Anyone in the SEO industry who has had their finger on the pulse of the digital marketing blogosphere over the past 12 months could be forgiven for thinking that they’ll be out of a job soon. While proclamations such as “SEO is dead” have been around as long as the industry itself, such sentiments have been rifer in the last year than ever before.
Considering the not-so-insignificant algorithm changes that have occurred since February 2011, some of this talk is perhaps understandable. But when people start making hyperbolic claims like SEO only has two more years to live, I have to put my foot down.
There is no doubt that social media shares on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will become increasingly important in the future, particularly in industries that naturally inspire dialogue on these platforms. But it is still going to be some time before Google can rely on social shares alone to gauge the popularity and trustworthiness of EVERY website. I mean, are you seriously going to rave to all of your friends on Facebook and Twitter about your favourite packaging and warehousing company?
Admittedly there are companies who have launched very successful social media campaigns in “boring” industries – ComparetheMarket.com’s Compare the Meerkat campaign in the insurance industry being an obvious example. But to suggest that one day Google will expect every business to have the creative vision and resources to pull something like this off is completely ludicrous.
In the meantime, link building and onsite optimisation are still alive and well, and will continue to be into the future. Certainly effective execution of these practices has changed quite a bit in the last 18 months, but the practices themselves have not. Let’s take a closer look:
|SEO Practice||Then (Pre-Panda, Pre-Penguin)||Now (Post-Panda, Post-Penguin)|
|Blog Links||Paid blog links on blog networks, “flogs” and MFA sites, regardless of whether they have a legitimate readership.||Free (content exchange) guest blog post links on high quality blogs with social signals and an audience of dedicated readers.|
|Directory Submissions||Mass automated submissions with duplicate descriptions, to low quality, free directories with no review process.||Manual submission to carefully selected paid, human reviewed, niche and local directories. Unique descriptions written for each submission.|
|Press Releases||Used mostly to generate links, regardless of whether the release is actually newsworthy.||If it’s not newsworthy, don’t bother. The links will barely count.|
|Blog Comments||Blast them out with automated software.||Do it to build relationships and gain some direct traffic, not for links.|
|Onsite Optimisation||Optimise for search engines, with user experience purely an afterthought.||Optimise for users first, search engines second (but still get those keywords in the title tags!)|
|Content||Outsource it to a third-world country, scrape it, spin it, whatever…just make sure you get some keywords in there.||If your content isn’t helpful, engaging and above all, UNIQUE, you might as well up your paid search budget now (you’ll likely be paying more per click there too). On the other hand, if you can learn how to create effective link-bait, you might never have to spend another dime on PPC.|
|Keyword Targeting||Aggressive targeting of a few lucrative, high volume terms.||Modest targeting of a broader range of keywords, carefully chosen by evaluating a combination of volume, Adwords CPC, product profit margin, PPC conversion rate, the highest ranking realistically attainable and the corresponding distribution of traffic.|
|Anchor Text||Exact match anchor text, over and over again.||Partial match anchor text, branded anchor text and occasional “noise” anchors i.e. “click here”.|
|Domain Selection||If your primary keyword is available as a domain, buy it!||It’s all about branding – don’t use a keyword as your domain name unless it’s going to easily roll off the tongue of your customers.|
I can say without a doubt, that the practices I’ve listed in the last column of the table above not only still work, but work extremely well. Anyone who is willing to take the necessary measures to get their onsite optimisation down textbook first, and follow it up with the link building techniques mentioned above (at a velocity just above that of the competition), can expect to achieve solid first page rankings for competitive keywords in most verticals.
What do you think? Agree/disagree with the ideas put forth in this article? I’d like to hear from you in the comments!