16 Dec Is SEO Dead? What You Must Know to Protect Your Brand in 2015
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around since the beginning of our digitally connected world. But much has changed with regard to the nature and complexity of search algorithms. The ongoing evolution of search engine algorithms have made digital marketers wonder what is coming next and how they should alter their ranking strategies to ensure that their websites remain relevant.
There is no doubt that SEO has come quite far from the initial marketing practices such as keyword hiding and spamming. However, some marketers are concerned whether SEO even has a future to look forward to. Will SEO become obsolete one day? How can marketers cope with the rapidly changing search engine algorithms?
Let us look at this matter in detail and see what the future has in store for us.
Early Stages of Google and the Beginning of SEO
During its early days, Google was nothing more than a search engine, full of bugs, which showed results based on only a couple of factors. Nonetheless, it was still the best you could get back then. As a result, Google quickly became a household name. This popularity and the mainstream use coupled with its comparatively simple algorithms enabled marketers to benefit greatly from the system.
The rise of SEO wasn’t for the purpose of marketing; in fact, it was something like a cheat code for the web. It comprised of certain practices which improved the quality of results shown by Google. Using these techniques, the ‘cheaters’ were able to get any website ranked at the top of search engine results page (SERPS). This wasn’t something that required technical know-how. All that needed to be done was to include a given keyword a number of times, which was the method used by Google to rank a website.
As time passed, Google developed ways to catch such manipulative methods and started to implement revisions to the code and search algorithms in order to fight such practices. Updates were added on a regular basis, beginning in 2003. These updates included the addition of complex factors for ranking purposes (such as inbound links) as well as a new method of penalizing those websites that used ‘unethical’ practices. The practices considered to be unethical by Google were repetition of multiple keywords and posting duplicate content all over the Internet.
Current SEO Practices
It took SEO several years before it reached a stable point by 2010. Google had managed to create more complex algorithms; however, these algorithms were still quite predictable. People were still able to – after spending some time – initiate a rise in search engine rankings using a particular set of keywords and phrases. It was in the 2011 (Panda algorithm) and 2012 (Penguin algorithm) which gave a strong jolt to the SEO world. The Panda algorithm wreaked havoc on those websites which were using duplicate content, filler content or keyword stuffing techniques to improve their rank. The Penguin update added some additional intelligent ways to analyze inbound links; it rewarded those websites which had natural inbound links, while penalizing those that posted links with the sole purpose of getting good rankings.
Google has implemented many additional factors that affect website ranking since then. However, for now, the two major factors that are needed for high rankings are lots of high quality, well-drafted content along with an authoritative and natural inbound link profile.
With such major changes to the search engine algorithms, SEO is no longer a cheat code that could be used to boost the ranking of websites. Instead, a number of good practices have taken precedence over such ‘unethical’ practices.
The Goal of Google Algorithms
The goal of each and every Google algorithm update is to enhance the user experience by offering the most relevant results.
The ongoing changes in the search engine algorithms have now made it almost impossible for cheaters to make their way to the top of search engine results. The only way to get your site ranked in the top result now is to offer the highest possible value to your visitors – all marketers should take note of this, as this is the only way forward to benefit from SEO. Also, SEO providers should understand this so that they can provide optimal solutions to their clients.
With that said, it is clear the SEO still exists and is still a competitive strategy to get your site ranked well. Understanding the types of changes that occur in search engine algorithms is the key to performing effective SEO practices.
Why Some People Assume SEO is Fading Away
Some people assume that SEO is dying. This doesn’t come as a surprise keeping in mind the history of Google as well as the current state of search engine optimization. From being as easy as stuffing keywords and spamming – SEO has come a long way to transform to include a complex number of factors. Google doesn’t seem to be slowing down in any way as it continues to add additional factors almost on a daily basis, not to mention that the search engine standards are becoming more strict every day.
Keeping this in mind, there may come a time when SEO dies for some marketers – especially those who employ cheat code practices. However, for those who continuously adapt to meet the standards of the search engines, SEO seems promising and will probably be around for at least a few years at the very least. According to many SEO specialists, SEO is not going to die. Ever. However, it will continue to evolve as it has done so over the last decade. It all depends on whether or not SEO service providers adjust their strategies to align with Google’s.
If you think SEO is just about manipulating you way to the top of search engine rankings, then SEO is already dead for you. However, for those who believe that SEO is all about improving their site’s visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPS) using the guidelines provided by the search engine algorithms, then SEO will continue to live for you.
Say Hello to Hummingbird
Google’s latest search engine algorithm update named the Hummingbird was applied in 2013. According to Search Engine Watch, the three updates including Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird affect 90 percent of all online searches.
Google Hummingbird allows the search engine to work more accurately, mainly because of the major improvements in the semantic search. Using Hummingbird, Google can now understand contextual meaning of terms, such as the longer-tail queries even if websites have not been optimized for them.
Even though Hummingbird has introduced stricter control over SEO, it still means typical business for many SEOs. When it was announced, many people panicked quite a bit, claiming that their SEO strategy would be required to be revamped. However, if you’ve been one of those who have been progressing by adapting to the evolution of SEO, then there’s really nothing to be concerned about with this update.
Here are a number of things that remain to be as important as they previously were:
Structured Data Markup – When you provide as much information as possible to search engines, you help them to perform better. This is why structured data can help you to enhance click-through rates in SERPS, particularly when presented in rich snippets.
Google+ – Google’s own social network is of an utmost importance and helps greatly to identify your online brand.
Mobile SEO – There is no doubt that with the onset of conversational search (partly driven by the way people search on their mobile devices), mobile optimization will maintain its previously important role.
Links – It is true that Google doesn’t want SEOs to get too obsessed with PageRank data; this, however, this doesn’t make links irrelevant. You still send a message to Google about your credibility by building links – as long as they’re the right kind.
Keyword Optimization – There’s widespread debate over the effectiveness of keywords in SEO these days. Mark these words: KEYWORDS ARE NOT DEAD. If used sparingly, keywords can still do a lot more for your website than you think.
Content – Content is the king. There is no doubt about this. Google focuses on providing visitors a superb user experience, and expects you to do the same. You can achieve this by providing high quality, engaging content. Content creation and keyword optimization can be implemented together for an effective SEO.
Providing SEO Services amid Algorithm Updates
With all these changes and updates in search engine algorithms, SEO now requires a greater level of understanding of your target audience. This understanding does not start with keywords, nor does it end with them. On the other hand, it does focus on having a clear consideration of what your users want.
Understanding What Your Users Want
Understanding what your users want is essential because it is this information upon which you will be creating your content. Content, on the other hand, is vital for providing a decent user experience. The content you create may have various types of users that are searching for a particular answer to their problem. Thoroughly understanding which content to serve to which type of user would greatly enhance user experience and increase the chances of you succeeding in your SEO endeavors.
Personas: Personas are talked about a lot in the marketing world. This technique has been used by traditional marketers to help them understand the needs of their user base.
Keyword Research: Keyword research still provides valuable insight into what people search for. For marketing specialists, it is more important to go well beyond this data. This means that you should have the most engaging, useful and high quality page for each query, with keywords cleverly implemented on the page.
Some of the above mentioned techniques will help you understand what your users want, and thus allow you to base your content strategy on the data collected. Don’t forget that quality is of an utmost importance. You now have to ensure that your content is of a high quality in order to attract a decent traffic to your website. Search engines such as Google have become extremely intelligent, and they know how popular a site is, and why it is popular. Shortcuts are a big no-no.
Stay tuned for my subsequent post titled “Top 4 SEO Tips for 2015: Preparing for the Next Algorithm Update, in which we will spell out in detail 4 strategies you can use to ensure panda/penguin proof success in the new year. Until then, Happy Holidays from all of us here at Brown Box Branding!