The State of SEO
People have been saying 'SEO is dead' for years now and frankly they’re not wrong. SEO died. SEO died in the same way as the VHS or DVD player. But we didn’t stop watching movies, we just watched them differently. SEO operates in a whole different stratosphere and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Just as we seek out films and TV shows and demand excellence through streaming services, we now search for and consume information through a variation of methods and devices.
The creation of voice search assistants and Google’s determination to dominate the SERPs is evidence enough of the booming reputation of SEO. These new technologies weren’t responsible for starting a trend in ‘optimising content for voice search’ but were rather a reaction to the invaluable customer-centric insights the SEO industry provided. The SEO industry was creating content targeting natural sentence structure way before the popularisation of Alexa or Google Home.
The Biggest Threat to SEO
In the last year, the relationship between Google and SEOs has become increasingly clouded in a shroud of cynicism and mistrust. With many in the industry being abruptly reminded that Google is the world’s biggest advertising platform and the bulk of their +$130billion revenue is driven by their Adwords offering.
When Google was one of a few strong search engines, they needed SEOs to help them fulfil their goal of providing the best possible user experience to ensure people chose them over Yahoo! (to name but one). The SEOers, excited to be part of this challenge that tugged at their heartstrings, obliged and together they made the world’s biggest search engine (who then in turn went and bought the world’s second largest search engine, YouTube). The result? Well, SEOers now have a way better understanding of the emotional downfall of Dr Frankenstein; our efforts could be the result of our demise.
If you take a look at the SERPs (search engine results pages) today you’ll be astonished to find out that we’ve seen pages that consist of only 35% organic search results and the rest are dominated by adverts or other Google products.
Google told us Featured Snippets would champion and reward those who best answered the questions of users. In reality Google took our content, put it in a little box at the top, which gave users absolutely no reason to click on to our website and explore further. Simultaneously, they judged us on how users engaged with our websites.
The Opportunity to Come Out Stronger
“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
Unlike Victor Frankenstein, the SEO industry will not die trying to bring about the end of its own creation. Realistically, the only people upset by Google’s advances are competitors, stubborn SEOers, conspiracy theorists and those who truly stand up to the man. The user is getting exactly what they want, when they want and how they want (even if they didn’t know it yet).
The SEO industry needs to realise that Google remains a conduit to their ultimate goal, increased goal completions for themselves or their clients. Google seeks to serve the best user experience and meet the demands of their users. No one is still throwing a fit about the demise of the VHS, instead they’re basking in the on-going influx of award winning films and TV shows created by Netflix or Amazon. This is exactly what the SEO industry has an opportunity to do.
How Do They Do This?
The strengths of SEOers is that they’ve always had to keep their fingers in all of the pies, making them acutely aware of the strengths and weaknesses of other media channels. SEO, simply put, has to excel in technical understanding and output, content and link building strategy. This brings them hand in hand with developers, creatives, designers, PR experts and other distribution channels.
SEOers are jacks of all media and masters of one. The one element that brings all of them together, the one output that combines us all and the one that ultimately counts, is content.
Content is the Glue That Brings Us Together
Content is how companies, brands and people talk to one another. The proliferation of content being shared across social media platforms and the increased investment in digital marketing is proof enough of this. We’re consuming new formats of content every day and it’s not just online, it’s offline and even better it’s bringing online and offline experiences together. SEO is a strategy, not a by-product, not an island but rather part of a multimedia strategy to get the biggest bang for the bucks you spent on content.
SEO should not be separated from ‘traditional content’. We should not be using phrases like 'writing for SEO' or 'SEO based content'; all content has one goal and that is to reach the users and provoke a response. If anyone working in the industry is creating content to simply “create content for that keyword”, they’re doing it wrong and our main conduit will continue to dilute its impact and our audiences and partners will not distribute, identify or respond.
A United Front is the Best Opportunity
Like any successful underdog will tell you, presenting and participating in a united front is your biggest asset. This is not just something that SEOs need to do, but anyone who has a desire to achieve the goals of their content. Friction amongst developers, designers, creatives, PRs and SEOs is commonplace and one of the biggest hindering factors of achieving success. Each of these people have a drive and a passion for their art / science that comes with a human element of pride, which is the ultimate downfall.
The time to reinvigorate the traditional SEO Team is upon us. In a time of AI, we need not be afraid, but rather SEOs should work with developers and creatives to get ahead of the curve and create AI that learns from us expert humans who understand content the best. While the turnaround time for SEO driven results may not be as quick as those bought via PPC they often prove to have a considerably higher long-term ROI. SEOs need to work with PRs and the rest of the dream team to shout about their results to users (humans) who still derive satisfaction from seeing the successes of their fellow human being.
Expanding the Reach of SEO
Google is a conduit, but it’s not the only conduit. It’s also not the only conduit that has an impact on how you appear in the SERPs.
As mentioned, we’re experts on how to provide people answers to what they search for. 4 billion people use the internet, that’s half of the population of the planet. SEOs are required to understand these people in order to provide them with content they expect them to consume. SEOs are experts at understanding customer-centric data that is transformed into something creative. These skills are transferable to all elements of content and should be.
To Conclude (My Own Viewpoint on the Issue)
There are threats to SEO. These come in the form of the desire for immediate results, changing Google landscape and AI. There are internal weaknesses such as not playing well with others and tunnel vision about what an SEO should be or do.
The biggest strengths we have is that we can adapt. We can play well with others to provide content solutions to clients that include a full package content offering. This is content that resonates across all channels for our target audience. It doesn’t simply rank for a keyword.
At Waste Creative I hope to be able to build a team who create content founded in real insight into our audience and understanding of the benefits of SEO. Content that is then built in a way that satisfies not only Google’s specific demands for technical excellence but also strikes a chord with users provoking the desired response. Content that produces results that are constant snowballing into innovative optimisations or new concepts.
We don’t need to work within the confines of what Google puts out there, because companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are watching and listening to what we’re doing and saying. We’ve also got a community of SEOers who are hungry for change and innovation who are looking for inspiration from their fellows.
I’m genuinely tired of working in a way that separates me from the people who I rely on for results (devs, creatives, designers, PRs etc). Waste Creative by bringing in an SEO into their creative team are one of very few (I actually don’t know any others, but I imagine they’re out there) who have proven they’re leading the charge in innovative approaches to content. They’re bringing together those responsible for driving and making great content to create an elite team of experts that can provide a one-stop shop for those brands / companies who want results.