There is a lot of talk about SEO being dead, especially with the most recent changes to search algorithms. Yes the changes are big; but let’s think about what has not changed. Online marketing is still thriving and marketers are still thinking about how to reach their targeted audience. Marketers want to reach the audience that has an interest in their product, use the search engines to drive relevant traffic to their site and get the greatest sales possible from the traffic. SEO is still beneficial for driving traffic; it’s just that it is more important now to achieve the optimal traffic from the search engines and the way it is done is slowly changing once again.
Changes in the use of Keywords
It used to be that search was all about those keywords. The SEO specialist made sure the right keywords were used and might spend literally hours in keyword research. Then they made certain that they were placed in the most critical locations on a site. Once the pages were created around the specific keyword(s) link strategies were used to gain traffic from those keywords to the site pages. It was cut and dried. Google’s latest changes include the loss of referring keyword data, which simply means that gaining search engine traffic is no longer just about the keyword. Instead of a pointed search, it’s more like a carousel which means that users may get very different search engine results from the same query. Google has stepped up its auto complete feature and now users are more likely to use a suggested query than the keyword they were going to look up to begin with.
The changes in the keyword approach are Google’s attempts at connecting semantics with topics on the web. The SEO specialist must shift their strategies away from keyword usage and concentrate on Author Rank, the Knowledge Graph and personalization. Content has been an essential part of the search engine’s algorithm but now not only is Google still interested in quality and informative content, the algorithm looks at who created it, what other pieces were created by the same author and who is sharing it on the web. When content is posted from a trusted source, it can rank in personalized results without keywords being part of the ranking calculations. Google is getting very precise about figuring out these types of topical relationships.
We do not need to abandon SEO; we just need to shift our attention from using keywords to get traffic to getting traffic to site pages. We are right back to the importance of using high quality content. When good content is used, it’s easier to drive traffic to it with no regard to the use of keywords. By shifting our attention to a content oriented strategy we will be able to build what is called topical authority. Google seems to be looking at who is most knowledgeable about specific topics. Authorship is only one of the latest developments on their quest to establish authority.
What does authority have to do with SEO?
One of the best things about establishing topical authority is that some SEO best practices will still work for driving traffic to pages. The goal now becomes getting relevant traffic to the page instead of just ranking for a keyword, or trying to get a certain number of links every month. Some of the latest twists on SEO best practices include:
- Concentrate on creating high quality content in the target topic, research potential interest by the audience
- Content promotion should be to audiences who already show an interest (enter social media marketing)
- Create relationships with other entities who have already demonstrated an established authority on the topic, especially those in the same geographical region, this allows for white hat content sharing or link building
Maintaining Good Practices
Of course as an SEO specialist, we want Google to notice our site and recognize it as an authority on a particular topic. But it is equally important to show Google that your site is built for the user’s enjoyment. Basic technical SEO remains the same meaning that you still want to make it easy for Google and users to navigate the site and pages need to load quickly so as not to be frustrating. A user should be able to land on a page figure out what it is all about and enjoy their visit. This will encourage users to return to your site in the future. Semantic markup remains a hot topic in technical SEO because it helps the search engines determine your goals with your data.
So do we ignore keywords now?
The SEO world is shifting the focus to topical authority and driving traffic to sites and pages. However, a search engine is still what it was before and that means users are still using them to search for topics they are interested in. The fact that queries are still being entered means that keywords are still important. It’s still possible for there to be a popular keyword and get traffic from it to a page. On the other hand, it is the time to start directing clients away from the use of keywords. It is also important to remember that there are other search engines available. And search engines are not the only source of traffic. For instance, social media sites and third-party sites such as SlideShare and Pinterest still provide traffic. Our sites and pages should be created in a way to get the best traffic as well as sales. We simply need to begin moving away from a total dependence on Google for traffic.