I saw a post on Linkedin last week proclaiming that SEO is dead and encouraging people to just write great content. Are they right? Is SEO dead? Here’s why I don’t think so. Not in 2018. Probably not ever.
Don’t get me wrong. SEO has changed. Old-fashioned SEO is dead, or close to it. But ignoring SEO is a shortcut and it backfires on you. It backfired on me.
Is SEO dead? Maybe traditional SEO is.
The problem with saying SEO is alive or SEO is dead is that it means different things to different people. Back in 2001, people would play games with search engines and create meta tags stuffed with keywords, many of which had nothing to do with what was on the page. Adding meta tags with the names of attractive pop stars seemed to get more traffic for your post about technology, so people did it.
That trick doesn’t work anymore. If I put a bunch of meta tags on this post and include the names of the latest pop stars, I’ll probably get less traffic, if it has any effect at all.
Search engines punish you for trying to game the system. But search engines will reward you if you follow certain best practices, and ignore you if you don’t. If that’s not SEO, then I don’t know what is.
SEO is dead. Long live SEO.
Content is king, but a good ruler has a large supporting cast. Without any SEO, great content can languish in obscurity. I have blog posts that used to get 1-2 reads per year, and for years I didn’t know why. That content gets 20-25 hits per day now. The content is mostly the same as it always was, but I made a few subtle changes and now it gets traffic. A blog that gets traffic has a lot more purpose.
What kinds of changes? Maybe changing terminology in some cases. Search engines know a lot of synonyms but not all of them. Using the words people actually type into search engines makes a big difference.
In some cases, I needed to adjust my writing a bit. Using less passive voice and rewriting to lower the reading level a bit helped. All else being equal, search engines do seem to favor content that’s easier to read.
Believing SEO is dead didn’t help me
People who tell you that SEO is dead and there are no shortcuts to getting traffic are right. But they’re wrong if they think SEO is a shortcut. Maybe it used to be. But in 2018, SEO isn’t a shortcut.
Going back and giving my content a once-over to make sure you don’t need a master’s degree to understand it is extra work. Going back and making sure my content links to other relevant posts, and going back after I publish and linking to new stuff from other older stories is extra work.
I saw an almost immediate spike in traffic when I installed the Yoast SEO plugin and ran my most popular posts through it and followed its advice. But sometimes SEO’s effects are more gradual. I ran some other posts through it and in some cases it took six months for the traffic to follow. Being patient is hard, but the payoff was that some posts I wrote years ago that only got 1-2 page views per month now get traffic every day.
In some cases, all it took to bring a post from zero views per day to 20 was inserting a couple of subheadings. And while 20 views per day may not sound like a lot, the effects are cumulative.
So is SEO dead? Only if you think of it as keyword stuffing. But if you think of SEO as best practices for the web, it’s very much alive. And it probably always will be.