In reality, SEO is changing, but reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.
What Are the Naysayers Saying?
Like every other marketing tactic, SEO has been the subject of numerous impending death notices. Of course, some people want B2B SEO to fail for self-serving reasons, but their arguments aren't supported by the numbers. Here are some of them:
"SEO doesn't work anymore."
When Panda and Penguin (new search algorithms) were introduced by Google last year, the old SEO pro tricks, like plugging your site into a link farm, stopped working. This caused much consternation in the SEO service provider ranks. Google still values inbound links when ranking sites, but they do a better job of recognising high quality, real links. The best way to generate links is to create quality content and build industry authority. Good content that informs, helps or entertains people will invite them to share it on a social media platform or embed it in their own site. And those are the links that tell the search engines that that person (or website) "endorses" that site, giving it authority.
"Real businesses don't need SEO."
Some businesses might think that SEO isn't for them, either because they think people are finding their website through ways other than search engines or because they think SEO is similar to telemarketing or spam email. But the reality is that most people rely on search engines when looking for products and services, as much in B2B as B2C. Search engines still sit at the heart of our discovery process and don't look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
"SEO ruins content."
Some journalists, bloggers and copywriters might feel restricted by keywords, especially if they sound strange or unnatural. However, a good writer knows how to make even the most awkward phrase sound organic and natural to the content.
None of these claims erase the fact that when you enter a keyword in a search engine, the top results are exact or close matches. The bottom line is, SEO is here to stay, even if it changes over time.
What SEO Looks Like Now
People who say that B2B SEO is dead are thinking about the "old-style" SEO of keyword stuffing and indiscriminate linkbuilding. Today, professional, effective SEO incorporates branding, marketing, content and THEN keywords, in that order. Your SEO efforts must be informed by all four of the above in order to develop an effective strategy for your site so that it has both authority and popularity. Here's a list of tactics you might incorporate into your own strategy.
Attention to Quality
There was a time - as we all know - when keyword frequency and volume of back links were the secret to high website traffic. But as the number of websites exploded, search engines became sophisticated about sifting out sites that were trying to game the system. Their algorithms are now better able to determine which sites deliver quality to the searcher. The most important thing you can do to help search engines rate your site highly is to create articles, blog posts, videos, etc that are relevant and useful to your target audience.
Reliance on Google Authorship
Since Google is the dominant player in search engines, it pays to take advantage of the tools it offers, including Google Authorship. Use it to verify that your articles and blog posts are your original creation, and link that verification to your Google+ page to raise the credibility of your content. A growing number of search queries produce at least one verified link in the first 100 results. What's more, if someone clicks your verified link and then presses the "Back" button, three more links from your site appear in the results.
Focus on Non-Text Content
While keywords are still of real importance in search engine rankings, too much density can look unnatural. Non-text content, however, is fertile ground for optimisation. Headlines, video and photo descriptions and URLs are weighted by search engines, so adding the right keywords can improve your rankings without affecting your content. For example, use popular search phrases as blog titles, or add keywords to descriptions of videos and photos on your site.
Closer Connections to Social Media
Many SEO efforts are focused on the website, but social media can also play a big role. Many articles, blogs, photos and videos are shared across social media, and only then do they earn a top ranking in search engines. If you aren't sharing your content on social media, you're missing a great opportunity to find new followers and new customers. Plus, social media users are more likely to share content with their networks, saving you valuable marketing spend.
The number of mobile devices sold has now surpassed the number of PCs sold, so no business or blogger can afford to ignore mobile users. Your website should be formatted for different mobile devices and platforms, and then you should develop a mobile marketing campaign. For example, build an SMS text campaign promoting your newest blog or a special sale for mobile subscribers only. Employ the same SEO analytics that you use for online marketing. Test and measure your chosen content and keywords, and optimise as needed.
Every year, we hear another story of SEO's demise, but it's usually coming from someone lamenting the old SEO ways and questioning the new. Our advice is to embrace the fact that a more-sophisticated, user-focussed evolution of SEO lives on.
Image by: Sean MacEntee