, there were all kinds of blog posts written with titles like “SEO is dead” and “Is it the end of SEO?” The answers varied because the answer, like most things, was not simple.
It was “yes and no.”
Yes – the way SEO was being done (keyword stuffing and all the web atrocities people did in the name of SEO) was over.
And no – the fact remains, search engines crawl websites “reading” it to make sure they return the most relevant sites for the search query. And it’s especially true for large video search engines i.e. YouTube, since the crawler can’t watch the video to see if it’s relevant and must rely on the words written about the video to make sure it returns the best videos for each search term.
In this post, we’re going to talk about why SEO still matters, how we should now be thinking about SEO, how we should now be doing SEO and SEO in and for the future.
Why SEO Still Matters
A few stats to get us started:
- 75% of users never scroll past the first page of Google.
- 84% of people on laptops click on the first 4 organic search results and that number goes up to 92% for people searching on their mobile phones.
Do we need to say anymore?
If you’ve already invested in SEO but can’t seem to get the results you want – you may need to look at how people are searching and build a new site map according to SEO best practices. Simply investing in SEO for your existing site will only get you so far if the information architecture isn’t optimal.
How We Should Be Thinking about SEO
Semantics: Are You Relevant?
What really changed in SEO over the past decade is how we think about search engine optimization. We no longer want to (or can) optimize for the sake of optimizing.
Now we want to communicate with Google – so they know that our site is amazing and what it’s all about. So perhaps we shouldn’t be calling it search engine optimization (SEO) but should call it search engine communication– kind of like how a keyword is rarely just one word; keyphrase would be more accurate since most are 2 or more words. But that never caught on so I imagine the term SEO is here to stay as well.
Essentially Search Engines Are Matchmakers
They’re dating sites for every aspect of our lives. They don’t want to just match us with the best dating site, they want to match us with the best brands, the best products, the best experiences, the best images, the best blogs, the closest services – basically the best information FOR EACH USER.
Their dating algorithm wants to connect us with Mr. Right Brand, Mr. Right Now my pipes are leaking and Mr. Next Wednesday Hair Appointment as well as Ms. Right Diagnosis for that Weird Mole, Ms. Right Answer to that Random Question that came up over lunch and Ms. Right Phone number and address for that place I love.
Our job – whether your job is marketing or SEO or anything digital – is to let search engines know who you are, what you do, what you’re best at and what problems you solve for your customers so they can decide who you are Ms. Right Brand and Mr. Right Services for.
Google just keeps getting smarter. You can’t trick Google with a Mr. Right photo of someone else. Google can no longer be catfished.
Doing SEO in 2017
Doing SEO now means paying attention to things that did not used to be necessary. Of course we still need to take care of the basics – keyword research, meta tags and content optimization. Those are still important, but I would call that the base line or the bare minimum.
We’ve created a cheat sheet to go over the best practices and length requirements for all meta tags.
In addition to that, we need to look at our competitors – this is the most important piece that should never be forgotten. You won’t be able to set realistic goals without looking at this.
Other elements have also become increasingly important like having a clear strategy for internal linking and backlinks and often an integrated social media plan.
Keep One Eye On Your Competitors
You always need to keep an eye on what your main competitors are doing.
This is always important when trying to improve your organic search results. Spending a lot of time and money on basic SEO (keyword research, meta data and copy optimization) without considering your competitors is a huge miss and will result in much less impressive results.
And by competitors, I mean both
- the businesses that you know about that are your direct competition and
- the websites that are coming up on the first page of google for the keywords that you would like to rank for.
The latter may not be your direct competition, but seeing that a search term brings up all major or directory websites like yelp, yellowpages, facebook etc will indicate that this is a search term that will be extremely difficult to rank for.
If the direct competitors that are coming high up on the search engine result page (SERP) all have active blogs, one or more active social media channels that are well integrated into their site, large amounts of backlinks and distinct urls dedicated to the most relevant keywords (to name a few important SEO indicators), simply writing and implementing metadata without any of these other efforts will not get you on page 1 of Google.
Looking at your competitors will also help you choose the keywords that, in time, you are more likely to rank for.
SEO IN AND FOR THE FUTURE
Basically, the message here is that YES SEO STILL MATTERS. And it’s going to matter for a long time.
But instead of taking your picture after having your hair done, full face of make-up doing something you never do and then photoshopping it to make you look how you think others want you to look. To get the results you’re looking for – a perfect match – be honest with Google, honest with your audience and honest with yourself. We are still talking about SEO here.
The best approach to SEO for the futre is a strategic, integrated approach at every stage and for every piece of digital content – big and small.
- From the start of a new website (including the strategy phase), new web page or any new web content
- To after the site, page or content goes live
- To post launch when tweaks that can made over time
SEO best practices and keyword research are relevant AND IMPORTANT to make sure the most relevant keywords are being used in ways that will communicate that relevance to search engines.
And Google will make the best matches for you and your soon-to-be customers.