Is SEO Dead? No, But the Way You’re Using It Might Be.
Welcome to the New Age of SEO
If you listen to the “experts,” or some of the online articles out there, the phrase “SEO is dead” is probably familiar to you. Many industry veterans and newcomers truly believe SEO practices are indeed extinct, and countless professionals insist the practice is ineffective; others say it’s not dead yet, but it will be soon. And the truth is: they’re all wrong.
SEO isn’t some zombie — a dead but still-present being, mindlessly existing and essentially useless. No, SEO is a creature that is very much alive and kicking. Instead, think of SEO as an ever-evolving vampire — an immortal and sophisticated entity that continually transforms itself and adapts as the world around it changes. But these industry changes and shifts occur quickly, so it’s critical to not only stay up with current trends, but predict and anticipate new ones.
Welcome to the New Age of SEO.
SEO AND THE WILD WEST
Although the “SEO is dead” phrase makes its rounds every year, it’s not entirely untrue. SEO is an ever-evolving landscape, and it always has been. The “bad old days” of SEO were a free-for-all, with the web more akin to the Wild West than a forum for information. And in those days, the gold rush was — and still is — to appease search engines. As these search engines have evolved and used artificial intelligence more and more, they are also rewarding the people who are doing the right things for SEO.
However, back in the days of SEO lawlessness, shady practices to get high rankings abounded. There was keyword stuffing, where more and more keywords would be crammed into website content, driving up rankings regardless of the site’s overall quality or relevance.
There was also the rampant scouring for backlinks from questionable sources, sometimes even purchased from overseas by the hundreds or more. On top of all that, webmasters were using white text on a white background to bury keywords on the bottom of a web page like they were some kind of treasure.
Changing Landscapes, Shifting Perspectives
Due to the evolution of search engine algorithms, these questionable techniques can actually have an adverse effect on your site’s ranking. It’s not simply about keyword frequency, or “keyword stuffing” anymore. In fact, the shift is leaning away from the bots of search engines, and towards the user.
This pivot to more user-focused SEO practices is one of the primary ways we can see the practice evolving firsthand. But this doesn’t mean that the traditional methods aren’t viable; they just need to be utilized differently. Rather than merely satisfying algorithms, it’s crucial to appeal to users if you want to get greater online visibility. This shift has led many authorities in the industry to surmise that SEO is dying. This, however, is the kind of short-sighted thinking that will leave them behind in the dust.
Putting the User in the Spotlight
No matter what changes this dynamic industry undergoes, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, people simply want a good user experience from your website. And properly-executed SEO is essential for that. Good SEO helps users discover, access, consume, and share content. Here’s how:
- Compelling Content
One of the ways to ensure that you’re putting the user’s needs first is to provide engaging and compelling content. Gone are the days of simply aligning your blogs with your products or services. You need to go beyond only writing what you want to read. Additionally, solely being relevant is outdated and just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, you need to provide something of value for your visitors and be an authority through well-researched topics. And by pairing quality content with smart SEO practices, like aligning keywords with your content topics, it creates a synergy between the two and an effective way to satisfy users’ searches for relevant content.
- Search Engine Updates
It’s not only people searching the web who are changing the way we create SEO strategies. It’s also the search engines themselves. Companies like Google, Bing, and Yahoo know precisely the trends of users, and make updates to their algorithms to reflect these tendencies. More and more, they are rewarding sites who develop valuable and distinctive content. Their goal is to provide the more appropriate and relevant content to their end user.
Now that we’ve dispelled the “SEO is dead” rumors by examining how the practice is evolving, let’s take a look to see where it’s heading.
The New Mobile Revolution
You don’t need to be a statistician to know that we live in an increasingly mobile world. Take one look around, and you see people glued to their phones and tablets. Mobile now accounts for over half of all website traffic across the globe.1 In fact, you’re probably reading this on a mobile device right now.
But what does all this mean? You need:
- Mobile Friendliness
For starters, your website needs to be mobile-friendly. Slow mobile loading speeds can drive up your bounce rates and dramatically affect your rankings. Also, remember that local searches are typically done using a phone or tablet, so don’t forget to optimize your site for local searches, too.
- App Store Optimization
Known as “ASO,” this process of optimizing your mobile apps to rank higher in app store searches is an overlooked technique, but one that can yield powerful results. The increase in visibility that ASO grants you can drive traffic to your app’s page and get people to download it. Since 63% of apps are discovered through app searches, this is an ideal way to dramatically use this secret weapon to create high rankings and success for your app.2
The ever-increasing amount of mobile usage is just the tip of the iceberg. There are three primary developments on the horizon that are about to completely change the face of SEO (again). Let’s take a look:
One of the single biggest factors in revolutionizing SEO will be voice search and the way we approach it. Voice search is becoming more widespread, and will continue to do so. It’s estimated that by 2020, 50% or more of searches will be conducted by voice.3 This means that keywords will need to change to more closely mimic natural speech patterns and be longer-tailed.
For instance, the way you type is different than the way you speak. So while you might type, “Philadelphia best sushi,” when spoken it would more likely be “where’s the best sushi in Philadelphia?” Even though it’s a subtle difference, it’s one that you can capitalize on to give you the advantage over competitors.
And voice search isn’t just relegated to mobile devices. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has now infiltrated our homes, so optimizing your content for devices like Cortana, Alexa, and Siri allows you a way to not only adapt to the changing digital landscape, but thrive in it.
Leveraging the technology behind visual search requires a greater SEO focus than previously implemented, but this function will be big in 2019 and 2020, offering many opportunities for industries like travel, fashion, and home décor.
- Google Image Optimization
Earlier this year, Google removed the “view image” button from Google Images. This small but significant change has once again made image SEO a potent factor in driving image traffic. Clearly, image optimization is no longer something to be overlooked. In fact, when properly executed, optimizing for Google Images can help you increase traffic to your site. By optimizing ALT tags and file names, and compressing images before you publish them on your site, you can drive more relevant search results. You’ll also increase your download speeds and provide Google with information and context for your image.
Since over three-fourths of the U.S. has a social media account, it’s no surprise that the consumption of social content isn’t just on the rise, it’s skyrocketing.5 And while 3 billion searches per day are conducted on Google, 2 billion searches per day are done on Facebook.6 This shows social sites aren’t just a favorite destination for networking, but they’re also preferred for searches by many people.
As users continue to seek content from social media sites, content marketing efforts will need to shift beyond merely your site or blog and foray into social media. When your business shows up for a search result, your website should always be listed first on a search page. And if properly optimized, your social media channels should be listed directly underneath. Don’t forget — your website is who you say you are, but your social media presence is who others think you are.
The Bottom Line
As long as there are search engines, there will be SEO, hence the name. You’ll always need to optimize your site to not only allow visitors to find you, but to want to find you. And that’s where focusing on the user’s experience comes in. By ensuring that your content’s relevant and valuable, you can keep drawing users to your site and weather any changes that SEO might have in store.
And what’s to come in the future? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure — we’ll be here, analyzing the data, keeping up on trends, reading the stats, and providing you with up-to-date information and guidance to succeed in this ever-changing landscape.