I was until recently supposed to be speaking at this years LAC conference with a number of well respected SEO’s such as David Naylor, Nick Garner, Paul Reilly and Judith Lewis. I was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute to the IGB magazine as the topic as to whether or not SEO was dead – the topic of the panel at LAC this Friday (from 2:30 for those interested in attending)
SEO isn’t dead its merely evolving
Over the last couple of years, it’s become almost common place to read about SEO’s impending decline particularly in the aftermath of an increasingly frequent raft of updates and upgrades by Google. There is no doubt particularly over the last 12 months or so, These changes really have seen significant changes, both in terms of the rankings themselves but more tellingly in how many people both agency and affiliate approach their SEO.
Affiliates in particular have had it harder than most. Updates such as Panda and Penguin have made it increasingly difficult to scale link building quickly – and many old school tactics that used to provide many of us affiliates with a good source of revenue have increasingly been the focal point of Google – as they increasingly look to new signals to understand intent and relevance
Back in the day, things used to be so easy. Certainly when I started, much of my SEO ills could be solved very much by well structured content – and lots of it. In many cases well optimised on-site content was enough to compete reasonably effectively, though I would suggest that was probably down more to the lack of competition than anything else.
As sites became better optimised and more and more sites looked to SEO as a source of traffic, other factors became increasingly important in terms of ensuring your site appeared above anyone else – links. Not that links weren’t important before – but when everyone is more equal from a technical perspective – other factors have to come into play. As SEO’s we are almost programmed to look for the next opportunity – and when we find it – we exploit it. For many years, links have remained at the forefront of many SEO campaigns for both agencies and affiliates alike. In that time we have become almost ingrained into link acquisition as the focal point of our campaigns, but Panda and Penguin have changed things and changed things significantly.
In the last 12 months we have seen a significant shift towards inbound/content marketing – new industries born out of the changing SEO landscape. Affiliates have seen their footprint across the gaming landscape change – and their stranglehold in many high impact search phrases diminish. This in particular would appear to be where Panda in particular has been particularly potent – however one may argue this is symbolic of the sector itself. It’s interesting thus to still see the sector and affiliates evolve yet again with affiliates still dominant in the affiliate space when it comes to social proofing – indicative perhaps that there is still a place for affiliates within the organic landscape….
…But I digress.
What we are increasingly seeing within SEO is the increasing footprint of social. Google using this ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ concept is nothing new – as links are arguably an early example of Google looking to ascertain wider influence by looking at what people are sharing.
Take that forward 15 years, and Google needs to evolve. Links are arguably no longer a reliable metric to ascertain relevance and Google is increasingly looking to other avenues to determine relevance – and now more than ever that is not on a one size fits all approach – but on a case by case basis.
Links no longer are a reliable source of reference – as this fits very much behind the old school logic. One cannot personalise based on links only, so they have had to look to social to determine relationships between people and sites, and more importantly people and people.
As SEO’s therefore we cannot simply rest on whats worked in the past. This isn’t something Google is doing on a whim. One only has to look at the increasing footprint of where Google is now part and parcel of our everyday lives from Google Android phones, to Chrome Browsers, to Chrome OS and now Tablets and Google Play. That on-top of very personal tools such as Gmail and Google+ give Google a fantastic insight into our likes, dislikes, relationships and actions – and a fantastic basis for tailoring our search results around this.
Our processes and ways of working therefore have to change. In order to fit into the new SEO environment, we need to look to multiple touchpoints to support our activity. The premise of producing great content still stands, the requirement to ensure Google can index our content, still stands, the need to provide links and references to our content still stands, but now we need to support that with social proofing as standing still simply isn’t an option…..