SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the art of making a search engine (most commonly, Google) like your website. Why is that important?
If you’re a plumber and Google likes your website, anytime someone searches for ‘plumbing services,’ you’ll be the first person they contact.
Twenty two thousand people search for ‘plumbing services’ on Google every month. You do the math.
The problem is no one can really claim to know exactly how Google chooses its favorites. The ins and outs of the algorithms are so complicated that even if they were public knowledge, no one would be able to say for certain they knew how to ‘rank’ at the top of the search engine result pages.
SEO, then, boils down to very careful and deliberate trial and error. And when the SEO professionals get to a point where they think they’ve figured out what Google likes, a new algorithm update comes along, and it’s almost back to square one.
With every new algorithm update, naysayers start chiming in with cries of ‘SEO is dead.’ However, is that really the case? If not, will it be so in the future?
Is SEO dead?
The short answer – no.
As long as there is more than one answer to a user query, there will have to be a ranking system. One answer will have to be in front of the next.
As long as there is a ranking system, there will be ways to conform to it or deviate from it. SEO is the path to conforming to the ranking system.
In other words, SEO will never be dead.
The paradox is – the more SEO experts get to know the algorithm, the more they make their job difficult. An SEO agency is always working against itself, in a way.
Some of the most powerful SEO tactics abuse the flaws in the algorithm. That brings Google’s attention to the imperfections in their product which they promptly remedy in their updates. This forces the SEO community to abandon their tactics and search for ever more sophisticated ways to signal their value to the search engine.
It’s a feedback loop that’s not in the SEO’s advantage.
As Google’s algorithms keep evolving and optimizing for user satisfaction, the tactics that SEO experts have to employ have to adapt to it.
Old tactics vs. New tactics
In the olden days of yore (that means ten or so years ago), Google’s algorithms were so simple to fool that a lot of obviously toxic strategies worked.
For example, Google used to judge the relevancy of a webpage based on the number of times the search query appeared on it. If you wanted to sell shoes through a website, all you had to do was input the word ‘shoes’ as many times as you could in the page’s meta description.
When the SEO community found this out, they abused the feature to their advantage.
Now, obviously, the fact that you wrote the word ‘shoes’ many times does not make you an authority on footwear. Google rectified this exploit and now even penalizes the people who spam the keywords on their page.
The same is true for backlinks.
A backlink is a link from another website back to yours. Someone is writing an article about shoes, and they cite you as an authority on the subject. Google absolutely adores this and grants your website the infamous, elusive and indefinable ‘link juice’ and pushes it up the rankings.
When the SEO community found out about this, they started creating facetious links back to their websites to increase their authority in Google’s eyes.
This again started the feedback loop – Google started to make their backlink authority system more and more elaborate, sophisticated and discerning.
Now, you even get penalties for backlinks from poor quality websites. It’s even a well known tactic to get rid of your competition – send a bunch of bogus backlinks from shady websites to your competitor, and Google will penalize them if they don’t notice it and disavow the links.
The future of SEO
Granted, we don’t know exactly how Google’s algorithms work. But we do know one thing for certain.
The best signal your website can send to the search engine is the following: a user types in a query, finds your website on the results page, and doesn’t go back there afterward.
That means that the user has found what they were looking for on your website. And that is Google’s goal – providing their users with useful information.
The point is this:
Yes, there are ways you can structure your website to make it more search engine friendly. But that’s just common sense – having a clear and structured pathway for the engine’s crawler, with pages sitting in the right place.
Yes, you’ll be better off if you research the correct phrasing that people use when they search for your type of product and include it in your website’s content.
Yes, Google will value your website better if high authority websites link back to it.
But your goal should be this – to satisfy the user visiting the website, not the crawler indexing it.
That’s the real future of SEO. No matter how the algorithm changes and what the current trends in the SEO community dictate, one thing will remain certain. A satisfied visitor will boost your rankings more than any optimization you can make in the meta titles and descriptions.
Google’s algorithm is getting more and more sophisticated in the way it parses quality content from spammy content. The game of SEO is one of constant reevaluation of your tactics.
The only constant is that you need to provide useful content, become a real authority on your topic and help your site’s visitors find what they’re looking for.
Google doesn’t offer anything on its own – it only acts as the middleman between the internet user and the content provider. Keep this in mind and optimize for the customer, much more than you optimize for the engine.