These are the kinds of questions that philosophers worry over – or at least that keep those of us involved in search engine optimization up at night – but they may not matter very much going forward. That's because SEO is going away, at least in the way that most of us know it. What's taking its place is something exciting and better, but, like enlightenment, it can't be achieved directly.
Does that sound confusing? Read on, because here is what you need to know about Zen and the art of improving your search rankings in 2013:
The basic problem with search engine optimization is that it has worked too well. Now, it's difficult to find what you’re actually looking for on the Internet, because the results are crowded with over-optimized sites. So, Google has started penalizing businesses that seem to be trying too hard to influence its rankings. That means your best move is to be "search visible," but without being obvious. In other words, post-quality content and attract links, but don't do anything specifically for SEO purposes.
Traffic patterns are changing faster than ever, and searchers are changing their favorite destinations in a heartbeat. It's important to update your site continually if you want to attract and retain potential customers. At the same time, note that the dynamic nature of search rankings is changing sites themselves, causing businesses to be more responsive to demand. This quicker world of online marketing favors companies that can adapt, rather than stick with strategies that might not be effective anymore.
Traditionally, getting noticed by search engines has largely been a matter of adding to your business website continually. Now, though, it's just as important that you don't have the wrong kinds of links and content that could signal you as someone who's trying to game the system. So, invest in the time and money needed to get rid of anything that shouldn't be on your site, or part of your search profile, to prevent it from coming back to haunt you later.
This is where you really reach the state of Zen, at least from an online marketing perspective. When your site is the most informative, with timely updates that are relevant to your audience, your search positioning is actually a secondary concern. For one thing, potential buyers will already be coming your way because you have established yourself as an authority in the market. And for another, the high-quality content will naturally attract links, and the combination of the two will earn you a great search ranking for your most important keywords.
While the changing face of SEO might make it seem like a mystical art, the reality is that search is just getting better and more efficient, which means you can’t drive visitors to your website by using direct or heavy-handed methods anymore. So, don't worry about meditating on the nature of Google's universe or practicing keyword kung fu – just build a fantastic website that's informative and easy to navigate, and then you can sit back and let the rest take care of itself.