In previous blogs, we have looked at some of the emerging SEO trends that digital marketers are using to boost brands’ visibility on search engines, and some of the tools that are helping them.
We discussed how SEO is changing to favour so-called semantic search over keyword optimisation, rating web pages on how precisely and concisely they answer specific queries. We mentioned the importance of voice search and mobile optimisation, and the use of crawler tools which assess your website’s navigation, and Autocomplete stats for looking at what sort of questions people are typing into search engines.
But we get asked the question all of the time – is SEO still important in digital marketing?
More often than not people are quick to jump on this topic referring to SEO negatively. But this could simply show a lack of appreciation in how search engine marketing is adapting to online trends. Put it this way - people still use search engines to find content on the internet, and businesses still want to make it as easy possible for customers to find them. So, from that perspective, search engine optimisation very much matters still.
Banishing Old SEO Habits
What can be said is that SEO has changed, and the methods that were once synonymous with SEO have lost their power. Not too long ago, improving your search engine rankings was all about filling your sites with as many instances of your keywords as possible and getting as many inbound links to your site as possible.
As with anything that can be manipulated, this led to some pretty crude practices - web sites cropping up that existed purely for other sites to post their links on, buying inbound links en masse, and website copy that ignored all considerations of grammar and style in favour of packing in as many keywords as possible. With the quality of web content under serious jeopardy, the search engines began to change the ranking rules, and the age of clickbait marketing was over.
Whereas improving your SEO rankings was once all about quantity - of keywords and links - nowadays it is all about quality. Ranking algorithms have evolved dramatically in sophistication, and the focus is now on ensuring the highest quality content is rewarded with prime positions in search.
The trick is convincing the search engines that your content is as high quality as possible. For a human user, what we judge to be good content is largely based on a very complex and nuanced set of assumptions and expectations, many of which are judged intuitively and to a lesser or greater extent subjectively.
While the likes of Google and Bing make use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning so their algorithms can ‘learn’ what makes good content in a human sense, and also mimic human search behaviour. Attracting the attention of the quality control bots is therefore about playing the right sort of game. Top of that list is making your content relevant, easy to navigate and easy to digest.
If anything, this has given SEO work greater power than ever. With more complex guidelines and algorithms to understand, a need to produce the highest quality professional content and the challenges of optimising for more recent trends like mobile and voice activated search, SEO work is becoming more and more specialised. If you want customers to find your content online, you cannot do without it.