You’re probably sick of hearing by now that you need to become an expert on search engine optimization to have any success online.
“SEO is no longer just a job title; it has become part of everyone’s job description,” says SEO expert Rand Fishkin at the beginning of a new SEO guide by gigantic web hosting company GoDaddy.
So it might come as a relief to hear from other quarters that “SEO is dead,” as counter-expert Sean Jackson writes in an article with that title. “The term too often aligns our work with unprofessional practices like link buying and web spamming for article placement….Yes, SEO is officially dead.”
SEO is dead but it’s also kind of not-dead
Overall, the SEO-is-dead crowd offers an appealing message to web marketers: Don’t worry too much about making search engines happy. Just write for people. Then, the search engines will like your content too and the traffic will flow.
But if you’ve read much of their stuff, then you know that there’s always a “yes, but” among the SEO-is-dead crowd.
Jackson, for example, says you still need to do the traditional SEO tactic of using keywords in your online headlines. But the confusing thing is, headlines should be different on YouTube than on Twitter. And where does Google fit in with all this?
Well fear not, fearless online marketer. This blog post will definitely sort out whether SEO is really dead or not and what you still need to do to get the benefit of what we used to call SEO. Or maybe we still call it that?
When SEO is dead and when SEO is un-dead
So here’s the answer. Based on my own highly opinionated opinion of course.
SEO is dead if it means:
- “Black hat” gimmicks like stuffing keywords, creating fake web pages just to use keywords (eg, “plumbing supplies Cleveland,” “plumbing supplies Cincinnati,” “plumbing supplies Dayton”) or buying links from the Ukraine.
- Highly technical stuff with metatags that only an SEO guru can explain to you.
- Almost anything it takes an SEO guru to explain.
But SEO is alive and well if it means:
- Creating online content that people want to see — mostly texty stuff like blog posts and web pages but also multimedia like videos and podcasts.
- Polishing that content to make it discoverable on Google but also at places that aren’t search engines, from Facebook to Pinterest.
- Continuing to use the traditional tactics that still work to help algorithms find content and put it in context, such as adding keywords to headlines. But it’s no longer enough to worry only about Google’s algorithm — you also need to make your content discoverable on social media, where you need to grab the attention of humans. “If your headline is meant for social media, you can make it slightly longer and bizarre, emotion-rich, devoid of keywords, and based on shock or curiosity factor” says CoSchedule.com.
- Doing stuff that traditional SEO never imagined, like making your content look good on phones.
Now you need to get a convertible
Maybe more important than making your content discoverable, says Copyblogger, is making it convertible. That is, creating and publishing stuff that will give visitors something to do once they get to your website.
And that something should not just be looking around and admiring your pretty pictures. It should be visitors taking an action that helps your marketing. That means signing up for your email list, giving you their name and phone number on a landing page in exchange for an e-book or even buying something from your e-commerce store.
If old-timey SEO was only about discovery on Google, then today’s SEO-plus is about 1) discovery in both Google and on social media plus 2) conversion on your website.
That’s why SEO skeptic Jackson wants to rename the activity of helping people find your website and getting them to do something you want when they arrive:
Think about it: When you optimize your site, is it just so that it will rank in Google … or are your goals wider than that?
Absolutely, for many sites, traffic from Google is important. But sites get traffic from a variety of sources — social media, related blogs, and so forth.
Are search engines the only source of valuable traffic? Of course not. Yet we still call the tactics of optimizing for organic traffic “SEO.”
Silly isn’t it?
Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, or “OC/DC” for short, encapsulates this idea of amplifying the overall reach and results of content creation.
As a name for all this, SEO may be misleading and outdated. But the term is so entrenched that it’s going to take a lot of campaigning for OC/DC or anything else to replace SEO.
All your questions answered
What you need to know about SEO, or whatever you want to call it when you try to make your website discoverable on Google and social media, is that all your questions will never be answered.
Because technology is always changing, there will always be something new to learn. Don’t be intimidated by the possibilities. The Perfect is the enemy of the Good. Just do as much as you can for now.
There’s value in keeping it simple — you can just create and share good content and let good webhosting and a high-quality website platform (such as WordPress) take care of the technical side of SEO. Or, you can dig deeper and tweak every headline on your site to display the top keywords that your audience searches for.
As long as you’re not going black-hat, it’s better to do something than nothing.
To do its part, Copyblogger offers a very handy infographic to help online marketers start thinking outside the SEO box and start combining discovery with conversion.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group