“SEO is dead!”
This is what you and we both have been hearing for quite some time. And there is no wonder in that if you are doubting the credibility of SEO. Well, but to be true, what used to work for SEO yesterday is surely dead today. SEO dies daily and then sparks in again in a fresh and renewed form. The game is always ‘ON’ with SEO resurrection. You may have heard about the bird phoenix that comes back from its ashes. And that’s how SEO dies daily and is reborn daily.
And this post intends to help you look into how SEO is an everchanging game and what kind of SEO is working today. Along the way, you may find answers to several of your queries. So, stay tuned!
Whether you are new to SEO or have been there for quite a while, this post may help you know what kind of SEO is working today and why marketers who used to rank high are now hidden on Google’s 2nd or 3rd pages. This is not because SEO is dead, but because they have not changed their strategies with Google’s ever-changing algorithm.
So, let’s find out what marketers who are ranking in Google’s top positions do back the end to achieve promising results in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is not blindly inviting a lot of traffic to your website. It has to bring in the targeted traffic. Besides, SEO plays a big role also in lead conversions. While your business has to do that with your products and/or services, SEO makes sure that no step of the customer’s purchase journey has hurdles. Moreover, it has to identify and make the best use of the user intent as well.
Well, you know that SEO is important for you to be visible on Google searches. And that’s what can bring in more inquiries, more customers looking for your business location to walk in, more online orders, more sales and more profits, of course!
What SEO is?
You may already be knowing what SEO is but may have some conflicting information regarding its working. The definition remains the same although, so does the purpose.
SEO’s purpose is to get your site rank as highly as possible on Google when someone searches for a product you sell or services you provide or things you talk about. A business’s online visibility improves with its rank.
But how does SEO work?
Well, you may be pondering how SEO actually works. And may have gone through several resources to find your answers. But when you read something next, what you already have known may seem conflicting. Why is that?
To be true, none of them is wrong. What used to work when an article or a book has been written may no longer be working sometime later. So, SEO is not frustrating. Rather, it’s ever-changing. It depends on how and when Google and other search engines change their algorithms. Since Google tops the chart, you need to keep your eyes on what changes it brings in. And hence, a new exercise, a new battle sets in for SEO and marketing.
To be successful at SEO, you really need to be adaptive and willing to learn the renewed SEO best practices. Once you are in the game, you’ll realize that newer ones are more effective for the current day. The generation gap in how consumers and users see through the window comes on quickly and you too need to keep the same pace.
You may have many questions and this post will help you get your answers before it ends. You may want to read it till the end in case your queries concern:
- What are the links that work and are they enough?
- The content length: Does it really matter to have long posts a few hours daily or every day?
- How does the URL structure matter anyway? Do you really need a new URL?
- Will meta description and tags do the SEO job?
If you are trying to figure out the most important SEO factor, then you need to know that no one factor can decide the growth of a website. And what may be the best SEO factor for a particular website for a particular kind of product having a specific kind of competition may differ entirely from what will work for another site the best.
There are several factors and they all do their job. It is always a blend of many factors when executed together in the right manner and at the apt speed that can work wonders.
Let’s help you understand each of them one by one. And the first thing we will talk about is the links.
All about links in SEO:
Do links matter or it’s only the links that matter?
Well, we have already spoken about SEO factors that no single factor is sufficient to rank high for a website. And speaking of links if they are necessary today, then of course, yes. They are required today more than ever. However, forget about having spammy links or just inappropriate links. You need links with only high Domain Authority (DA). And that does make sense.
Links are important in building your site’s credibility over a search engine. Although it is not mandatory or just an essential pick, they do have a role that cannot be ignored.
The next thing is the content.
What kind of content do you need for SEO today?
When speaking of content, as of today content length is just one small part. But if it’s a fluffy post, it is no less than a piece of junk. If it’s a copy-paste material, again of no use. As long as you have information that is what just the user is looking for, your work is done. With exclusive and relevant content, you can touch heights with a proper SEO. The content in itself may take longer to rank without its optimization and proper placement.
There are certain aspects of SEO even in the content besides being plagiarism free. Following small sets of rules like sentence length, paragraph length, passive voice use, word use, highlighting keywords, etc. and of course some other grammatical things can help your content rank higher with simple and small inputs.
You may have very rich content, but SEO can make it better in terms of optimization using SEO strategies. And your SEO score can soar high.
Speaking about the type of content. Then, you need a mix and match based on user choice for the products or services you are talking about. For example, if it’s food or travel vlogging, people may not want to read your story. Rather, they will be fascinated by the video content. However, SEO in that too is essential for the user to be able to find you for a particular keyword.
Then, there can be audio content for an audience who can manage or have a better choice of listening to while they cannot watch or their eyes are busy somewhere else. In those cases, you may need audio content and a different type of SEO strategy.
Well, the written content is always essential for the search engine to recognize whether your content is in audible, visual or written forms.
Let’s talk a bit about the duration.
How long will it take for SEO to work?
That’s a tough question to be able to answer even for an SEO expert. And that’s because ranking algorithms are ever-changing and SEO needs to be swift in sweeping over them. And it is very uncertain to say when will it work for a particular site. For organic ranking, you cannot expect things to turn overnight. It may take weeks; it may take months.
You just have to stay ahead of your competition and that’s the key to success in Search Engine Page Results (SERPs). It’s your competition and how you plan to outthink that derives the actual results.
Well, you may have heard a lot of technical and non-technical terms while acquiring any form of SEO knowledge. Although website building has become an easy job with no-coding drag and drops templates offered by many portals, SEO still remains a challenge for them. And there is no lie in that having even a little knowledge of technical aspects can give an SEO professional an edge over others. But, does that mean you need to have technical knowledge?
Frankly speaking, you can learn all that it takes to get to heights along the SEO journey. It is just the first step you have to take. If you are willing to learn what you lack, you don’t need to have a professional course. This will help you in understanding the changing algorithms and the motive behind them. Not only this, but it will also help you draw a route map for your SEO strategy.
Technical SEO factors include things like the structure of your website, URL structure, sitemap, anchor texts, no-follow tags and so on. Even the design and layout of your site and its page load speed have a huge impact on your website’s SEO performance.
What is Off-page SEO? What is on-page SEO? And what’s the difference between the two?
On-page SEO means the work you do on your website as a part of SEO. For example, altering the URL structures, detecting broken links and repairing them, adding XML sitemap, reducing the size of your images to keep the page-load speed high, etc. This is the work done on your site from the perspective of improving its SEO.
On the other hand, Off-page SEO means the work you do outside your website but for your website’s SEO. It means boosting SEO using other platforms.
While internal links are the ones across pages and posts and other forms of content on your site, external links are the links to other sites. These can be references or content on other sites. Hence, Internal links can be called a type of On-page SEO strategy and external links are a type of Off-page SEO.
Now, let’s dive into the SEO factors that are working today. But remember, what is working today may or may not work tomorrow. And that’s because SEO trends come and go quickly and are everchanging. So, better buckle up and do what can be done today rather than waiting for tomorrow when competition is even higher.
#1. The content quality:
We have already discussed the type and length of content in the above section. So, we hope you know that high-quality, exclusive, informational content is the king and not just “Content is the king”. A small worthy post may get you a big high rather than a long fluffy junk post.
The frequency of your posts shall depend on the kind of industry your business is about and the competition it is facing or can face. For example, in a NEWS business, your content renewal and updates can be as necessary as in seconds and minutes. But when you are providing some long-term products and services, the frequency can vary as large as once or twice a week posting. However, the content quality has to be up to the mark.
Remember, when you have quality content, SEO becomes easier. Quality content with apt optimization does not only draw traffic but also retains the user interest. This interest of the leads is easier to convert into actual purchases.
Speaking about different aspects of the content:
- Keywords: They have always mattered and still do. Then, what has changed? So, the change now is that you can’t just do keyword stuffing as and when and where you like in the content. Google crawlers today see the context of the user intent. And hence, besides the primary keywords, secondary keywords today are more involved in the game than they used to be earlier.
- Content structure: As discussed earlier also, your content with a good SEO structure can help you achieve better. Proper use of meta descriptions, H1, H2 and further headings, their subsections, the length of each subsection, H1 tags, alt attributes, infographics or image descriptions, alt text and their URL structures can help you in optimizing your quality content.
- Content relevance: Content length is one factor but its relevance is more important. A small post or just a single paragraph may be enough for a page. While another page may need a lengthy post. This entirely depends on the purpose of the page. For example, you may need to provide short, fascinating and captivating info on a landing page. While details can go on related links. This depends on where the content stands in relevance to the purchase journey. If it’s only a blogging site, probably the readers are there to read what you have got to share. Whereas, if they are purchasing an online platform, they need to browse cross several sections to pick one. And for such sites, this navigation has to be easy rather than a fluffy post speaking only to have a keyword ranked.
# 2. What is metadata and what’s its role in SEO?
When you hit a search on Google, you may have noticed the results with small excerpts beneath them. The small portion of the data that appear with the titles on the search page is the metadata. This helps the user to get a hunch about what the link really talks about and what can user find. So, the user can decide whether to click on the link or not. And hence, you can justify the importance of metadata because it has a big initial role when the user decides to click or leave the link.
In SEO today, you can optimize this metadata. And how to do that? So, here’s your answer in just a few simple steps:
- Include keywords in the title and description but do not repeat them. Use variation to include different words that are used in the same context. The more it matches the user intent in context, the higher will be its position in SERP.
- The length of the meta description is also important. Neither lengthy nor too short. Recommended title length is nearly 60 characters (including spaces). And a recommendation for the length of meta description is nearly 160 characters. But try to keep it always inside of this.
- Clarity has a meaning. Being concise is one thing but being clear is important. Users should know what to expect from the content just by a glimpse of highlighted words in the description and the title.
So, metadata is no less than an advertisement for your content. Engage your user with an attractive trailer encouraging a check-in.
#3. Should you buy links for SEO?
Some people often complain about the difficulty in obtaining high-quality backlinks. Yes, you may or may not get a link approval. It depends on the owner of that site whether to accept your post or not. So, should you go for easy-sleazy paid links?
If you have extra bucks, you can go for paid links. But they are not effective. Even users rely on organic returns by the search engine rather than paid ones.
Remember one thing while link building, gone are the days when quantity used to matter. It’s time for high-quality links rather than more links.
#4. User experience matters:
This is all about users and how they experience being on your site. So, it starts with the first glimpse of your site’s structure. Its design should be subtle to the context. Site structure and infrastructure, its design, layout, theme, ease of navigation, ability to find and search, content, page load speed and the list is long. But the gist is that the user experience on your site should be hassle-free.
And it should be your top priority. After all, it is the user experience that will define the conversion and even customer retention and recommendation.
Some practices to follow include:
- Keep track of metrics. You need to know the time spent by a user on your page, Click-through Rate (CTR) and also the bounce rate. If your content is in audio or video form, you can even find where the users spent maximum time. For example, in a 10-minute video, you can analyze how many users watched till the end, which is the most watched timestamp and where the users start dropping by. This can help a lot in improving your content. After all, metrics determine your content’s performance.
- Ease of navigation: Google says most users drop a site when they find it difficult to navigate across pages. The clear and simpler the navigation is, the better the user experience. So, analyze and make the best use of your search menu, navigation bars, drop-downs, pop-ups and links.
- Page-speed is crucial: Again, Google says when users experience loading and loading for longer, they tend to close the site and turn to the next one. When your site has more visual content, the size of the files can really make a big change. You can compress the images and make them into the most Google-friendly WebP format. Even minimum coding and structure mark-up will help you in reducing the page-load speed. Don’t forget to check your site on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It will tell you where to improve.
#5. Mobile optimization:
So, how many of you are still using only the desktop versions? Well, it’s not outdated, but users have shifted to mobile devices for their browsing experiences. Have you optimized your site for mobile? Even if you have it done, there’s always more to learn and perform.
Google moved to mobile-first indexing a long time back in 2018. And you may know what this means. Google uses your mobile site versions to rank them. This shift came as a change in user behaviour. When users shifted to mobile devices, Google indeed has to address their ease.
So, does that mean you no longer need a desktop version?
No, it’s never like that. But what you need is a site responsive on both versions with similar content and fast loading speed across both versions. This is only to make your site accessible to all the users, regardless of the device they are using for browsing.
#6. How do users search for content?
Users definitely type what they are looking for even today. But many searches today are happening with voice search tools. And you cannot ignore this. Although many users have switched to smart speakers, optimization in voice search is quite behind. And this means, there is little competition and you can hit in hard if you manage to get through it.
Another big advantage of optimizing for voice search has an intersection with the context part. This is because, during voice search, a user usually uses entire sentences or comparatively more words than are used while typing. This helps Google to run a semantic search for a voice-based search. It means, the words used by the user can help Google in determining the intent and contextual meaning of the words. Therefore, the results returned may vary largely.
So, does the question of ‘How to’ ring a bell? If yes, then try these:
- Try to answer ‘How to’ in your content.
- Use natural language. If possible, go for a multilingual site. Optimize the voice search for all the languages your site is addressing.
- Try using featured snippets. With ‘How to’ content, there’s a lot of room for you to make the best use of snippets. Use more definitions, steps in a guided form, tables, and lists. Google indexes this content quite easily and pulls them from its index whenever a user intent matches with your content. You can also use Question and Answer schemas as a part of this strategy. Create a markup for your FAQ page. It does help.
The final SEO tips:
Well, technical stuff keeps on changing. Some tips and tricks always work. And you can expect them to be working in future as well.
#1. Never get behind the shade:
When you first read about SEO, whether today or years back, you may have come across the terms White-hat SEO, Black-hat SEO and grey-hat SEO. And most of you reading may be knowing what they mean.
The most important tip while practising SEO is always to remember never to go against Google’s terms of service and put on a black hat. Although most people say that White-hat SEO no longer works and they have to walk in the middle of the road with Grey-hat SEO.
But, we believe in doing the legit in the legit way to run longer.
With quick baits and black or grey hats, you can probably shorten the time for SEO to work, but you may never be able to stay as long as a white hat. After all, “Slow and steady wins the race.” However, you need not be so slow when it comes to SEO. Yes, steadiness is the key to successful SEO. And there has never been a doubt in this. Besides, steadiness will always stay, today and tomorrow.
#2. Keep yourself updated:
So, in SEO, you need to read experts regularly. You need to stay updated in regards to the changing Google algorithm. And to keep pace with it, it is important to learn from experts. Learning is an ongoing process, whatever you may choose to do.
Do not fall in for fancy guarantees. But have some reputable resources to keep you updated. Always pay attention to Google direct news. And the experts will probably help you figure out how to make the best use of the piece of news.
#3. Take tests:
Every site works in a unique landscape and so do its SEO strategies. Testing time and again tells you what and how to do the next. Repeated insights and testing will help you prepare for the next and also keep a track of your competition.
Testing is what helps in laying out the next plans and execution depend on worthy planning.
SEO is ever-changing and ever-evolving. You cannot alter its speed or its direction. It all depends on user experiences. After all, you are there only to reach the user. So, never trust a single SEO strategy, And what may work for one may or may not work for the other. Try to individualize your strategies for different sites.
Follow best SEO practices and stay with white-hat on. Always keep yourself updated, whether it’s about your competitor or Google. Keep yourself informed and figure out what to do next as early as possible. Keep yourself testing over time. Testing will never fail you as an SEO pro. So, always stay inclined towards learning more. Your willingness and keenness can take you and your site to heights!