Does SEO even matter anymore? Well, according to Hubspot’s 2017 State of Inbound Report, it matters a lot. In fact, the study found that 61% of all businesses they surveyed said their number one inbound marketing priority was growing SEO. This goes against the grain of what many SEO critics have claimed, that SEO is dead and no longer matters. It’s all over the Interwebs, that SEO is dead. You can actually prove this on your own. Assume you want to look for a hairdresser or barber, or find a restaurant or pub that allows pets, what did you do? You probably went to Google and searched for “Dog-friendly pubs near me” and up popped a couple of results. So, SEO is the basis of being able to find businesses you need, want and are looking for. So, the reason why it’s so important that you ensure your website is search engine optimized for the keywords that for you is that when that person is using Google, which they most often do, or when they are using Google Maps if you run a restaurant or a shop locally, is that you get found above your competition.But, one can understand the naysayers who claim that SEO is dead. It does seem like every new Google Algorithm update has been a death knell for SEO. But, from the simple example above, it is clear that SEO isn’t dead and it isn’t possible to rank well without focusing on SEO. So What Has Changed? Why are there so many many people that believe that you no longer need SEO link building to rank well. Well, the following are some of the aspects of SEO that have changed.           Traditional SEO Has ChangedThere is no question that a lot has indeed changed. There no longer exists an exact formula to SEO as there was a few years ago. Best practices remain and a skilled SEO consultant can deliver impressive results but there are no longer any guarantees. No silver tongued SEO consultant worth his salt would dare give a guarantee of results and you should run for the hills if anyone makes any promises. For many years, all it took was tweaking a couple of title tags, backlinks and a bit of keyword stuffing and your site would rank better. So, if it’s no longer possible to predict an outcome, does that necessarily mean that SEO is dead? Well, traditional SEO is dead and buried and it’s no longer possible to game the system using ancient tactics. But, SEO remains alive, it has simply morphed into something totally different.            SEO for Humans Remains NecessaryHow we search the web is also evolving. While search engines will not dissappear, in future, were more likely to rely more on voice search. With voice, we tend to speak more and hence, longer tail keywords become more important to SEO. It is also necessary to write in a conversational style so that your content sounds human when converted to speech. The most likely outcome of conversational search is that only the best results will be ranked. Rather than aiming for the first page, bots like Google Now, Siri and Cortana attempt to provide the exact result the user is searching for. The import of this is that SEO will become more critical and competitive. With fewer results coming up, many websites will have to change their strategies.Remember, three-quaters of web users do not scroll past page one of SERPS. Also, the Big Three voice search companies, Google, Microsoft and Apple are doing their best to ensure they give users the best results and in the process increase the uptake of their voice search bots. Search will remain important because human beings are always searching for information. And, users will search the Internet in a number of ways, using their voices, their vehicles, their appetites and their minds. The content accessed will require optimization in some way.           The Use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in SearchOn February 23rd 2011, Google sent shockwaves around the SEO world that continue to reverberate to this day. Without prior warning, Google unleashed the Panda algorithm update that ended up affecting a staggering 12 percent of search results. The Panda Update targeted thin content in addition to other aspects that weren’t noticed by the SEO world until much later. The Panda Update introduced artificial intelligence and machine learning as a component of the algorithm. It was a result of long research by Google where they studied the ratings provided by human beings on the perceived quality of a site based on a number of criteria. Google engineers took these results and created a bot that extended these subjective human opinions on perceived quality and extended that the rest of the Internet. Panda was quickly followed by Hummingbird in 2013, a major rewrite of its search algorithm to improve artificial intelligence. In essence, it is no longer possible to game a system that is built to make a quality judgment in the same manner as a human being does. ConclusionClearly, if you are looking at SEO link building as a prescriptive process of just putting up links at third party sites and waiting for results, you are doing it wrong. SEO link building is about building genuine off site authority and you cannot make meaningful progress without it. SEO today isn’t about figuring out which boxes to tick. Once you have performed a proper technical analysis of your site in terms of overall search engine friendly design, you need to change hats and forget the traditional tactics that no longer work. Title tags and keywords are still relevant to encourage searchers to click through but you no longer need to worry about using the keyword precisely. And, keyword stuffing is no no and has never been good practice. Rather, focus on the experience of your website. Get into the minds of your visitors and find out what makes them come to your site. What are they looking for, what do they want, what do they want to see? Do not approach the answers to these questions from a search engine perspective. Focus on creating quality and compelling content that’s better than your competition. High quality content is the main ingredient of successful SEO. 

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