If you’ve read any recent marketing think pieces, you’ve probably seen the headlines: “SEO IS DEAD!”
But here’s the thing: They’re wrong.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, isn’t dead, it has evolved. And it isn’t something you should neglect when creating content to attract visitors to your website. A 2014 report from Shareaholic found that 1/3 of all website traffic came from web searches.
Understanding how SEO has evolved and how it can work for you means that you will be able to continue to bring more visitors to your website. By staying on top of how SEO continues to change, you’ll ensure no shortage of interested visitors who are likely to become potential and then dedicated customers.
Focus on content, not keywords
Google’s algorithms are (constantly) changing, and one of the most jarring was in the change that came about in the late 1990s. It was in response to creators who engaged in keyword stuffing, in hopes that it would bump their sites up to the coveted spot on the top of the first search results page.
What makes your business, your web presence, stand out from the pack? Why do repeat clients and customers choose your site over another? 70% of all search engine clicks are on organic links rather than on paid links.
If you create content that your visitors want, they will click! Create engaging, useful content that your visitors need that no one else is giving them because only you can.
Use long-tail phrases, not single keywords
Once you’ve cracked the content code, incorporate long-tail keywords. Figure out what phrases, rather than single words, people can use to find your specific site: “custom hand-lettered prints,” rather than “prints."
Again, these should be tied to what makes your brand different from all the rest. Once you’ve figured those out, use them consistently and organically in your content.
Understand how the search experience is changing
In the future, look for the rise of voice searches.(We welcome our computer overlords.) People on their phones ask Siri and Cortana for help, rather than opening a browser to type a query. Talking to search will become even more prevalent. People do not ask a question the same way that they would type it, so here is another way in which long-tail keywords will be useful.
While you might type, “custom prints” into a search box, if you are speaking to someone at a store, you’re more likely to say something like, “I’m looking for custom, hand-lettered prints." Soon, you will be saying that directly to your computer.
Google first integrated artificial intelligence into its search algorithm with the release of Google Panda in 2011, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. In 2013, Google released “OK Google,” which allows for a user to give a voice command and search hands-free.
With this move into a Jetsonian future, Google needed to be able to do a “semantic search”—it needed to be able to understand not just the words a user spoke, but her intent in using those specific words together.
RankBrain, released in 2015, helps Google interpret and process search queries, especially long-tail keywords. Google has the ability to “understand” web content and to provide specific search results that are going to be closer to, if not exactly what, users are looking for.
Don’t focus on your title tags
Backlinko analyzed in 2016 1 million Google search results to answer the question, “Which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings?” Among their key findings was “a very small relationship between title tag keyword optimization and ranking,” which they attribute to Google’s use of Semantic Search.
On the other hand, “content rated as ‘topically relevant’ (via MarketMuse), significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth.” The ways that SEO are currently changing mean that you can worry less about your title tags and more about the quality of the content that you are publishing.
SEO isn’t dead, dying, or even undead, no matter what anyone tells you. (No need to worry about a SEO-zombie apocalypse.) Keyword stuffing, focusing on your title tags, and engaging in shortcut tricks to attempt to fool the increasing intelligence of algorithms won’t cut it anymore when it comes to SEO. Making sure that you are creating and delivering your own standout content, searchable with long-tail keyword phrases, will. Inbound marketing leads are 61% less expensive than outbound marketing leads. Creating engaging and useful content that your visitors want will ensure that they are able to find you.