In the last 10 years, I’ve heard many stories about the future of SEO. Now it is time to ask ourselves, isn’t it simply, honesty?
Some awesome teams like MOZ and Searchengineland try hard not to sacrifice content over sensationalism, and that’s what make them stay around. And somehow, these teams strategy is like SEO itself, focusing on relevancy, greatly organized content, education, and transparency.
Beware of sensationalism
I have a tendency to generally stay away from sensationalism. My greatest challenge these days is to filter my Twitter feed to remove all the “5 things you didn’t know about” and “what you’re about to read will change the way you see […] forever”.
I’ve always believed in honesty over tricks, long term over short term profits, and in a world where everyone has been put in competition with anyone, and even with themselves, it’s been pretty tough to stick with my principles.
The beautiful part of SEO nowadays: Honesty has become the best strategy.
Not because an ethical battle has been won, but simply because the search algorithm has evolved this way.
Some SEO predictions
The Nostradamus part in all of us has a tendency to try and predict the future. After all, isn’t it what I’m doing with this article? But like with any predictions, it’s important to not blindly follow them. Here are predictions I heard in the last 10 years that were supposed to happen “next year”:
- Bing is gonna be the real deal in 2011
- QR codes will be everywhere before the end of the year 2011
- Google instant preview is here to stay in 2011
- Social Media Optimization is the way to go to improve rankings in 2011
- Mobile apps will beat Mobile websites in 2012
- Website speed is the key for 2012
- Websites without a mobile version will die in 2013
It’s important to understand that I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with these predictions, but none of them really happened the way they said they would. It’s never black and white, and predicitons should show tendencies, no more.
The infamous one: SEO is dead
This one likes to stick around. Every Halloween the fear for the living dead SEO specialists is back.
Apart from being the same old clickbait, this prediction seems to have some believers. Every year some people predicted the death of SEO. What they should have said really was that a way of doing SEO was not recommended anymore.
You can read this great article about the many deaths of SEO over history.
But the truth is as long as there are Search Engines there will be SEO. Because the Search Engines are algorithms, we can optimize our websites to get better rankings, explore opportunities, make our brand look better, help users find our content…
Working with website owners?
Search Engines are not much different nowadays. They simply have fewer flaws.
Google has always tried to satisfy users, and the only way for the giant search engine to do so is to offer the best results. Think about it; millions of links for each query and Google has to pick 3 of them… not only to please the whole world but also to please you, personally.
What better way of doing that than by controlling how websites are optimized?
That’s what Google decided in 2009 when they shared their SEO recommendations with web developers. They gave up the key to their algorithm, with the risk of helping spammers and black hat SEO. But what happened is really the opposite, they helped website owners getting ranked for what they are worth.
It took years to become mainstream, but it looks like now it quite is. Education has paid off.
Forget about old-school SEO
In SEO, the term old-school generally has a negative connotation. It brings back the time where cheap tricks had an impact on search results. People were not even known as SEO specialist, but more as that nerd guy that can help your website rank first for $10,000.
Some of their techniques were considered very bad (like writing keywords in the same color as the background), and some were considered fine, like paying to get a thousand backlinks.
You can read the awesome White Friday about the old school SEO practices that don’t work anymore by Rand to understand why these practices don’t work anymore.
In case you don’t have time to read his article now, here is what I retained:
- Don’t over-optimize your content, unless you want to look sketchy, or spammy. There was a time when it was worth it but this time is over. What you risk now is getting bad CTR and thus, bad rankings.
- Heavy use of anchor text internally. Well, that’s pretty much the same idea: it’s spammy.
- Pages for every keyword variant. This one is not really spammy, but it still is not very… natural. would you incorporate ten synonyms of the same keyword in a well-done information architecture? probably not.
- Most Directories and paid links.
- Microsites, subdomains, and separate domains for same audience or topic target
- Sketchy domain matching keywords, something like dentisttoronto.com instead of the actual name of the dentist.
The list goes on and shows what most SEOs used to do, not only black or gray hat SEO.
What it tells us is that we’re heading in a certain direction, and it’s pretty clear:
Honesty will lead you much further than any SEO technique you could think of.
Why do you need the services of an SEO expert then?
Why do you need the services of a Community manager, you know Social Media right? Why do you need a copywriter? You can write your own story… You can hire an SEO expert to worry about everything Search Engines related so you can have more time to worry about your business. Plus there are
still finally so many things an SEO can help you with:
- Information Architecture for both humans and robots
- Quality of code
- Quality of copy
- Looking for topics that interest your audience
- Understanding how your brand is seen by robots
- Help you understand your website
In a more poetic way:
An SEO expert can help your website finds its place in the digital world.
Bonus chapter: RankBrain, Google’s IA
To finish this article I want to talk to you about RankBrain, Google’s IA that helps the algorithm deliver better results. Basically, from what Google says and what we assume, it’s designed to understand what people are looking for exactly. After all, when we search for stuff, we don’t always type in the best query.
I could search for “pizza” but what I really mean is “I’m hungry, show me pizza around me”. And Google will show you a map with pizza around as well as articles like “the 10 best pizza place in Toronto”, and wait, just in case, the search engine will also show you a quick link to the pizza (dish) in case that’s what you actually meant. If you click on it, the page will adapt and show you images of pizza along with nutritional facts, and also suggest looking for burgers, or pizza dough… It knows what you need, and helps you get it faster.
You can read the awesome article from Searchengineland about Rankbrain to get more information and start freaking out at how smart Google is.
Thanks for reading!