SEO is absolutely not dead. As long as people use search engines like Google search, SEO will be alive, valuable and can be extremely cost effective and very much necessary. What has changed, and will continue to change, is the SEO landscape.
So, let’s look at the new landscape and what is driving it with the big boys like Facebook and Google.
Purchase intent keywords are now:
Dominated by huge brands that 99% of the world can’t outrank (without spamming which will get you in trouble.)Returning less product pages and more articles and other forms of content that are considered “Valuable” or “quality”.
Triggering the knowledge graph, review aggregates, and focused on more user focused results.
So, given these truths, If we want to increase these traffic trended going into the future, what can we do?
There are three main things:
Pay for it:
What? But that seems to go against what we think about SEO?
Not really. This is an often overlooked part of SEO that is referred to as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. One of the more common forms of this is display ads or Pay per Click (PPC). This is best used as a ‘remarketing’ strategy. The idea is to cast a wide net across the web, grab as many “fish” or users as possible and then, when the users are ready to purchase, use highly targeted paid ads to get them to make that purchase with you. It’s more or less like fishing in a tide pool at low tide. You get the fish into the pool and then wait until they have a hard time swimming away and go fishing. Or to coin another often used term, shooting fish in a barrel.
Create valuable content:
Many of the top pages these days are dominated by results that have content that compares ratings, product pricing, or other information on products or services. On top of this, you can have a local variant in the mix such as a city, region or country.
In these results, instead of trying to jam these pages with links which will result again, in the before mentioned spam issue, the best course of action is to create content that delivers what the search engine like Google or Bing, wants. By creating value with your content, you will also create social media traffic as people link to your content through shares and powerful direct linking from posts.
Another wonderful by product to this is the fact that the review aggregate sites may also link to your content as references or additional information which will further add to your traffic.
This on top of the fact that both Google and Bing have made it abundantly clear that “content is king” on their search engines and are tooling their algorithms to be more “language sensitive” such as the BERT update back in October 2019 which I wrote about here means if you want to compete for those top spots these days, content is, king.
Optimize your website for the web:
Now, this is one of those things many SEO people seem to just pass right over. It’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization), not GO (Google Optimization).
Google is only one of many “indexes” that are called a search engine. In fact, one of the first ones is hardly ever talked about and it was where Google got it’s start, DMOZ, which is the largest search directory in the world. It’s bigger than Google even.
Bing is a search engine. Facebook is a search engine. Twitter is a search engine. Amazon is a search engine. Quora is a search engine. Pinterest is a search engine. YouTube is a search engine. Yelp is a search engine. DuckDuckGo is a search engine…..so why are we always focused on Google?
Well, Google gets about 70%-80% of the searches is why. It has the most “fish” in its ocean to try to catch. But, do you only fish in the ocean? Or do you also fish in rivers, ponds, and lakes?
Also, what kind of fish do you want to catch? Some fish can’t be found in the ocean just like some fish can’t be found in a pond, lake or stream.
So why are you limiting your options when you want fish?
All of these search platforms offer some of the same benefits as well as some unique to their own style and audience. In many cases, Google is not even being used anymore and its move to a more “pay to play” search is a direct result of this. Facebook went to a pay to play strategy long ago and now Google is headed that direction also. Soon, that will be the normal whereas, just a few years ago, people were scoffing at such an idea.
For example, let’s say you are moving and you want to get new furniture.
Now you might think, “Well, I’d go to Google and look for furniture naturally.” and sometimes, you would be right. But more and more, people are cost minded and want options. They want to see what the furntireu looks like, how well does it hold up, where is the best price, what are the delivery options, can I see it before I purchase….all kinds of things. So, social media comes into play and this has changed that to a process that goes something like this:
Pinterest – They use Pinterest search to find inspiration on how to decorate. Using keywords like “home decorating” they narrowed down what kind of furniture they want to specific pieces they like.
Amazon – They then go to Amazon and search with keywords that are based on the furniture they liked on Pinterest.
Ebay – They also check on Ebay and sometimes even Craigslist knowing that they might find cheap, secondhand furniture there still in good condition.
Etsy – Finally, they land on a little known place called, Etsy. Etsy specializes in unique handmade items including furniture. This is not a “cheap” solution but, in the end, they didn’t want “cheap”, they wanted what they wanted and were willing to pay for it.
Now, you could have gone and used Google and do all of these searches. However, the results would have started out much wider and the process would have been much more involved. Many people have become tech smart and know where to start their searches OFF Google. And the trend is continuing. By skipping going to Google, they are starting their searches off in a much smaller body of water and this is why you can not afford to leave these off your SEO checklist.
These specific platforms and search engines are being used to start a user’s search in those much more content focused ways. I used to say, “Do you have a page one Google site?” when I was talking to my clients. This has become, “How much is your presence across the web optimized? Not just on Google?”
Now, let’s take a different situation. Let’s say you’re a local only business wanting to get new clients. You need to target places like Yelp, Thumbtack and other local directories.
Do you have an ecommerce shop? Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all excellent channels.
You need to understand who your target audience is and where they spend their time, then you can attack those platforms and build an organic presence.
We need to understand that times have changed. We can’t just “rank and bank” for whatever we want anymore. Those days are numbered and that number is very quickly spinning down to zero, if it has not realistically already happened. This isn’t a phase. It’s the way it’s going to be going forward.
As both search engines and users get more intelligent about their searches, we must become more intelligent about how we approach marketing. That doesn’t mean looking for ways to beat the search engine algorithms, it means instead to use them to our advantage, just like before.
So no, SEO is not dead. It is, as always, evolving, changing and morphing into something different. And those that fail to adapt, will not survive.
But those that do, will thrive.