I just got off the phone with a client of mine in New York and he asked if Google was now making SEO obsolete. This is not a bad question. With all the algorithm changes over the last year – you may have heard of them, Panda, Penguin – many of those in the internet marketing industry have asked the same question. So, is SEO obsolete?
No. As long as websites and other virtual properties continue to be listed in search results, there will always be SEO. It may seem as though there is no discernible logic to how web properties are ranked, but Google, Bing and Yahoo do have a system for this. It may not seem to make sense when an ugly, poorly optimized website is ranking above yours, but there is a mathematical formula that determines how websites are placed in search results. Our job as SEO consultants, is to figure out that formula, or algorithm.
So the obvious question: Have we figured out that formula? Nobody knows the formula, primarily because Google engineers are smarter than everyone else and Google has a lot more money than we do. But their biggest weapon is change. By making minor updates to their search algorithm on a weekly basis and major updates several times a year, it is nearly impossible to decode their complicated search algorithm. But the important thing to remember is that we don’t need to.
Visibility in search is very fundamental. What has changed is that an SEO cannot “get you to the top of Google” by gaming the system. In the old days (last year) it was possible to move your website to the top of search in a very short period of time. If that is one’s definition of SEO, then yes, SEO is dead. But if you want a sustainable presence online, you have to work for it. You can’t hire an SEO to do all the work for you either. You have to be a participant in your own online success. And why shouldn’t you? Customers are out there waiting for you to sell to them. You just need a little guidance on what resources to use to help you find them.
To list all those resources would make this blog post much too long. Just try to remember what Google wants for consumers. Clearly, they want to provide them with the information for which they are searching. So your site should be full of helpful information. Easy enough, right? Google also wants consumers to find that information in as few clicks as possible so design your website as if it were the final destination in you customer’s search. They should get all the information they need right on your site.
It’s also important to establish yourself as an authority in your business. Participate in social media platforms and forums regarding your industry. Not only will this help your “authority,” but it’s a good way to get new business.
I no longer seek out new business, but when I did, I used to hang out in SEO forums and help business owners for free by answering their Google questions. Many saw me as a pro and would hire me to market their websites – too easy.
Increase your online footprint. Your business should be in every directory you can find that will allow your business to be listed, especially those that are related to your industry. If you own a hotel, for example, and are not prominently displayed in tripadvisor.com or hotels.com, then you are making a big mistake. Many of these sites allow for customer reviews of your business so you better be engaging your reviewers. Thank them for their review and address their complaints, nicely.
There is a lot more you can do, but by giving the search engines what they want, you will always be ahead of your competition. There is no reason to try and game the system. That’s a shortsighted approach and will eventually land you in trouble. Play by the rules and your online visibility will grow, but more importantly, it will be sustainable and impervious to algorithm updates. SEO is not obsolete, it’s just gotten real.