This post will most certainly ruffle some feathers. But that's okay-because sometimes, feathers need to be ruffled. This is not one of those "SEO is dead" posts. In fact, it's far from it. This is an "SEO has evolved" post. Undoubtedly though, some SEO purists will see this post as a threat and will attack its points in the comments below. They're welcome to.
There are two types of SEO practitioners today. The first type recognizes the evolution that's taken place in SEO and has adjusted accordingly. The second type still clings to its old technical SEO tricks and tactics. These folks are seeing their work move the needle less and less over time. They've convinced themselves that their work is providing value when in fact it's attempting to take advantage of Google's weaknesses.
Once basic on-page SEO is complete, earning search visibility becomes a marketing, public relations and content publishing game. Google Webspam Team head Matt Cutts says so himself:
"A lot of SEO has been focused on technical matters and very highly specific ways to configure your website and stuff like that. There are best practices, and you need to make sure you get the basics right, but it is true that a lot of SEO is now circling back around to good old fashioned marketing."
Panda has ensured that publishing poor quality content to earn rankings simply isn't effective anymore. And Penguin ensures that traditional link building can be risky and dangerous to search engine visibility. Caffeine's Freshness update has obfuscated large swaths of keyword data used to measure SEO success. Lastly, personalization and Google's 85 SERP variations make it virtually impossible to optimize with confidence.
We've reached a tipping point
Today, it is easier to focus resources on creating great content that people love for earning search visibility than it is to purposefully attempt to manipulate Google's algorithm. SEOs who recognize this fact focus their attention on the below:
1. Create great content people want to read.
2. Create great content people want to download.
3. Create great content people want to share.
4. Create great content people want to comment on.
5. Create great content online media wants to cite.
6. Create great content influencers want to share and cite.
7. Create great content that people want to link to.
8. Create great content consistently.
9. Create as much great content as possible.
10. Do NOT optimize for search engines - optimize for people.
11. The more time and resources spent on old optimization tactics that have no impact on a user's experience, the less time and resources there are for creating and publishing great content.
Not only will search visibility improve by following the steps above, but virtually every other Internet marketing metric will improve, too.
Librarians to marketers
For years, SEOs described the work they did as that of an Internet librarian-making sure on-page and off-page SEO signals were properly sculpted so search engines would rightfully place websites where they belonged in the SERPs. Sounds righteous. In actuality, SEOs were taking advantage of the search engines' shortcomings.
Search marketers who have adjusted their tactics to align with today's search reality would not call themselves librarians anymore. They're simply content marketers or media relations pros.
Unfortunately, most of the non-marketing world is several years behind these concepts. That means that the old school SEO practitioners will continue to push their wears on unsuspecting business owners and decision makers. There's no secrets to SEO anymore-it's just good old fashioned marketing today.
Image credit: Boyce Duprey