Few things are subject to more misinformation than Search Engine Optimization (SEO). TV shows such as The Good Wife portray us as manipulators of the search engines. Many of you have received at least one email from a “helpful person” letting you know that your website does not have top ranking.
As a company who works in the SEO space, we find it frustrating too. We get those emails too (sometimes it’s fun to reply and see what happens), and on a daily basis, we explain that SEO isn’t manipulation, it’s education.
On top of all that, now there is this talk of the “new SEO.” Apparently this new SEO is kind of like the old one, except you can’t get away with dirty technical tricks like you used to. Also not true. Spam is sadly alive and well in SEO-land.
The new SEO is supposed to prize efficiency and engagement — but so did the old SEO. Sure, in the old SEO, you could have created 10,000 pages, each targeting one really specific keyword. But that was always a technical trick designed to rank you temporarily. What the old SEO was missing was a focus on the visitor. That visitor is the whole reason we’re having this discussion.
Don’t get me wrong, technical SEO is massively important, but if you only focused on technical SEO, you would forget about your visitor. Your poor, sad visitor who was so excited because they finally found a page that answers their question, only to find that the page essentially says nothing and looks awful because it was never made for them. It was made for the search engine spiders so that you would rank well.
Search engine spiders aren’t big shoppers. They don’t engage with you on social media, and they probably won’t read your white paper. I wish a search engine spider would write a blog post about how your company turned a bad experience into a great one, but I don’t think Google’s AI is quite advanced enough for that yet.
If spiders aren’t the ones buying into your brand, then why do you spend so much time trying to make things just right for them? Google’s guidelines show that what Google wants is to understand the web like humans do. To be able to answer your search query as if you asked a particularly knowledgeable friend.
As marketers, we ended up incentivizing the wrong metrics. Instead of giving searchers what they wanted, we made them work for it. What resulted was a situation where someone Googled “how do I change a tire” and ended up on a page with an embedded video that would only unlock if they entered their email address. Why not just give them what they want?
The new SEO is audience-based marketing. We need to understand the motivations, needs, wants, and desires of our audience and give that to them. Just publishing a page isn’t enough anymore. Who is going to use that page? Who should use that page? And what will we do to market it — to educate Google that it’s authoritative and that yes, people should visit it and will enjoy it. Putting that into practice is how the new SEO works.