There has been an article published today on Mashable about the death of search engine optimisation (SEO), the art/science/jiggerypockery of getting your website to rate highest in a Google search result.
I’d like to make some comments on the article, but before I do and likely to read it… So here it is repeated for you:
What are you hoping for when you search for something on Google?
Are you looking for a site that deployed every SEO tip and trick to game their way to the top of the list? Or a site that has relevant, reliable, authoritative content?
Most likely it is the latter, and it seems Google may want that too. If it happens to represent the antithesis of the results of good SEO, that’s just fine with Google. They don’t make a nickel on your optimized site and they are worried that users may become underwhelmed with their search results if the only links appearing above the fold are those not with the best content but with those deploying the most effective examples of chicanery we know as “SEO.”
When Google in 2013 stopped providing data about keyword popularity, this must have served as a shot across the bow of SEO. It signaled that Google wanted to put a damper on SEO because they had determined it was skewing the results in a way unhelpful to its users.
In the “old” days, SEO was a matter of stuffing your metatags with top keywords; then it became more complicated as Google continued to refine its search algorithm. The current state of SEO, in rather sober fashion, calls for “quality content,” no keyword stuffing, longevity of the domain, lack of duplicate content, a well-ordered site-map and other items more esoteric. Really, it’s become more about just building a great site with great (and focused) content. Phony inbound links are not supposed to cut it anymore, although sometimes this can slip by undetected.
SEO is a big industry. According to a site called State of Digital, 863 million websites mention SEO globally and every second 105 people search for SEO links on Google. Most of them seem to be looking for “services” or “companies,” which explains how there came to be so many SEO companies.
SEO is also an industry full of promises. Despite evidence to the contrary, many SEO mavens continue to insist they can fool the Google algorithm into getting your site – no matter what it is – higher in the rankings. That it is easy to see whether it works when you search for your own company makes it an appealing payoff. But the waters of SEO remain murky and it’s difficult to measure success of SEO in any meaningful way (in other words, even if you got to the top, did it improve your business or did you just accumulate a very high bounce rate?).
Now SEO may be going the way of Megalodon, a 100-foot shark rumored to exist but mostly accepted to have gone extinct a million years ago. If it isn’t functionally dead, it’s certainly in the sick-house. Google does not especially want the SEO industry playing games with its rankings, and what Google wants, especially in a case like this, Google gets.
Customers still ask for “top keyword” reports as if they have not read the news about the unavailability of it – perhaps because they believe that if you wish hard enough for a pony on Christmas, one will eventually find its way under the tree.
It isn’t going to happen.
Certain SEO principles should not be ignored, simply as a matter of site-hygiene. A well-organized, content-rich site is a good thing to have. But most other SEO tricks and tips have just a little bit (if not a lot) of snake-oil in the recipe. It sounds like a great proposition to a site owner: Drink a bottle of SEO and your site will zoom vigorously to the top of the heap. But too often, and partly because Google does not seem to want it to, it doesn’t work as advertised.
There is no good reason for Google to stop trying to stamp out SEO, because in effect, SEO damps the quality of search results for the user. Google is interested in the user – and, as you might have guessed already, it reduces the value of a paid AdWord link. Because Google AdWords is a form of SEO, which really is SEM (search engine marketing); in other words, you optimize your site’s Google performance by bidding on Google keywords whereby Google makes pretty much all of its money.
SEO is not going to get easier. It’s going to get harder and eventually will most likely be next to impossible – because Google’s algorithms are always a step ahead of the marketers trying to game them. And with no keyword reporting, a major support system for SEO has been, quite simply, taken away.
If you want to rank high on Google, build a good site and market it the best you know how. Just don’t expect SEO to be the answer to your traffic-related prayers because, increasingly, it won’t be.
So, here are my thoughts.
Sites that have relevant, reliable and authoritative content.
I totally agree with this, think about it, Google wants to please its customers, so what does Google’s customers want? Google’s customers want high-quality and relevant results to their searches, and this has to be content driven. If someone types a search term and then ends up bouncing back to Google straightaway to try another one of the search results then clearly the initial search result was not relevant or reliable.
This means you need to create great quality content so that when people land on it, they stay on it. You also need to make your site easily navigable to ensure that people click on links and visit more than one page, Google monitors this you know!
Keywords are dead.
Yes I agree with this to a degree, gone are the days where a client should be asking me to rank their website for terms like ” dentist in London”. This is a very old school and narrowminded approach to search engine optimisation, searches are much more varied nowadays, especially with the advent of voice searching facility.
People on searching as often to these short key phrases, they are using much longer phrases and so monitoring these short ones simply becomes a waste of time.
Monitoring for these short phrases means we miss out on some of the longer ones here are some examples of what you could be missing out on if you just want to be found for ” dentist in London”:
- Find me a local dentist
- where are my local dentists
- I want a dental practice in Westminster that open weekends
- I’m looking for an NHS dentist in Marylebone
- where is a dentist close to Euston
these longer phrases are just too numerous to monitor and measure so what’s the point?
Rather than optimising single pages to rank for short phrases like ” dentist in London” by recommendation now is to continue building the website on an ongoing basis, adding more and more pages about more and more subjects with more and more relevant, reliable and authoritative content.
So how do we do this?
Write a blog. When you write your blogs you can write them from different angles. You could talk about local patients in the Marylebone area which have been looking for an NHS dentist and not be able to find one, in this blog post you might mention about ways to find an NHS dentist, the problems with NHS dentistry and the advantages of NHS dentistry.
A blog post such as this would naturally then begin to rank for terms around the NHS, dentist, Marylebone phrases… See what I mean?
Providing authoritative content
What does this mean? Google is now looking for how authoritative you are as an author. So how does Google know how authoritative you are? Simple… Social media!
An absolute essential part of optimisation in the modern world is to link your website to your social media profiles and back again. This creates a circular link which Google can then recognise, your social media posts point to your website and your website points back to your social media profile.
If you write posts on social media which people engage with, like, share and comment on them this demonstrates you are an authoritative figure on the subject about which you speak. If you have lots of followers, fans or contacts on social media this also is a signal to Google that you are an authoritative figure.
Naturally, you may be an authoritative figure outside of the Internet, you may be widely published, you may speak at many conferences… But if Google doesn’t know about this (or you haven’t told them in the correct way) then it will have absolutely no effect on the way your website is found in the search results.
Publishers and Authors
One way of doing this is to link your website to your Google plus business profile, when you do this you should add the rel=publisher attribute to the link (your web designers will be able to do this for you) the link should be placed on your website and it will tell Google plus that your business page is the publisher of this site.
Then when you write a blog post you should add a link back to your Google plus personal profile, when you do this you should at the rel=author attribute to the link (your web designers will be able to do this for you).
An example of this is at the foot of this blog, see my Find Mark on Google+ link…
Doing this will notify Google that your Google plus profile is actively creating content around the Internet (you should actually be doing this every time you write an article and it is published online, they should all link back to your personal Google plus profile as author). This way if your Google plus profile as a comment, share or like it is a signal to Google that you are an authoritative author, this authority will then flow through to the content you write on your website.
Of course this is something that people try to manipulate to pretend they are more authoritative than they actually are and it’s alleged that Google have recently turned off this part of their algorithm. My belief however is that whilst Google may have turned off this part of their algorithm temporarily the principle remains, the more authoritative you are the more Google will like the content you write.
So is SEO dead?
My belief is that it is not dead at all, it is simply changing. There are some basic principles which you need to adhere to in order to ensure that your website ranks, unfortunately many dental practice websites just don’t do this and so they don’t rank!
We are moving away from simple keywords into something far more complex with authority and things like Socially Relevant Searches which seek to change the search results depending upon what your friends on social media have already done. Being aware of this, understanding the system and working that system is modern optimisation… Are you doing it?