DOES SEO STILL MATTER?
Google has been on the offense. It’s opposition? SEO. Search Engine Optimization, once considered an integral part of the web ecosystem, has come under attack thanks to the shady practices of an unethical minority. To resolve this, Google has released iteration upon iteration of its search algorithm trying to bury SEO.
But despite Google’s efforts, SEO still matters.
What Is SEO?
Before we get into why SEO still matters, though, we should probably talk about what SEO is.
Search Engine Optimization is all about making writing more friendly to search engines. A search engine is code, after all, not a human, so it looks for vastly different things than a human would.
Google started out using an incredibly simple page-ranking algorithm: its bots would scour the web and pull out links. The more links to a page, the higher it appeared in the search results. Context and applicability wasn’t considered at this time; everything was about the link.
The more recent iterations of Google’s algorithm have included keyword filtering. Now Google’s machines try to build up an understanding of what the page is about, though it is still in the abstract. If it sees plenty of instances of a keyword, for example, then that page must be related to that topic.
SEO involves exploiting the architecture of a search engine to make better performing pages. All other things equal, a page that caters toward a search engine will perform better than one that doesn’t. And that’s not a bad thing. Really, SEO helps give pages context that otherwise Google would have to guess at.
So why is Google working so hard to destroy SEO?
The Black Hats
In computer hacking circles, there are two types of hackers: the white hats and the black hats. White hat hackers are hackers that throw things together to create. The hacker community, for example, largely is based around repurposing old hardware for interesting and novel purposes. White hat software hackers point out security flaws to companies so they can fix them. White hat hackers perform penetration tests on sites to make sure that other hackers can’t get in.
Black hat hackers, on the other hand, are much, much more malicious. Their purpose is to steal information, to break into systems that they have no right being in. They write viruses, launch Denial of Service Attacks, and generally make living and working on the Internet hell. They work for themselves and are proud of the disruption they cause.
SEO has a white hat and a black hat camp, too. Black hat SEO experts exploit shady practices to artificially inflate junk pages to 1st place.
By employing techniques like forum spamming, creating spam blogs whose only purpose is to link to the site that they are promoting to create a fake sense of popularity, and even coloring text the same color as the background to add nonexistent content, a black hat SEO expert used to be able to boost the ranking of any site on the internet.
You can understand why Google doesn’t like how black hat SEO experts work. After all, they are breaking the system to promote junk. So the company has spent years trying to figure out the best solution.
Unfortunately, legitimate SEO experts have taken a hit from this effort. Ethical forms of SEO, like managing keyword density, encouraging backlinks, etc. have become less and less effective as Google has striven to destroy all the black hat SEO on the Internet.
It hasn’t just effected SEO practices, either. Some sites that had a large number of links were punished in the rankings, and several high-profile writing sites have fallen to the wayside because their content is categorized as junk.
SEO has become something of a dirty word in some corners of the Internet. We have seen this before; did you know, before reading this article, that there were ethical hackers? Most people don’t.
Does SEO Still Matter?
Given all the heat that SEO has taken, you might feel that the Internet doesn’t need it anymore. But that isn’t the case. It’s true, Google has made it easier to rank well based on the merit of the content alone. You can get decent results simply by writing compelling content now, thanks largely to the increasing intelligence of Google’s bots.
But SEO still has a place. And SEO sites still perform better than those that aren’t optimized. Because for all Google’s programming know-how, they are still using computers. There is only so much that the machines can do on their own without an intelligent mind giving them a helping hand.
Many SEO techniques have stopped working. Backlinking doesn’t perform like it once did. Same for LSI, keyword stuffing, article spinning, and more. But that was never the heart of SEO. Search engine optimization has always been about knowing how to craft killer copy that was still rich with the phrases that Google loves. And that hasn’t changed. Organic search engine optimization techniques are just as effective now as they were when they were first developed.
Despite being tarnished by unethical practices and diminished by a misguided war, the heart of SEO remains pure. And SEO is still ready to take your site to the next level.
What SEO Should You Use?
I mentioned earlier that backlinking, LSI and keyword density measures aren’t as effective as they once were. Google has tried to replace them with its own system server-side. But despite not being the paradigm-shifting tools they once were, these are still some of the simplest and most powerful tools in an SEO expert’s toolbox.
Common sense practices like sticking keywords in titles and using alt text on images are still as powerful as ever. Google still values title tags higher than body text. Minimizing flash elements is a good idea as well, or at least breaking the targeted writing out from the element.
Meta tags are still a necessity, even though search engines ignore the ‘keyword’ tag. You still need a good description, and Google will reward you for writing one.
But the best SEO comes from within. SEO isn’t just about keyword stuffing, metrics, etc. There is an art to it, an inherent ability to write copy that works for machines that only comes from practice. SEO has evolved, and so have the people who do it for a living.
But SEO is still as valid as ever. Its star might have waned, but SEO is still working in the background, making the web a better, brighter place to search.