If you read the marketing blogs, you have no doubt seen at least one pseudo obituary for SEO. But SEO is alive and well and should be a vital part of your content strategy. So, the real deal: SEO still needs a place set at your marketing content table.
Is SEO Dead? That Depends on How You Define It
The problem is that not everyone is clear about what SEO means. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. While searches might not be the only way people find information, products, and companies to do business with, search still remains an important part of the consumer and business decision-making process. We still need to design, code, and write so that people can find us via search engines.
Unfortunately, a lot of people tried to scam the system. Truth be told, most marketers have strayed out of the white areas of SEO into some gray areas, and more than a few stepped soundly into the black. This resulted in a lot of keyword stuffing and other sneaky practices, which led search engines to deliver top ranking to some pretty crappy sites, many of which didn't actually have or offer whatever the searcher was looking for.
How Has SEO Changed?
In response to spammers misleading their trusted users, search engines (notably Google) began developing better algorithms to deliver higher quality, more relevant search results. First Panda, then Penguin rolled out, sinking the rankings for all but the most authoritative sites. These updates catapulted the black and dark gray hat SEO sites to the nether regions of the Internet.
Google further refined their algorithms to detect human language and the intent behind searches with their Hummingbird update, tanking the ratings for even the SEO folks wearing light gray hats. Google algorithms are now finely tuned to deliver high quality content that is extremely relevant to the intent of a search. Those who try to use SEO to taint or manipulate search results will find their sites ranking severely low -- or worse -- blacklisted altogether.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Does that render SEO useless? Not if you define SEO as it was originally intended, which is to merely optimize websites so that search engines can detect what's there and how it can benefit the users. Instead of practicing keyword frequencies, marketers now have to focus on making a truly informative, relevant, high-quality website.
This involves great design work, solid copywriting, smart coding, savvy big data marketing, and a presence on social media. SEO hasn't died. It merely changed hats. Now the only ones standing are the ones in pure white: those who actually deliver what they promise users instead of trying to manipulate search results.
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