Why are we even asking this question?
Over the past couple of years Google has made a number of updates to its search ranking algorithm. That means that the search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics that worked in 2010 no longer cut it. In fact, because Google is constantly changing and updating its algorithm, coming up with a set definition for SEO is increasingly difficult. A few years ago SEO might have conjured thoughts of keyword research and optimisation, today it’s all about creating content.
In the past, various search techniques like ‘cloaking’ (disguising keywords on the page in places that only search engines would find), keyword stuffing (cramming as many keywords onto a page as possible), buying mass links and spinning content all worked. Over time these tactics have come to be known as ‘Black Hat SEO’. They are ‘spammy’ and should be avoided at all costs. In fact, anything in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines should be avoided.
It’s important to remember that Google has not arbitrarily made these changes, but rather, made them because they have been abused. Whenever something gets taken advantage of to the point that search results stop being useful to browsers, or when quality of search result pages is diluted, you can bet that Google and other search engines will make changes to their ranking algorithms. Therefore, whatever you do online, do it with your end user in mind. Never mind Google (for the most part). So long as you’re incorporating those words and phrases that your target audience might use to find your page or website, you should be fine.
Today, in a post-Panda/Penguin world (names of two of Google’s major algorithm updates), content has become the new SEO. This has given rise to the marketing channel known as ‘content marketing’, the point of which is to attract users with useful content, to keep them on the website and to encourage them to return. As a consequence, a website that provides its users with great content will be likely to have a low bounce rate and a high number of returning visitors that view a number of pages on the site. Google views all of these things as positive and will therefore be more likely to give the website in question a boost in rank.
Over the past couple of years, SEO has become more technical. Now, in order to rank well in the search engine result pages (SERPs), you will also need to ensure that your website is quick to load, optimised for mobile viewing and usage and that it has been built well.
The SEO that you should NOT be doing:
- Keyword stuffing
- Cloaking (aka: hiding keywords on the page)
- Duplicating content
- Buying links
The SEO you SHOULD be doing:
- Creating useful, interesting content in order to naturally attract links
- Using keywords that your customers will be using (not that a keyword tool dictates you use)
- Internal linkbuilding on your own website
- Technical SEO (mobile device optimisation, website speed, accessibility)
- Optimising your site for engagement
Words to the wise
1. While we have said you shouldn’t be worried about creating content purely in order to rank (in the ‘old days’ that meant content stuffed with your keywords), you should still be creating content that incorporates those terms your users will be typing in to find your website/services/content. This is especially true thanks to updates like ‘Hummingbird’ – another Google algorithm change – that puts an emphasis on the way something has been phrased (primarily in aid of more conversational search). Naturally, this will mean you are still using keywords. That’s fine but remember to do so in a manner that is user-friendly and that also helps a customer understand a web page. Good places to use key terms include your page URL, your meta description and meta title and on your page, including within page headings and within content.
2. Artificial linkbuilding IS bad. REAL linkbuilding is good. As we said, don’t buy links. That’s old. That’s Black Hat SEO. That’s exactly the type of SEO that will get you penalised. If you’re creating great content (and sharing it), your links should naturally accrue. Likewise, make sure to keep an eye on people that are linking to you. If you do find that there are low quality sites sending traffic your way (use Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to check this), you can use the Disavow Tool to remove them. Be careful. Before you do this, make sure you understand the repercussions.
3. Get a digital agency to review your website if:
- a. It is slow to load
- b. Your site has been built and edited by a number of people (this may mean that your code is messy or that it is not being stored OFF the page)
- c. You need to / have redirected a large number of pages
- d. You get a number of 401 messages for pages that are no longer available
- e. You partook in any spammy linkbuilding tactics in the past
So, the answer to our initial question ‘is SEO still relevant in a world focused on quality content?’ is…YES! It may have changed a little but it’s still important and providing you’re doing things that will benefit your customers, you should generally be staying on Google’s good side. In essence follow the Google motto: do no evil and you’ll be just fine.