SEO is Alive

Over the years it has become a standard task as a professional working in search engine optimization to defend the discipline from those who claim in public or on “the series of tubes” (RIP Ted Stevens) that the service we provide is dead or irrelevant.It's Alive

From what I can tell every time a new innovation in search is introduced individuals rise to proclaim SEO “dead” in order to stir up controversy and make a name for themselves or to be among the first to deliver “prophecy.” Compounding this issue is that these proclaimers typically have an inability or lack of interest in learning what SEO actually is.

Since the beginning of time people have searched for things. (insert story here about early man searching for sticks to rub together and start a fire.)

Nowadays people heavily rely on internet technology to search for what they are looking for and this is not expected to end anytime in the near or distant future.

Over the last 15 years web sites have emerged as leading platforms to deliver information. Search engines followed to give people a way of finding the most relevant websites and pages on the topic they were looking for. Social media then emerged as a way to search for trusted information within their networks and contacts. Location Based Services like Foursquare and Yelp have also started to help people to search and find.

The major search engines all have pay per click search advertising available on their properties that have been enormously profitable, but they also continue devote resources into their natural algorithmic search results as this continues to be a valuable and heavily utilized service by visitors. The last studies I’ve seen still show that 60-70% of all visitors click natural search results first over sponsored or paid listings.

The market leaders Google, Yahoo, and Bing will no doubt continue to more aggressively integrate paid advertising into their search results over the years, but there will remain a strong desire among users to also have access to organic search results where the sites listed haven’t directly paid for their placement. If the major search engines get too aggressive in its display of only paid advertising, this will open up an opportunity for a competitor to emerge who offers better “non-paid” search results.

SEO is not sorcery or a bunch of parlor tricks as many misinformed people think

At its essence SEO can be boiled down to these 4 ongoing activities

  1. Ensuring the delivery of content in a format that can be fully processed by technologies that provide information in response to search requests
  2. Identifying what people are searching for pertaining to an industry or niche and selecting the most valuable keyword segments
  3. The ongoing creation of targeted content focused on meeting the needs of what people are searching for
  4. The marketing and promotion of that targeted content through relevant external resources (Blogs, Forums, Websites, Social Media)

As long as people continue to use internet technology to search for information and natural search results exist where no payment is made to the technology provider, SEO will remain alive and relevant.

Will Google be all paid results in 10 years? Maybe.. But if so, will they still be the market leader in search?

Will SEO still be called SEO in 10 years? Maybe not, but regardless passionate professionals will remain to harness technology to help people find what they are looking for using methods fundamentally different from paid advertising.

How Selling Newspapers and Writing Title Tags for SEO are related

Nearly every weekday morning I walk from the train station to my office in downtown Chicago. When taking my usual route I nearly always encounter at least a couple people selling the Chicago Tribune.  Some newspaper salespeople are better than others but everyone I see typically uses a similar variation of the same sales pitch. They shout things like “Get today’s Chicago Tribune only 50 cents” or “Brand new, easy to read Chicago Tribune get yours today for only 50 cents.”

A couple months ago a new Tribune salesmen started on one of the corners and his first few weeks sales seemed to be off to a slow start. He too used the same familiar pitch “Get yer 50 cent Chicago tribune.” The other day though I noticed he started using a different approach. He scanned the front page of the newspaper, found the most interesting story of the day and shouted its headline as part of his pitch. I noticed an immediate change in people’s attentiveness as they walked by, engaging with the salesman and yes, larger problems with the newspaper industry aside, seemingly purchasing more papers.

The funny thing is this is not some new groundbreaking idea. This is how it used to be. The local newspaper boy or the “town crier” used to be the first person you’d hear the latest news from.

That said I thought this was also very applicable when thinking in terms of SEO

Think of the <title> tags on every page of your website as a newspaper salesmen shouting to anyone who will listen why they should click through to your website and read your content. Write a relevant title that is applicable to the content you are providing and both search engines and visitors will reward you.

For those of you new to SEO and web design in general the <title> element is an html tag that should be added to the source code of every page on your site because it is what search engines use as the titles in natural search listings. It is also what ultimately entices the user to click on your listing over another site.  In the screenshot below the title of the natural listing in Google is “How to sell more newspapers.” which can be found in the source code of the document as <title>How to sell more newspapers</title>.

The <title> tag has been and continues to be one of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors and it is essential that you put a lot of thought, research, and testing into what is the going to entice users to click through, while also being targeted at keywords that will drive the most targeted visitors to your site in the highest volumes.