The digital marketing community is filled with warnings lamenting the demise of organic search – but is SEO dead, dying… or even sick?
Over the past few years, digital marketing prophets heralding the end of SEO have come and gone with seemingly every new trend or development in the industry.
The first perceived SEO-killer was the threat posed by the huge captive audiences of social media platforms, led by Facebook.
The fear then resurfaced in reaction to social media’s ever-more-accurate ad targeting capabilities and surging user numbers.
A fresh panic was triggered by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates - once more, eulogies were composed in memory of the bygone era of search engine marketing…
Yet SEO persists.
It’s not dead – far from it.
Adaptive Digital’s recruitment team receives new inbound hiring requests from clients on a weekly basis for top SEO professionals – jobs with some of the most prestigious companies in Europe.
So what’s the deal - if SEO’s not dead, why the fuss?
The reality is that while organic search as a profession is alive and kicking, it is in a state of significant change.
SEO itself isn’t dead (or dying), but outdated tactics are – and obsolete methods will now not only fail to make a positive impact on search rankings, they can actively harm results.
Spearheading the change in SEO are several powerful drivers, and marketers who are up-to-date on the latest trends find themselves with the pick of places to work and commanding premium pay packages.
Here’s a rundown of what’s topping the list in today’s evolving SEO landscape:
- Keywords don’t stand alone
If SEO itself isn’t dead, then mindless keyword-stuffing of aimless content to attract search engine rankings certainly is.
Google’s smarter algorithms are no longer fooled by clunkily-written blog posts and filler pages which have target keywords appearing 100 times in the headline, sub-heading and opening paragraphs.
Readability, user engagement and an effective solution to the original search query will win out over keyword-dense articles every time, and rankings will belong to the pages that most effectively answer the user’s original enquiry.
- Link quality matters
Old-school SEO was all about building as many links as possible to your site and watching it rise through the SERPs.
While link-building is still an important component of a rounded SEO strategy, links are now far more contextualized. The authority and relevance of the sites you link to matters substantially and impacts rankings, and a crazed free-for-all driven purely by link volume won’t get the job done.
Evolving SEO tactics include building relationships and demonstrating value to high-authority partners and developing a link profile which supports the overall user experience.
- Quality beats quantity
More pages, more content, more keywords… right?
Though it used to be the case that more online ‘real estate’ meant more space for keyword-dense content (and therefore more exposure to search engines), bloating your site with unnecessary pages is no longer an effective way to dominate rankings.
Given that Google focuses on individual pages and not whole sites, building a sprawling mass of content doesn’t necessarily help if each individual piece fails to rank highly.
It’s often more effective to zone in on a few key areas and go deep in creating really standout content, rather than spread low-quality content jammed with keywords all over your online presence.
- User experience is the goal
Along with effectively answering queries, site content is ranked by Google based on overall user experience.
This means time spent on pages, number of other site pages visited, read completion rates (how far users scroll down pages) etc.
What does this mean?
Site design, engaging layouts, use of imagery, a browsing experience free from cluttered ads or distracting popups, and – crucially – device-optimised performance are no longer ‘nice-to-haves’ but will show a demonstrable impact on organic rankings.
From a skills perspective, modern SEO professionals need a broader ability to cater to the overall user experience instead of simply concentrating on ‘back-end’ topics and leaving the rest to someone else.
- There are no shortcuts
Putting this all together, the net result is that SEO has shifted from a series of silo-ed tactics designed to ‘game’ search engine algorithms into a holistic effort to provide quality responses to search queries in an engaging way.
To succeed online, search marketers need to outperform their competitors in all areas – it’s no longer enough to be keyword-savvy and build a busy link profile.
SEO experts need to be consistently providing value and collaborating effectively with other marketing teams to ensure brand, content, design and site usability all support SEO goals.
Where does all this leave today’s SEO job-seeker?
Without a doubt, there’s a renewed emphasis on staying on top of industry trends and developments, deploying the latest tactics and keeping informed of upcoming disruptions to established methodologies.
With so many new factors already impacting the way online users search for and consume information – from voice search to advancing AI capabilities – SEO will continue to evolve, and the role of those who are truly masters of their craft will only increase in value.
To view Adaptive Digital’s full range of SEO jobs across Europe and North America, click here.