I woke up to the sound of rain pouring heavily outside my window. It was a wet Sunday afternoon and I was feeling slightly disoriented. I should’ve been somewhere else that day but my head decided to be an ass and ached for no reason at all. So, I played hooky from my self-imposed fitness duties and slept the afternoon away. And I had a weird dream.
In my dream, I was living in a future techno-utopian society where Google was this terrifyingly intelligent computer program disguised as an innocent search engine. Its main objective, however, was to take over the Internet by toying with websites and the lives of all Internet professionals, web content writers, and bloggers, aiming to eventually create a new dystopian order in which Google is god. I woke up with a start and was sweating profusely even though it was raining.
I knew it was just a dream for in the real world, Google is a lot more pleasant, and helpful, although as unpredictable as Pinoy weather.
Anyway, in the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Internet marketers feel that Google is slowly and purposely rendering current SEO standards obsolete. In fact, many of them believe that SEO is dying a slow death, much to the dismay of SEO professionals who have always thought that they have everything figured out. With the way Google keeps on changing its search algorithms, SEO experts have to keep going back to the drawing board to find out what works and what doesn’t in terms of optimizing websites and web content for Google searches.
Okay, wait. For the uninitiated who are beginning to think that this piece is too techie for comfort, let me give you the basics. It’s pretty simple, really. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. As the term connotes, it’s the process of optimizing websites and their content for easy visibility by search engines, particularly the great G.
People constantly search for things on the web for various reasons and use Google (okay, Bing and Yahoo!, too) for this purpose. Generally, the higher a site ranks in search results (meaning, the earlier a site appears on the search results list), the higher the possibility of more visitors going to the site. This is particularly important for web-based businesses that are highly dependent on Internet traffic for their revenues as well as professional bloggers who depend on traffic for advertising profit.
Businessmen and bloggers know that if their online sites appear high in the list of search results, the bigger the chances of their products to be known and bought and their blogs to be read. Our tendency, after all, is to click on the first related links that we see. Moreover, there are nearly 14 billion online searches done every month. Considering this, businessmen and professional bloggers would do well to take advantage of the marketing opportunities that search engines present.
In fact, SEO has become such an integral part of Internet marketing that thousands of SEO-related jobs had been created for this purpose. SEO has even become one of the specialties of business process outsourcing (BPO) companies all over the world.
SEO experts have been constantly coming up with creative ways to optimize websites, blogs and even articles and blogposts to make them figure more prominently in search results. SEO professionals are even hired with the singular task of ensuring that clients’ websites and blogs are optimized accordingly. The problem is that some people have been doing unethical SEO practices (referred to as “Black-hat SEO”) like stuffing keywords, using invisible texts, and creating doorway pages just to fool the great Google and get higher search rankings.
But like a controlling wife, Google hates to be manipulated like that. So, Google changes its search algorithms every now and then to throw off those who do black-hat SEO and what it considers trash sites that use SEO to promote below-par content. Google aims to ensure that its search results only come up with relevant content that is actually beneficial to the users.
In fact, Google recently came up with a new algorithm update called Google Penguin, an appropriately anti-hero label, which basically changes the way Google looks for sites to include in user-defined searches using specific keywords. But although Google Penguin, the G’s second major update, was done to weed out spam sites that abuse SEO techniques to promote trash content, it generally affects basically everything in Search Engine Land, one way or another.
With Google’s newest update, SEO methods that used to work no longer do. Legitimate SEO tactics — like the strategic use of keywords in web content; the optimizing of URLs, page titles, and meta descriptions; the use of well-thought-out meta tags; and the creation of backlinks that point to articles and posts — are no longer as effective in ensuring that sites and blogposts will rank high in search results.
Suddenly, some websites that had been using heretofore accepted SEO standards have started experiencing a drop in their traffic and SEO professionals started scrambling for solutions, much like Malacañang spin doctors after every presidential speech.
Moreover, Google is now looking more on how sites are “liked” and “shared” in the social media, with the belief that the process of individuals actually reading, liking, and sharing posts is a good enough indication of relevant and interesting content.
But is SEO really dying? And has social media marketing become more effective in promoting websites and blogs?
Although there is much disagreement about this on the Web, most SEO professionals agree that the most important thing for webmasters, bloggers and web content writers to do is to set aside previously learned search engine optimization methods and focus on coming up with interesting and relevant content. They say that with original content that really benefits the audience, blogs and websites will naturally attract readers and loyal blog followers. Some even say that we should all just provide real content and let Google run its course, another affirmation that SEO has indeed become ineffective.
So what are we to do? Creating interesting and unique content has always been imperative right at the outset and telling bloggers who want to gain some traffic for their sites to resort to this is like telling Pacquiao that the only way he can beat Floyd Mayweather is to, well, box. In other words, yeah, tell us something we don’t know.
However, I believe that SEO, as a concept, isn’t dying. Far from it. What has been made obsolete, however, is merely SEO as we used to know it. I believe that in a few months, Internet experts will have figured out a way to once again go around Google’s strict algorithms and optimize their sites for search engines. And since SEO as a marketing method has already gotten a bad rap, we probably would see a new term for it but with basically the same objectives. And the cycle continues.
One thing’s for sure, though. Google will again change its search algorithm when it deems necessary to do so. So don’t piss it off.
Al Dimalanta is a QA Manager and content editor who handles a team of SEO content writers. He is also a writer, musician, professor, photographer, marketing communicator and, as he said, an occasional techie. He is a freelance PR consultant, a former professor of marketing communication and advertising and heads a punk band named THROW. Email Al at firstname.lastname@example.org