For years, people have predicted the supposedly imminent demise of one of the most essential digital marketing techniques. Every time there's an update to Google's algorithm or a new digital marketing trend comes along, there are a flood of articles and blog posts announcing the death of SEO.1
The very fact that you are reading this proves that the art of search engine optimisation has survived all challenges. SEO is here to stay. Some methods may evolve and new techniques may emerge, but good digital marketing will always need strong search rankings and traffic.
Keep calm and carry on
Each update to a search engine algorithm attempts to make it harder for tricks and loopholes to game the system. It is these tricks and 'black hat' methods that die out, or at least struggle to achieve the same results after the change.
Tricks are eventually found out. They might be an attractive shortcut to social media glory with quick rewards, but they can turn your online marketing strategy into a house of cards, ready to collapse in a moment should the wind change. You might survive one update only to be completely wiped out with the next.
The Penguin and Panda updates saw some websites plummet down the Google search rankings, as the algorithm tightened up its ability to assess the quality of the content, backlinks and other indicators in its index.2 Websites offering quality content while adhering to Google's Webmaster Guidelines, however, may have seen little to no change to their rankings. Or, even a slight bump upwards.
If a marketer sees their search marketing strategy crumble due to a search engine update, they were probably focusing on the wrong areas anyway. True SEO starts and ends with quality content. There are no shortcuts.
SEO and social merge
For a long time digital marketing seemed to be split between two gangs – the search marketers on one side and the social media marketers on the other. More recently, a third gang has arrived on the scene: the content marketers.
In many ways, content marketing has brought the various disciplines together, uniting the different channels towards a common goal. But Google always saw these different silos as part of the same mix. Social media activity has had an influence on search rankings for many years.3 With as many as 74 per cent of Google searches performed by users logged into a Google profile, search results have become far more personalised.4
Social media has a major role to play in the personalisation of search results. So instead of viewing search and social as separate silos within your marketing strategy, view them as two sides of the same coin.
SEO best practice
No matter what changes, some search engine optimisation tasks are here to stay.
Always focus on producing the best possible content. Don't produce low-quality content just to target certain keywords.
Make sure the meta title and meta description of each page is written to look attractive, relevant and compelling, as these are what are displayed in the search results.
Take time to research the right keywords and match them to the right content and don't overuse them in your copy. Using the same keywords too many times (stuffing) can be just as bad as not using them at all.
Check that your CMS (Content Management System) formats URLs in a search-friendly format. Use descriptive URLs, ideally containing your top keyword, and not long chains of random characters.
Add regular fresh content. The more often you post new content, the more attention the search engines will give you.
Encourage natural backlinks with great content that others will want to share via social media or link from their websites. Never pay for backlinks.
SEO will never die as long as there are search engines to drive website traffic.
How has your search marketing strategy changed over the years?
1 SEO is here to stay, it will never die, Danny Sullivan, September 9, 2010
2 Google Panda two years later: losers still losing & one real recovery, Matt McGee, February 24, 2013
3 What social signals do Google and Bing really count?, Danny Sullivan, December 1, 2010
4 The impact of encrypted Google searches on online marketing, Marc Purtell, September 30, 2013
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.