Anyone who knows anything about SEO – literally, even if all you’ve ever done is Google it, I can guarantee you’ve come across the phrase “SEO is Dead”. Now being an SEO Executive I pretty much live and breathe the subject of search engine optimization, and are often the butt of jokes around the office about my “slowly dying career”. I was at a popular search and analytics conference last month and walked into a room where the phrase “SEO is DEAD” was labelled all over the speaker’s presentation. But…. Is it?
It’s getting harder to rank
It’s no surprise Google is making it more difficult for SEO specialists to know how they rank sites, making it harder for us to spend time optimizing them for better organic results. This is part of a paid shift in advertising, by making it harder to rank organically websites are forced to spend money on pricey PPC campaigns, which is more money in Google’s pocket. That’s why SEO is such a fast-moving forward thinking career. We always have to be one step ahead of the game and work as a community to work out our own perspectives on what’s good and bad for organic optimization. Personally, I check trusted sources such as Moz and Search Engine Watch on a daily basis, digesting the latest shifts in search and the way they’re digesting websites and analyzing them. Every single day without fail there’s something new for me to learn, due to search engines doing constant algorithm shifts that are no longer officially released.
The last official update from Google was way back in March, which came in the form of a tongue and cheek response from Google’s Gary Illyes, simply telling us all updates from this point forward were to be referred to as “Fred”. The Fred update did, however, cause a big shift with high ranking changes in the SERPs over several large industries, but the main purpose was to penalize ad-heavy low-value content sites. All high ranking sites now days tend to be clean sites, not blighted by pop ups or adverts, that have the user journey down to a T.
We can remember websites five years ago and how SEO worked then, and you’d have content blocks crammed with keywords and meta titles stuffed with as many variations of keywords as you could possibly think of. You’d add your site to as many directories as humanly possible, and if you didn’t mind a bit of black-hat you might even have some keywords in white text on a white background… Yes, people really did that. My point is people used to create website’s content with SEO in mind, and that’s why they implemented all those dodgy techniques. Unfortunately, Google has now come full circle, it doesn’t want you to do SEO anymore with techniques like the above but instead ranks your site on factors that prove its popularity and usability. If techniques like the above are what you class as SEO, then you’re completely right. SEO IS DEAD!
Creating quality content that can be understood is essential
What is alive is creating top quality content that can be understood by both users and search engines. According to research conducted by SEMRush, the biggest ranking factor is now “Amount of sessions” – or how many people visit your site in a month. I know that sounds crazy, you need SEO to boost your sessions and you need your sessions to boost your SEO – but Google never said it was going to be easy. Other top ranking factors include “Session duration” – or the time users spend on your site and your “Bounce Rate” which are both indications of how easy it is to navigate round your site and find the information your users are looking for. All the above are indicators of the quality of a site if your site is well structured with top quality content, it’s going to tick all the right boxes and chances are you’ll start to see better rankings.
As I mentioned above, as well as quality, Google rank sites in terms of popularity, which is where backlinks come in to play. No, you can’t add your site to hundreds of directories and that guy who’s been calling to say for £30 a month he can get you 15 new backlinks… put the phone down. Links now have a completely separate ranking algorithm of their own. Your domain authority is now made up from the quality, quantity and relevance of the links you have acquired. As a leading digital/web agency, a lot of our links are acquired through the websites we build alongside a constant flow of fresh content outreach. We aim to make at least one new piece of “content” each month including guides and infographics and then go through an outreach process sending the content to relevant outlets and hoping they share it with their users. By using content outreach to build up backlinks, search engines can see you’ve put time into creating content and have actually supplied a high-quality resource, and will, therefore, mark that link as highly relevant and top quality – giving you a rankings boost.
Stay on top of best practice
Other SEO factors are still important – Title tags, ALT tags, headings, amount of words on the page, internal linking and all the other “best practice” techniques that we apply to our websites. I guess my point is that whilst old spammy SEO techniques may be dead the practice certainly isn’t, and SEO will just continue to grow as fewer people can work out Google algorithms for themselves.
I guess the phrase “SEO is dead” is just another celebrity style outpour. Here’s a list of celebrities rumoured to be dead, that people claim to still be alive.
- Elvis Presley
- Tupac Shakur
- Biggie Smalls
- Michael Jackson
Your guess is as good as mine… Just like SEO.