If you’re a business owner who has yet to get on the SEO bandwagon, this post is for you. If you’re one of those people who can’t resist reading another “SEO is dead” pronouncement, then feel free to stick around.
What Is Seo?
SEO is in an acronym for search engine optimization. Overtime it has come to mean much more, particularly in the last couple of years. When a business says it wants or needs SEO, it means it wants help showing up in Google. But what’s a blog post without a link to the source of all knowledge? Here’s the Wikipedia definition of SEO:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.
Fundamentally, that definition is still valid, though I would add general brand visibility could be as important for many businesses as simply ranking a web page. This would certainly be the case for someone such as an attorney, but that’s another post. So, if SEO as defined by Wikipedia is not dead, what death am I referring to?
The Old SEO Ways Are Dying
Optimizing for search engines has changed quite a bit since the mid-90’s. In those days it was an arcane science. Those in “the know” could make Google dance to their own music (did it work for Lycos and AltaVista?). It was largely about gaming the system. Hackers, coders, uber IT geeks, et al ruled the roost. Some of them probably even made $5000 a day on Google, bought shiny, red sports cars and had supermodels hanging on each arm.
Up until just a couple of years ago, you could still just go buy some SEO (a.k.a. links) and POOF!- instant top rankings. Google has evolved (and is always evolving). The old ways are dying, if not mostly dead.
Business owners late to the game often come with this old mentality. As we said in the old country, “Bless their hearts. They’re doing the best they can.” Their (yours?) outdated understanding of SEO is from 5 years ago, at least. What worked then isn’t going to work now. A paradigm shift is needed. Though there are still many technical aspects to it, SEO requires more than the IT department. Marketing, PR and Sales have got to be involved. Everyone from the CEO/owner to the new kid in the mail room and the receptionist have a role to play. SEO is now a team sport.
Tricks and gimmicks still seem to work (some times), but most businesses need to stay far away from those. Forget the notion that there is some technical trick or slight of hand that’s going to get the job done. “Sprinkle some magic SEO dust on my web stuff, please.” You can’t just add some SEO (i.e. keywords or links) to your website and start hauling in the customers or leads. That way of SEO should be dead to you.
Here are 4 components to the SEO that’s alive & kicking:
Your website needs to be healthy and fit. It needs to work well. Depending on your niche, it might need to look great, but probably not. Your website alone won’t win the day, but if you don’t cross this threshhold, you’re dead in the water. If you don’t have a car, you can’t win the Indy 500 (shameless local reference).
By content I mean everything that isn’t merely copy for a page on your website (let’s not argue that point). This is all the articles, blog posts, photos, videos, podcasts, infographics, email newsletters, etc. that you’re going to publish on your website and 3rd party websites, from other blogs to YouTube. Old ways = no content needed. New ways = no content, no soup for you. Everyone in the organization can be and should be involved. Content generated by your users (a.k.a. customers and clients) would also be great.
You know the social stuff isn’t going away, right? You’ve laid to rest the notion that it’s simply a waste of time or a novelty, right? Hopefully you’re not still thinking it’s only for young slackers and retirees. Social is serious business. If the search engines think it’s important, and they do, then it is important, critically so, to you. Your company, and everyone involved, needs to be engaged appropriately and strategically. There are also no magic tricks with social, so stay away from things that sound to good to be true. BTW, social media will be a primary distribution channel for the content you’re producing.
I’m no PR expert, but I think the basic concept has to do with relating to the public in a way that benefits your reputation. Public relations requires content (i.e. words in some form). People search for and find this content via search engines. All businesses can do PR online, some also need to do “traditional” media relations and advertising. If you care about your reputation, you need to care about SEO. BTW, social media should be a core part of your PR efforts. BTW, PR efforts can also produce valuable content.
What About Links And Keywords?
Links and keywords still matter. In fact, they matter a great deal. You need to target the right keywords and do it in a good way (there are bad ways to do it). A little of this is technical, but most has to do with the copy on the page. You need honest, quality links to get traffic and rank well. Good content, along with robust social media engagement and PR efforts, will most likely yield all the links you need. Keep in mind, the more competitive your market, the harder it will be, but isn’t that always true?
People are looking for stuff. Business want to make it easy for their stuff to be found. Regardless of the label, that concept has been around at least since the Sears catalog first came out. SEO is not dead. It won’t die until there are no more search engines, and then we’ll simply call it search optimization.
P.S. For those of you dying to watch the Monty Python dead parrot skit, here it is.