Is SEO still a priority?
SEO, as most know it, no longer exists.
It hasn’t for a while now.
Link-building, keyword stuffing, and all those old-school SEO tactics no longer work (and, in almost all cases, will get your site red-flagged in search engines). Today, businesses should aim to incorporate only the most relevant pieces of traditional SEO into a much broader user experience and content strategy that focuses on creating useful, shareable content.
No more gaming the system! There are no shortcuts anymore, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you’ve even dipped your toe into the digital marketing pond, SEO comes up in conversation all the time.
In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve already been told how much your website needs it, and that if you aren’t prioritizing SEO, you’re dooming your business. There’s STILL an entire industry built on selling SEO solutions, promising a quick rise through the Google rankings if you do X, Y, and Z (and pay this consulting fee, of course).
The thing is, if you completely and utterly neglect SEO, it will negatively impact your business. But it’s not near the big deal it used to be, and at least here at Redstitch, we never encourage clients to pay for SEO as a standalone service.
The Shifting Tides of SEO
At one point, it was relatively easy to trick search engines. People would take part in “black-hat tactics” like keyword stuffing and backlinking, subsequently shooting to the top of page one results, with nary a consequence.
But then, things changed. Google got smarter. With its Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012, the search engine started penalizing keyword-stuffed “thin content” and other, back-end tactics.
That was years ago, but the effects are still felt today.
With each successive round of algorithm updates, Google knocks out additional SEO hacks that worked at one point, but won’t going forward. Basically, the system was once easy-to-manipulate has become less gameable over time, and is now approaching the point where you can’t really cut corners at all any more.
There are no SEO shortcuts anymore.
Favoring fast, adaptable websites, Google’s algorithms have moved towards prioritizing high quality content—videos, blog posts, articles, and so on.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind, Matt Cutts of Google is consistently quoted stressing the importances of writing high quality content for humans, not search engines. Always remember to write for humans first! Robots, second.
So, what constitutes high quality content in Google’s eyes?
- Pre-Panda, it was easy to churn out a few 300 word “blog posts” and rank on the first page of Google with them. Now, Google’s algorithm shows a marked preference for longer content, but that could change.
2. Relevance of content.
- It’s not enough for a post to be 1,500 words if it’s not well-researched or readable. The algorithm looks at several features to determine this, including whether the content is being linked back to (and where at), the originality of the content, and correct grammar and spelling in the content.
3. Evergreen content.
- In other words, content that should be useful for years to come, not content that seems like it’s trying to cash in on a trendy keyword set.
4. Regularity of updates.
- Google prioritizes sites that update their content on a regular basis (which is one reason that content marketing and blogging specifically are great for SEO).
Essentially, Google is looking for content that humans will (and do) find valuable and useful. Most “SEO tactics,” on the other hand, are about tricking a robot. These two things are intrinsically at odds with each other.
Should I just ignore SEO completely?
No way! Just don’t make it your sole priority.
One of our biggest stances on SEO is it is you should never pay for it as a standalone service in 2017 and beyond. With all the changes in velocity since 2011, content marketing should be more of a focus than SEO.
Still, there are existing SEO guidelines you should still consider from a structural stand-point:
- effectively filling out the meta tags and description fields
- including important keywords in URLs
- paying attention to keywords that are in titles and headers
- reserving your local Google page and keeping it up to date, if you’re a local business
- optimizing your site for mobile (this only started being penalized recently, with the ‘mobilegeddon’ update)
SEO-specific marketing strategies are essentially done for. Instead, your SEO strategy needs to be integrated into a larger content strategy, because if you craft high quality content while keeping an eye on your keywords, SEO mostly takes care of itself.
On the flip side, if your content sucks, all the SEO in the world won’t save your site’s rankings.