Before I give my opinion on the future of SEO, its important for you to understand the concept of SEO. I meet companies every week and usually the first part of the conversation is reserved for education – why SEO (and Online Marketing) is important and how it can generate business.
“I’ve had a website for years and don’t get any business from it.”
A statement that I hear a lot. Many businesses have had a website for some time, but it doesn’t deliver results and firms wrongly assume a website won’t work for them.
The reason why the website didn’t work is probably down to it not being promoted.
“What? My website is my promotion online!”
No it isn’t. Just like your office or your shop isn’t your promotion offline. If people don’t know about your website or cannot find it, it will never perform.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
It’s pretty obvious that if you stop marketing your offline business (or having a shop in the miles away from the high street) it won’t get many/any sales, so why isn’t it obvious the same will occur online? Equally, when you set up a business usually one of the first things you consider is marketing, so why shouldn’t the same consideration be given when you set up business online i.e. get a website?
SEO, the Past. (The Spam Era)
Ranking a website in search in years gone by was far more simplistic – Lots of back links (links from other sites to yours) from directories, articles, link exchanges, link farms, blogs and pretty much anywhere else, tonnes of keywords stuffed everywhere you can (including behind images, the same colour as the background and on landing pages designed solely to attract users searching for a given term.
SEO, the Present. (Content, Content and Some More Content)
Things have changed dramatically in search engine land, many of the SEO tactics of the yesteryear are greeted by Google penalties (manual spam action that results in your site being ranked very poorly or de-indexed).
Successful rankings cannot be achieved by thousands upon thousands of backlinks alone, quality content is essential. Forget stuffing keywords everywhere (of course you need them as after all if they are not on the page you won’t show up) instead, write your website content for people and not Google (but following Google Guidelines – they are there to help) and keep regular fresh new content on your website and social profiles, such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter.
A slightly simplistic summary, but essentially when performing SEO consider Google’s objective which is: To deliver the best quality and relevant results for users.
Don’t cheat the system – penalties suck big time.
SEO, The Future (bye bye “SEO” Hello Popularity Contest)
Here’s the point of this post. The term SEO is dying. In the future you won’t be paying an SEO company to rank your website better, you’ll be paying for “inbound marketing”.
There are more than 500 different factors Google considers when ranking a website, this will continue to grow with emphasis on different areas to what there is now. Here’s some examples of key ranking factors for the future:
No one wants to visit a website with little content, don’t make an effort with your content and Google will make you suffer, grammatical errors, misspellings, light on text and infrequent “fresh” content will not help your rankings.
What a bigger indicator of worthiness than a company that’s raved about socially. If users are sharing your website content, talking about you in online social circles and its relevant to your website, what better way of deciding which website to rank number 1 – one that people love, or one that nobody talks about?
In the form they are in today – dead. Backlinks from relevant sites will always be a factor, but the balance of power will shift from pure “link juice” created through backlinks to the social signals above.
Judging Relevance via Analytics in organic search
If a user goes to your website and second later hits the back button to go to back to the search results then frankly, you shouldn’t have been ranked there in the first place. Google will factor in more data from CTR (click through rates) and Bounce / Exit Rates, if a large percentage of searches for any given term bounce straight off a result that website will fall in rankings as clearly the website isn’t providing users with what they are searching for (relevance).
This is already happening now in personalised search, Googl e the word “Widget”, click on the first result (which is Wikipedia) then click the browser back button, look under the title of the listing, see the line: Block all en.wikipedia.org results?
Click that and you won’t see that result again (When logged in). That WILL become the norm and be used to clean up search results and influence rankings.
Although this blog post is a somewhat brief overview of the past, present and future of SEO it does demonstrate the ever changing world of SEO, or “inbound marketing”. Early adopters of a create a website for people and not Google attitude will reap the rewards as Google’s intelligence grows and search is cleaned up.
The obsession with creating “back links” has to change and make way for an obsession with creating quality content that users want to read (and share). As soon as webmasters put searchers before Google, they’ll see much more progress in their organic search rankings.