It’s an Essential Part of Doing Business Online
Humans seem to enjoy declaring things dead. Maybe we like to feel like we “called it.”
In the past, it was rock. Disco. God. Quality feature films.
And the latest addition to this list? SEO.
But just because someone announces a certain demise, is it true?
When I typed in “SEO is” into a search engine, the auto-fill feature supplied these phrases to complete my fragment:
- SEO is dead (#1!)
- SEO is a scam
- SEO is a racket
- SEO is essential
- SEO is a joke
In a Forbes article, VUDU Marketing’s Sam McRoberts replied, when asked if SEO is dead, “The answer really depends on how you define SEO.”
What does that mean, and how does this relate to your website?
First – let’s settle something: SEO will never be dead as long as there’s an Internet.
I attended a seminar where a presenter downplayed the significance of keywords. Not very long after saying that, he typed something into Google to show us how to do a particular task.
And I thought – “Hmm – what’s he typing into that there search engine thing?” (Okay, I didn’t really think it quite like that).
He’s typing a keyword!
And keywords were, are, and always will be the basic unit of SEO – as long as there are search engines. They’re like the coins you use to ‘buy’ traffic. And I don’t see Google, Bing, or Yahoo (okay, maybe Yahoo) going anywhere anytime soon.
Whenever anyone goes to Google and types in a word or phrase and pushes “search,” they’re using a keyword. And whatever sites come up as a result of that search – they come up because of SEO.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Those sites have been “optimized” for that keyword better than all the other sites out there, so they come up on the first page.
To say that SEO is dead is to say that nothing would come up when we search for a keyword.
Why Do People Say SEO Is Dead?
This declaration refers mainly to what we might call “old school” SEO.
The goal of internet sites has always been to draw traffic, and we do that with keywords. But it didn’t take long for some sites to figure out ways to game the system. So, they started implementing all kinds of techniques that got their sites ranked highly, even if the actual site was terrible and worthless.
Keyword stuffing was a common one. This is where you fill your site with thousands of keywords, and then bury them out of sight so only the search engine sees them.
This and other disingenuous methods would often lead people to websites that did not solve their problem or answer their question.
When people say SEO has died, they’re talking mostly about these questionable sorts of techniques. And Google has done its darndest to eliminate these practices by penalizing the sites that still use them.
So the truth is, SEO hasn’t died. It’s gotten smarter. And that’s a good thing for your business.
How Does SEO Work?
SEO is more dependent on the quality of content than the number of keywords.
The keywords are still a vital component of this, however. If you are a copywriter, but your site doesn’t say “copywriter” anywhere on it, then how is someone who types “local copywriters” into Bing going to find you? They won’t. Keywords are essential.
But more than that, your site also draws traffic based on how you utilize those keywords.
The algorithms used by Google and the other search engines are massively complex and ever-changing, and most of us can’t explain them with any great expertise. But we do understand their purpose – to help people find the sites their search implies they want to find.
The whole point is that if someone searches for “local copywriters” and they live in Georgia, they see a list of copywriters in Georgia, not Alabama or California.
This is what Google wants to accomplish.
It’s what web users want to see happen.
And it’s what businesses and nonprofits should want as well.
Why? Because it means the traffic that finds our sites has a higher probability of wanting to find us.
But It’s Complicated
What happens if there are 50 local copywriters in your area? Who will show up on page 1?
Someone has to! (Tell that to the person who says SEO is dead).
Google looks for sites with brand, content, or industry authority.
So, you might have a bunch of websites all in the same industry. But within those, there might only be a handful with lots of content, effective keyword use, Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, alt-text, and useful pages that answer specific questions for visitors.
What This Means For Your Business
SEO is now about substance and depth, not image and trickery.
In other words, your website has to demonstrate expertise, authority, and usefulness through its structure, content, links, and keyword usage.
This means that to rank well, you need this 4-part SEO strategy
- Keyword research. It’s just as vital as it always has been. If you don’t have time (and yes, this part can be very time-consuming), then hire an SEO copywriter or agency to do it for you. I can recommend a few (such as kateideas.com). Again, keywords are like SEO coins. Without coins, you can’t “buy” any traffic.
- A keyword strategy where an array of keywords are sprinkled throughout your site on all pages – yes, even the Contact Page.
- Continuously updated content. About what? About whatever your organization does. If you’re a gardening company, write about soil and plants. If you’re an accountant, write about finance and taxes. If you’re a nonprofit serving the homeless, write about poverty, injustice and crime. Build your authority, and Google will send more people to your site.
- Know the hidden places on websites that Google still looks for keywords, and use those places well, but with professionalism. This is where Page Titles, Metas, and alt-text come into play. If you don’t know what those buzzwords mean, it’s easier to show than tell. I created a Basic SEO Tutorial to help you manage these basic elements yourself that explains how to do it.
Two Questions Everyone Asks
Hopefully you’re assured that SEO is not dead and that drawing more traffic is all about quality content.
But after that – there are two questions almost everyone wants to know:
How long does it have to be?
How often do we have to produce it?
“Short content is best” is the widespread belief you’ll hear from lots of graphic designers and marketers who haven’t studied the data.
Here’s something to open their eyes (and yours, if you still believe that).
This graph shows the average lengths of content for the top ten Google search results.
Yet, the misguided notion about short content continues to flourish. When it comes to drawing optimized web traffic, it’s just not true. Longer is better. The data is clear. Short content doesn’t draw crowds.
(Of course, there are exceptions to almost everything. Even more important is to know your audience – that’s ultimately what should determine your content length. And don’t forget to make it sharable).
That’s a much more sensitive question. There’s an ideal, and then there’s the reality.
My answer to this is – as much as you can within reason.
If you’re like a lot of nonprofits and businesses, right now you’re producing…none (it’s okay – this is very common!) In that case, producing one solid piece of content per month is great! So set a goal and try to surpass it. My goal is two per month.
But the ideal is to produce new content as often as you can.
Here’s a couple great articles to help you create content:
If SEO still seems like a huge untamed beast, this Basic SEO Tutorial and Upgrade is an easy first step. It explains the basic components of SEO, how to do it, and why it matters. Then it walks you through, step by step, how to get started – and more importantly, how to maintain it – on your site.
Once you get the basics down, then you can start building the larger pieces on top of that.