Apr 252012

The State of SEO

I was recently asked to answer questions on the state of SEO and evolution of the industry. Answering questions like these can be a useful exercise. How do these ideas compare with your own? I'd encourage you to take the time to answer these types of questions every now and then.

This is obviously something that needs to be continually re-evaluated. It can be challenging to keep pace with the search industry, especially Google. (We love ya' Bing!)

What is your perspective on the state of SEO?

Today, SEO is more about users than it is about machines. It's more about visitors than robots (pro tip: it always has been). One of the errors companies and websites have made over the last several years is to put SEO above their users, their differentiators, and their real value and contributions online. At RKG, our approach to SEO can be summed up with these principles:

  1. First, make the best user experience possible. Contribute real value. Be compelling. Engage users.
  2. Then, maximize with SEO.

SEO makes a poor business model. But with the right business model, SEO can be a rocket ship and is truly one of the most efficient and cost-effective channels that exist in marketing today.

What are your SEO strategies and tactics?

RKG's crawl, index, rank, repeat

Our SEO process follows crawl, index, rank

Our strategies and tactics depend greatly upon the site and industry, but generally focus on four primary concepts:

  1. The crawl experience: technical SEO
  2. Indexation: maximizing, controlling and optimizing what URLs are included in the indexes
  3. SERP visibility: how highly URLs rank, especially in comparison to competitors and for important keyword categories
  4. Off-page signals: quality is generally more important than quantity when it comes to link building, but specific strategies and tactics vary. Social media and AuthorRank are increasingly becoming strong off-page validation signals as well.

Within these conceptual areas, SEO teams must develop content strategies, work with public relations teams, social media teams, development teams, user experience teams... you get the idea. Mobile, microformats, pagination, faceted navigation, internal linking, the list of specific tactics is long. There is much more to SEO than these four bullet points; they are meant to be concepts.

The paradox of SEO is such that, while SEO is more about users than it is about machines, technical SEO remains a deeply important area of the work.

RKG's SEO site audit factors

SEO is complex. RKG's example set of technical SEO factors.

What do you believe are the biggest threats to organic traffic growth?

The biggest threat to lack of SEO growth is lack of SEO implementation. Time and again, when we see companies fall short in their SEO programs it's because the SEO programs have not been given sufficient resources. It comes down to this: get things done. Recommendations are worthless without action.

How do you envision your SEO services/tactics evolving over the next 2-3 years?

Our SEO strategies are constantly evolving. The industry and search engines change almost daily, so evolution and adaptation is the rule, not the exception. There is nothing stable in SEO. That said, the concepts that have been tried and proven since Google came into existence still matter most: content is king, users are king, quality SEO is the only sustainable strategy, and buying links and using trickery and shortcuts introduce excessive risk and have short-term, unsustainable value. We do not take shortcuts. We invest in long-term strategies that keep our clients sheltered from unnecessary risk.

Let me go ahead and jump off this soapbox now...



4 Responses to "The State of SEO"
Rob Start says:
If i had to sum up where seo was heading in 2 words, I would say...'social media'
Social media is an important area to be sure, but it isn't a silver bullet. The real opportunity lies in using the PageRank model (viz. links) and combining it with social signals, and especially, AuthorRank and relationships. Content with context (beyond just the link graph) is an area I think Google is keenly interested in understanding.
I saw your article late..good stuff I recently got this from a client..I'm banging my head how to explain eloquently to the client that this is not only about ranking... Edited to protect the innocent: "I am doing an SEO presentation to a new prospect and showing some examples of key words that are ranking. I'd like to be able to say: "This site is ranked organically for XXX number of key word phrases". Or something that can validate or show the extent that we can optimize and get organic results. I know what you're saying, but most companies that will hire an SEO company want to see that they will actually get rankings. They're not hiring us to redesign their site - they're hiring us to get their site listed naturally. we should have these answers. For those that we haven't, maybe (Insert Magical SEO Tool) would give us a figure. I don't need to list all the words. I'm only showing a handful, but want to be able to speak to how many phrases they are ranking for. " I'm sure you have you have the long answer! How do I break the fixation on keyword ranking, without coming across as a troll. I'm sure there are countless SEO's in the pit that encounter this everyday. OR am I the one who's smoking too much weed - and its only about rankings..sigh. My Head Hurts. Searchengineman
The fixation on rankings is a difficult problem. Some amount of keyword rank checking is useful, in our experience. The key is to educate your client on the goals and metrics they should be using, and that fit with their business. Oftentimes rank reports are just a proxy for something more consequential: organic traffic, traffic quality, and revenue, conversions, or leads. Try to turn your client's focus towards these 'end-result' metrics and away from the effects that get them there. Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done.

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