Is SEO Dead? Some people (bloggers, and so-called “experts”) in SEO, would have you think that. At least that’s the message that seems to be permeating the Internet lately.
Anyone who follows me on this blog will know, I don’t post things here very often. I’m either too busy working on other things for our clients, or I’m posting things on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. So when I DO POST something here, it’s either because I need to drive home a point, clear up a misunderstanding, rant and vent, or a combination of all three. In this case, it’s a combination of all three!
Since the big South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference where Google hinted at tweaks forthcoming to the way their engines rank websites and blog pages, posts and commentary have been running rampant on how these forthcoming changes are going to kill some websites, and destroy businesses overnight, when the next phase of the Google Panda slap occurs. Some of the changes being hinted at would seem to indicate the engines, particularly Google, are going to carve a path through content engineered to benefit search engine robots, rather than the actual end-user.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been, up until now, all about improving content for the benefit of the search engines. However, with changes looming at Google, relevancy factors are about to become the benchmark for organic, as opposed to paid, search rankings. (If you want to listen to some of the conference discussion from SXSW by a panel, including Google’s own Matt Cutts, you can hear it here.)
These changes don’t mean that SEO is dead. You will still need to pay attention the aspects of your website or blog, those things which contribute to making your content searchable. I believe the forthcoming changes are long overdue, and will only improve what you find when you search for something online, because hopefully, some of the junk will be purged.
Consider some of the criteria search engines look at when deciding which part of a website or blog appears higher in the rankings than another. Search engines like Google use something called Algorithms to determine how pages are ranked for organic search. (That’s the search that is NOT paid for with Pay Per Click Ads). Algorithms are nothing more than mathematical check lists the engines use to rate web content to decide where to place the page(s) in the rankings. The higher quality score a page receives when it’s checked against the Algorithms, the higher that page ranks… or so that’s the theory anyway.
What I believe Google is trying to do is something that has been long overdue in coming, and it has a lot of marketers running scared as rabbits. Those who use “Black Hat Trickery” to try and fool the search engines to believe their crappy web page is really better than it is, is about to get “slapped” by Google. I, for one, am glad to see Google making this move. Google’s engineers are currently working on ways to seek out and penalize ‘search-engine engineered’ content in favor of good, relevant, quality content that is going to be of value to the user. The idea behind this is to level the playing field, which will help many small businesses who lose out in favor of big business with matching budget’s for ongoing SEO work, usually based on maximizing results through the use of key phrases.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some good SEO companies out there, I’ve just yet to find one that really does what they promise, “LONG TERM”.
Some SEO Tactics are short lived, and when Google, or any of the other search engines, figure out what these SEO companies are doing, they tweak and fine tune those Algorithms to better filter out the junk.
Here are some things you need to be sure you’re doing on your site to avoid being slapped by Google for not meeting the quality criteria they are looking for:
- Pay close attention to details such as making sure you have descriptive titles. Otherwise, how are the search engines supposed to know if your content is relevant to a user searching their database?
- All of your images need to have an ‘alt’ tag. These are descriptions which make images ‘visible’ to both people who are using screen readers to access information as well as search engine robots. Remember, search engines can’t see, only crawl and read code.
- Clear and straightforward site navigation helps. Make it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. Drop-down menus help tremendously, which become necessary if a site is particularly large.
- Having a site map available to users can help with navigation around a large site. However, it doesn’t help much hiding the link to the site-map down the bottom of the page.
- Grammar and spelling are important. We all make mistakes, which can be rectified of course. However, a site with little obvious care and attention to the basics will not score well for Google ‘quality’.
It has long been said that “Content is King.” It now seems that in the not-too-distant future, we’re likely to see a swing back to this saying, with more ranking reward being given by Google to those pages with engaging and useful content, rather than content generated with emphasis based on SEO performance only.
Interaction through social signals, such as content sharing from a post or page, which you do via social sharing buttons, is going to become more and more important. Yes, you need to be setting up a presence on social media, if you haven’t already. Every time a user shares your content it’s another ‘tick’ for quality. By ‘liking’ or sharing web content a user is applying their own quality rating. That’s what Google wants to see, approval of content by content users.
I’m still amazed at the number of businesses who are kidding themselves thinking they can manage quite well without social media. I’m afraid that thinking is likely going to cause those businesses to slowly slide into oblivion in organic search engine results because their web content will not be generating those increasingly important ‘social signals’.
Change, when for the better, is good. I, for one, think this coming change will be good. From all I’ve seen, read and heard, the proposed developments in search Algorithms are long overdue and to be applauded. The sooner the better!
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments!