The death of SEO has been proclaimed many times in the past.
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019. What’s the common denominator in these numbers? These are the years that Google announced core updates to their algorithms, sparking inevitable declarations of the death of SEO. The shouts were more vociferous in some quarters than others.
But it appears that the numerous SEO obituaries have been announced way too soon. Google still records over 5 billion searches every day and keywords still appear on Google’s first page, which should tell you all you need to know. Also, Forbes estimates that SEO is worth a tidy $13, 140 every month in revenue. With these numbers, it’s hard to see SEO dying anytime soon.
Is SEO Dead Or Alive?
However, just as is the case with every rumor, there are some elements of truth to the rumors of SEOs death. The main reason Google keeps making these updates to their algorithms is to block off avenues traditionally used to game the system. Their overarching aim is to provide a wholesome user experience in their search results. Naturally, this means that SEO has had to switch its focus from search engines to people and as a result, certain parts of it have had to die.
Over the years, SEO has evolved and grown. It has taken on new forms and discarded some elements that used to be integral to its fabric. Are SEO strategies such as producing great content, optimizing your website, and including high-quality external and internal links still relevant? Of course.
Neil Patel sums it up perfectly when he said: “SEO is not what it used to be. You can’t just pop up an ugly website, throw up mediocre content, build a few links and expect to rank well. These days you actually have to build a good website, write high-quality content that solves people’s problems, build thousands of links and get thousands of social shares.”
White Hat SEO strategies remain alive and in good health. We’ll go out on a limb and say that they’ll maintain their relevance as long as SEO sticks around.
On the other hand, underhanded SEO tactics, known as Black Hat strategies, have taken a huge hit. These days, producing irrelevant content, keyword stuffing and invisible text, linking to random, non-related sites, and cloaking are more likely to lead to sanctions from Google than direct traffic to your site.
These are the elements of SEO that are as good as dead. They’ll murder your ranking on SERPs too if you don’t actively eliminate them.
Why Bother With SEO Anyway?
The market trends are unequivocal about it: engagements from search engines are on a steady decline. They’ve been going down for a while now and a multitude of factors are responsible for this. So, why do you still need to devote so much time, energy, and patience to following through with your White Hat SEO strategy?
Every single day, thousands of new blogs get created. At the last count, there are over a billion blogs dotted all over the internet landscape. The implication of this is that there are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of other people offering the same services as you. It’s an almighty slog to rank for a particular keyword. Competition is at an all-time high and supply far exceeds demand.
To further complicate things, Google provides answers to queries directly now, negating the need for searchers to click on websites. The ripple effect of this action is a significant reduction in CTRs for websites that rely on their placement on SERP for traffic.
Speaking of which, the number of ads displayed on SERPs keeps increasing. These ads invariably occupy all the top spots, pushing organic results way down the index, to the extent that they appear closer to the bottom of the page than the top.
How can SEO survive all these plus all the frequent algorithm adjustments? The answer is simple. SEO remains relevant because it is still profitable. Understanding how it works now is the key to unlocking its potential.
Content Is Still Key
We won’t ever get tired of stressing this. When it comes to SEO, content is king. Now and always. Let’s examine this at the micro and macro level.
The cardinal rule of content marketing is that it needs to be relevant and to be relevant, it needs to be targeted specifically at the needs of people. That’s where keyword research and targeting came in. Unfortunately, this SEO strategy was abused and Google had to step in with the Hummingbird update. These days, keyword stuffing holds less weight than it used to.
That’s not to say that keyword targeting is obsolete. The use of relevant keywords remains integral to effective content marketing and SEO. The leading practice now is to focus on searcher intent. Understanding the intent behind a keyword can help you tailor your content to provide relevant content at the micro level.
At the macro level, the focus has also shifted from content that sells directly and aggressively, to content that educates readers first before selling a product. Many search engine marketers have discovered the value of producing content that is more focused on answering people’s questions than selling a product or service.
That’s about content marketing as an SEO strategy. We mentioned earlier that even though SEO keeps evolving and shedding some parts, certain SEO strategies will always remain relevant. In order words, these SEO strategies will never die. Let’s talk about them.
SEO Strategies That Will Never Die
Well, probably. It would be nice to have a crystal ball, but those are in short supply around here.
1. Build Your Authority
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, Google came up with a classifier that divides famous brands and their sites from low-quality ones. This model lists sites like Wikipedia, New York Times, and IRS on one side, and other low-quality sites on the other.
What does this tell you? Google will pick sites and brands with authority over others, ten times out of ten. Focus on building the authority of your site and watch as it shoots up the rankings.
Having said that, you should have it at the back of your mind that building authority takes time. SEO has always been something that pays off in the long term. This much hasn’t changed and is unlikely to.
2. Promote Your High-Quality Content
While it’s true that good products practically sell themselves, you still have to give your content a platform to shine. In a manner of speaking, you need to give your content wings before it can fly.
To get your content in front of your target audience, you need to promote it. Social media is a ready and willing tool for this and if you harness it properly, the results can exceed even your expectations. Give it a platform to succeed and watch it bring in the results.
3. Look At What Works, Then Try To Do Something Better
The top-ranking content for a keyword you have designs on probably fulfills all the requirements laid out by search engines. In other words, they were written for search engines.
To get yours to rank too, you need to look at these contents and create something better than what they present. This entails writing with search engines in mind too, but not in the spammy, annoying way. Optimize your content for search engines, keeping in mind the purpose of your content.
4. Topic Research Is The Way To Go
Search Engine Marketers used to get away with optimizing content for particular keywords. That ship has long sailed. Search Engines are on to that trick. Rather than conducting keyword research for your content, focus on topic research.
There’s actually nothing stopping you from integrating both methods in your content marketing strategy. On this, Rand Fishkin is actually in support of combining both. A combination of old-school keyword research and cutting-edge topic research and topic clusters will do wonders for your content marketing efforts.
5. Improve User Experience
Every algorithm change, every decision Google makes, is geared towards improving the online experience for their users. That’s their ultimate goal and when you make this your goal as well, the rewards will be there for you to see. In the end, Google users play a major role in determining how they rank content.
Instead of obsessing over the rankings, focus more on providing a great experience for visitors to your site. When Google notices that people enjoy visiting your site, your rankings will shoot up.
We’d like to think that we’ve settled the debate about whether SEO is dead now in your mind, but what about later in the future? In other words
Will SEO Ever Die?
If SEO is not dead now, will SEO be dead sometime in the near or distant future? Will SEO exist in 5 years?
While many people will undoubtedly state that SEO will never die, the correct answer is a bit more nuanced. SEO will keep evolving, and it follows that a few more parts will die off. But the whole concept of SEO will probably still be around in 5 years and a lot longer than that.