SEO What?  Decoding the Ever-Evolving Conundrum of Search Engine Optimization Part III

SEO What? Decoding the Ever-Evolving Conundrum of Search Engine Optimization Part III

Last week, we explored what’s changing in search engine optimization. This week, in the final part of our series on SEO, we share what’s on the decline and what will always be relevant.

WHAT’S WANING
Longtail keywords and phrases
While keywords and phrases have been the mainstay of SEO since its beginning in the mid-1990s (meaning that content creators write using the most likely words or phrases with which people would search for something), search engines’ algorithms are becoming smarter all the time and don’t need to be told exactly, in long tail keywords, what content to latch onto.

An example of longtail keywords is “senior living communities in Michigan by the water with pool and fitness center” instead of, simply, “senior living communities,” which is an example of short tail keywords. Algorithms now better understand users’ language and intent, according to Ceralytics chief strategist Brandon Andersen: “This change means one medium tail keyword, and one piece of content, can rank for many longtail variants in a single piece of content.” But don’t throw the keywords baby out with the bathwater; keywords are still important to the whole of SEO when crafted with user intent and satisfaction in mind.

Desktop indexing
See “mobile-first indexing” from last week’s blog.

Search engine manipulation
As we’ve already touched on, some SEO writers have been involved in disingenuous practices (also called “black hat” techniques) in order to curry favor with the search engines that have now become wise to these tricks of the trade. Additional measures to thwart such activity include fake news algorithm updates, an attempt on Google’s part to make truthfulness in news a ranking factor. Google is especially motivated here, because of the criticism it has taken in earlier years for content farm clutter (lots of low-quality content generated to reap high SERP rankings) and its more recent publishing of “fake news.”

Guest blog posting may also be declining, as it too can be manipulated, and some SEO experts predict that Google will create an algorithm that goes after unscrupulous guest posting, too. While guest blogs that expand brand awareness and drive traffic because they’re valuable additions to owned media (content that is created by a brand and lives on its site) is certainly good SEO practice, some guests posts exist in an attempt to influence the rankings. In the words of digital marketing strategist Pratik Dholakiya, “The most vital piece of information from Google’s guidelines has always been the recommendation to ask yourself: ‘Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?’”

WHAT WILL NEVER CHANGE
High-quality, user-friendly content

“User-friendly” is a phrase most commonly used to describe a machine or software program, for example, that is easy for the general public to operate. But in the case of SEO, it refers to content that has the end user in mind, not the company or brand generating it. As marketing/SEO and search engine professionals stress time and again, there is no way to consistently and sustainably get good SERP listings without truly committing to the consumer experience by creating quality, relevant, engaging content that meets a need or desire.

Whether it’s the best answer to a question, the most compelling dissemination of information, or a genuine, “goodwill” offering of humor, entertainment or inspiration, content must be created with Google’s guiding question in mind: “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

We’d suggest one more question, too: “Am I really meeting my customers’ and prospects’ needs with this content, or am I only thinking about my bottom line?”

IVY’s team of experts can help you craft and share content that will engage audiences and earn notice from the search engines because it stands on its own merit as genuinely substantial, consumer-centric material. As much as SEO changes and keeps us scratching our heads, great content getting high marks is certain to stick around.

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