The King is dead! Long live the King!
If you have been paying attention to the SEO world over the last 12 months, you have probably heard the cry that “SEO is dead.” SEOMoz changed its name to just Moz in May 2013 and Google Trends shows the phrase “SEO is dead” grew to all time high right after Google released its Hummingbird algorithm update in fall of 2013. Meanwhile, being found on search engines has never been more important to your business’s success than it is now. So what gives?
The truth is that optimizing for search engines is still very important, but it’s a completely different set of activities from what it was just last year. The basic principles are still the same—authority and relevance—but one has to ask the question, “authoritative and relevant for whom?” That is the key question which will be driving SEO and internet marketing in 2015 and the years to come.
Keywords aren’t People.
In the old days (just last year), the average SEO would basically follow the same approach to a new project as she always had. There was always something new to try, but the basic approach was the same. It went something like this:
- Keyword research would reveal a few keyword phrases that looked both profitable and attainable to the SEO and she would create a list of those.
- She would then begin to make sure that each page on her website had the phrases used properly throughout the title and description, header tags, content, etc.
- She would try to build some links for those specific phrases as well as consider some other off-page factors that related to that phrase.
- Finally, she would use a number of pieces of software to track the improvement of her site’s rankings for that specific phrase. If she ranked number 1 for any given phrase, it was considered a success.
This was optimizing for keywords. Success was not measured by how many people found her site useful or if they bought her product or if they told a friend about it. Those factors were all important for other facets of the marketing project, but they weren’t the SEO’s primary concern. The keyword ranking was the goal. But things have changed.
In late 2013, Google launched secure search and began hiding loads of important keyword information from SEOs. Google said that it was a hard decision to make, but they valued their users over the SEO’s access to data. In addition to that, Google has released numerous updates to its algorithms in an effort to penalize spam, black hat techniques and deceitful link networks. Optimizing for keywords both on page and off became very hard and many large businesses like Overstock and Expedia were hit with penalties.
Google was sending a very clear message: We value people over keywords and data.
The point for businesses is that they can’t simply make their site authoritative and relevant for impersonal keyword phrases any more. They have to be authoritative and relevant to the people in their target market.
So what is SEO now?
Optimizing for people is a completely different and much more difficult task. It requires that you actually take the time to learn about the people in your target market and create content that is valuable to them. Google has gotten really smart at rewarding those who are able to do this most effectively and it is vital that your digital marketing campaigns are doing this.
So, here are some seo tips on what your digital marketing campaigns will need to do to rank well with Google and to compete with others in your market.
- (Really, Really) Know your market.
I realize that this sounds very obvious, but by this I mean more than simply knowing what demographic is searching for UGG boots (it’s teenage girls). Know why they are searching for those boots. What are their budgets like? What are their concerns or fears with purchasing a pair? What would keep them from buying them?
Build a persona of this person and then, start to ask what keywords they would search for. Create “keyword clusters” that get at an idea more than just a keyword phrase. By building this detailed persona, you can actually know who the person is you are marketing to.
- Create good content for that persona.
Back when SEOs were writing content primarily to impress Google with keywords, content was written primarily for Google robots. It was clunky and filled with odd phrases that made it very clear which keyword phrase the page was targeting. Now you have to think about that persona above. What do they want to read? Write content, create images and shoot videos that answer all of those fears and concerns above. If they are impressed with the content, they will share it, like it, use it and Google will know about it.
- Earn your links.
This is mostly done by creating really good content. When it is shareable content that is relevant to the market persona you are after, it will get spread in ways you didn’t know were there. You’ll get links more naturally with good content. At the same time, you are probably going to have to get out there and earn links in other ways. Write blog posts for other blogs (more good content) or become someone with something to say in forums, social media and other places. You have got to be part of the conversation that your market is having and you have something unique to say.
- Keep at it.
The truth is that there is no quick fix for SEO any longer. For too long, the SEO world has been about finding quick fixes that tricked robots and algorithms to put sites high in the rankings. This is just not a tenable approach going into 2015 and from there onward. You have got to do that hard work of creating personas, developing really good content and getting it promoted. It is a never ending job and requires a lot of work and patience—but in the end, it’s well worth it.
These changes are all very frustrating for those of us who have been working in the field for a long time. They are not the standard changes. These are big ones which change the game entirely. At Waypost Marketing, however, we are a Greenville SEO company that actually believes this makes the internet a better place. We are excited to be contributing to the information on the internet with quality content, measurable results and no short cuts and that’s exactly what we’re offering our clients with each new campaign we run.
If you are overwhelmed by all of this and would like to learn more. I recommend downloading our free e-book, "10 SEO Mistakes To Avoid During Your Next Website Redesign". In there we start to get a little more in depth with all of this. You are also welcome to call us or contact us online to learn more. We would be happy to talk with you about what we’re doing and maybe find out how we could help you with your SEO campaigns.