What is SEO in 2014? Does SEO Still Matter or is it Dead?

2013 may go down in history as being one of the most tumultuous times for SEO. It’s left many people wondering if search engine optimization still matters, or if it’s finally dead.

SEO is alive and well, and in my opinion, it’s thriving – it’s only dead if you’re not interested in having your website found when someone “Googles” a word or phrase that describes your product or service.

In spite of the fact that search is still the number one starting point for anyone who is looking for anything from a tea cup to a heart surgeon, the battle cry, “SEO is dead” is once again being raised and many SEO professionals are feeling discouraged.

Why all the gloom and doom?

Google released Penguin 2.0 in late May, thousands of sites were affected and the link building tactics that were being used my many not only became obsolete, they turned out to be harmful.  I’m not going to go into the details here, the article, Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm: The Definitive Guide, by Jayson DeMers is a great resource if you’re interested in learning more about the update.

Dragonfly on a Lili Pad

©2012 Beth Lee Browning All Rights Reserved

In August Google did more than update their search engine algorithm, they completely replaced it with a new search algorithm named Hummingbird.

Google named their new algorithm Hummingbird because it was designed to be “precise and fast.” I haven’t managed to capture a picture of a Hummingbird, but I thought that my Dragonfly communicated similar concepts.

Hummingbird brings us closer to “conversational search” and is intended to pay more attention to the intent behind the search, not just the words.

Over the years we’ve become conditioned to search on “keywords” even though that’s not how we really think. No one would walk up to a friend and ask for advice using one or two words, instead it would be a conversation that includes phrases like “how do I….” or “what is the best…” Going forward our searches will become more and more conversational and influenced by social signals.

Many people feel that Google’s changes are meant to make SEO so difficult that people are forced to pay for ads rather than focusing on SEO. The interesting thing about this theory is that quality matters just as much in the paid ad world as it does in natural search. Just because you’re willing to pay for an ad, doesn’t mean it’s going to be displayed.

What is SEO?

By definition, SEO is the process of optimizing web pages (content) so that search engines display a link to your web page on the first page of search engine results. The goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website and generate leads and business. It’s an integral part of an overall online marketing strategy which includes social media, content distribution, and often-times paid advertising.

 

Keywords are still important

SEO has evolved over the past few years – Google is getting better and better at understanding the relevancy of a website around topics not just keywords. Having said that, keywords are still important because they’re the words people use to ask questions and discover information. The key is to have a mindset that is focused on topics and behavior not keywords as a stand alone component.

Create quality content and optimize it

Always create content with your visitor in mind first and then review it and identify opportunities to optimize the on-page elements and meta data. Optimize titles, meta descriptions, and ensure that the body content includes key phrases that are related to your topic. Content should be created with a specific purpose in mind, not just created for the sake of pumping out new content to keep the search engines happy.

Quality content serves a purpose; it answers questions and provides information that helps people make a decision. It can also provide entertainment and help people get to know the author. Last but not least, make sure that your content is relevant to your products and services.

Links still matter

Search engines crawl web pages and links are an important way for them to discover content. The more links to your site from high quality relevant sources, the more your content can be found by search engines and by people.

In May Google updated the Webmaster Help documentation with a subtle but significant change regarding what webmasters should focus on in order to increase rankings from “increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages” to “creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”

Taking a step back, creating a high quality site that people want to share should have been the goal all along. A link from a high quality website means that the content is worth sharing.

Don’t underestimate the importance of social shares or in other words, they can be a great source for qualified traffic and also send a signal that your content is trustworthy.

In today’s world think “amplification.” Create content that people want to share with links to your website.

SEO is alive and well

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see the use of search engines going away anytime soon. People use search engines to discover information and statistically more people click on organic search results more often than paid ads. It’s estimated that 70% of the clicks go to the first page of organic results.

Google will continue to make changes to their algorithm to increase the relevancy of search results and fight spam. Search results will continue to be more and more personalized and social signals such as authority will play a bigger role.

This all means that creating, hosting, and distributing content that people want to share through links and social shares (or in other words SEO) is quite possibly more important today than ever before.

What is SEO to you?