One of the pervading sentiments since Google released it’s ‘Hummingbird’ fluttering through the webosphere has been that SEO is dead (this piece by Brett Relander breaks down the key elements of this sentiment). All those years of complex link building strategies and processes which have now clearly been marked as ‘Black Hat’ were restrained, if not totally wiped out, in an instant. Understandably, many SEOs lost sleep trying to work out where they stood and what they could do to maintain relevance when the goal posts could be shifted so quickly. SEO was killed, or at least that’s how many had proclaimed it.
But here’s the thing – Suggesting SEO is dead is missing a central point in the process, a simple statement on search engine processing and categorisation that Matt Cutts and his friends have tried to underline over and over again with their rule changes and updates:
SEO is not a code to be cracked.
Is SEO harder now that Google has found more ways to catch out people attempting to game the system? Yes.
Is SEO, as a process, being redefined by Google’s changes over time? Yes.
Is the SEO process of trying to find technical ways to beat the algorithms by locating and exploiting chinks in the armour of search engines in order for websites to rank higher than maybe they deserve to, dead? No, not completely.
But shouldn’t it be?
Shouldn’t the best, most relevant matches based on backlinks, referrals, social media signals and search engine clicks be the ones that rank the highest? That’s what Google wants, they rely on providing their users with the most accurate search results, and they need to ensure they’re doing all they can to produce this by weeding out cheats. So in that sense, shouldn’t the technical process of SEO be a side-effect of a business doing great things for their customers?
Of course, not all businesses can do this – not everyone can be the best. But all businesses aim to be industry leaders. If you’re not aiming to be the best in your market, you probably don’t deserve to rank highly on Google anyway, as you wouldn’t be the most relevant match. And with social signals playing a more significant part in the SEO puzzle (maybe social signals themselves, not so much, but shares of content and referrals are significant) this means even businesses who are not overly tech savvy can still rank highly with a basic presence, through social media recommendations and people clicking through to their content.
Does this mean you can ignore SEO? Not at all. At its most basic, if you want to rank for certain keywords you need to include them on your website, and with the trend of business moving more towards social media, there’s more reason than ever for all companies to establish and maintain a presence online, providing more space to include your keywords in relevant blogs and content. Definitely, you need to be aware of SEO and you need to factor it into your planning. But your primary focus should be on your audience – providing a great service, making your website an optimal customer experience, showcasing industry leading expertise and being responsive to changes in consumer behaviour. Do these things and SEO will follow. Write content with the audience in mind, then cross-check for relevant keywords, fit them in where possible, but never to the detriment of quality. A well-written, well-shared piece is going to boost your SEO efforts more than a specific keyword density. As Google’s algorithms get more advanced, more contextually tuned in, this will only become more relevant.
Answering the question of whether SEO is dead depends on your perspective. One thing that is clear, the increased adoption of social media has opened the channels to increased data and opportunity for all businesses looking to establish themselves as experts in their fields. Listening in, responding to client demand, establishing great brand relationships – these things will lead to better SEO rankings. Always have, always will.
Cracking an SEO code which will unlock the gates end enable you to rank without making these efforts - yeah, that’s dying.
Being a better business by utilising social media, that’s more alive than ever.
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