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Why SEO Is So Much Better Now (But Can Still Improve) – Here’s Why #170


The villagers caught a black hat SEO and brought him to the wise knight for trial. Let’s be thankful that SEO methods have come a long way since the ancient times of search engines!

In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge gives evidence that SEO has grown up in many ways, and shares best practices for more mature, sustainable SEO.

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Mark: Eric, you’ve been saying that the maturation of SEO is reaching an advanced state.

Eric: It’s true. The evolution of SEO has been remarkable.

In its early days, there were so many ways to fool Google into giving you traffic that many people felt like it was a bad idea not to do it. The risk of penalties was small and the upsides were high.
But in today’s world, that has truly changed. No serious enterprise knowingly engages in tactics that are overtly manipulative. Don’t get me wrong, enterprise companies still get penalties. But the great majority of those cases result from misunderstandings regarding guidelines or marketing tactics that are okay in moderation being taken too far.

Pretty much every enterprise believes that it’s now a bad idea to try and fool Google into giving you traffic, the exact opposite of how it used to be. No serious enterprise thinks that this is a good idea. The risk of penalties for bad behavior is high and the amount of potential upside not big enough to justify taking on that risk.

[Tweet “These days no serious enterprise-level company intentionally uses black hat SEO techniques. There’s a reason for that. Learn more in this video!” ]

Mark: So, is black hat SEO still around?

Eric: Well, yes, it is. And it still has a devoted following. But for the most part, these are people that seek to drive short-term games. They’re willing to churn and burn sites, and deal with the penalties, and simply move on the next strategy or the next site.

A skilled black hat can still make a ton of money, but it’s definitely not the right lifestyle for most people or businesses. And it’s not what many businesses with significant public presence, revenue, or employees should be doing.

You don’t want to be the one that has to lay people off because you tried some high-risk traffic, had it work for a while, and then, suddenly, what you gained and more gets taken away. I’ve seen companies have to engage in massive layoffs after receiving a penalty. That’s just not the place you want to be.

Mark: So, does that mean pretty much everyone is doing best practices optimal SEO now?

Eric: Well, I wish. But no, not exactly.

It’s not like everyone has become perfect at it. And it continues to evolve. Philosophically, having a laser focus on creating more and more user value is the best mindset to have for SEO these days. So, let me outline what that means.

  1. Understanding the concept of task completion. If a user arrives on a page at your site, what is it that they’re looking for? I often share the example of an auto parts site and a user on their oil filters page. What do they want? Well, oil filters are a decent bet, of course, but they may also want oil, or an oil filter wrench, or the manual for their car so they can make sure that they’re buying the right filter, and more.
  2. Creating a great user experience. You can have the best possible content and products in the world, but if users can’t find it because of poor navigation or poor page design, it won’t do them or you any good.
  3. Having best in class informational content. In my opinion, this is one of the big upshots of machine learning at Google, i.e. they have become much better at evaluating query relevance and finding the best possible content to deliver, to respond to those user queries. It’s by no means perfect, but I’ve seen lots of different businesses see their traffic sore as a result of adopting a content-centric strategy. And, of course, effective marketing and promotion of your business online remains incredibly important too.

Mark: Okay. So, we’ve made progress, but there’s still much to do. So, how would you summarize all that?

Eric: You’re right. There is still lots to do, but it’s a great thing for the industry to get more mature.

Fewer people are looking to pursue manipulative practices. And the big blight that used to hang over SEO’s head is fading, slowly maybe, but it’s fading. The stigma still exists with some people, but the number of those out there is far less than it used to be.

It’s now common that SEO is a major function in a large enterprise and part of an integrated marketing department. Collaboration between SEO, PR, and marketing is beginning to happen in many different organizations. This is a trend that will continue over the next few years.

And it’s because of all this progress that, I think, I can safely say, “Welcome home, SEO. You’re family now. And you’re finally finding the place in our industry where you’ve always belonged.”.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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