Short Answer? Yep. It is almost August of 2015 and SEO is even more important now than it ever was.
If you’ve been trying to generate leads online for any amount of time, you’ve heard of SEO (aka search engine optimization). Everyone knows a little bit about it, right? I recently had somebody tell me though that he knew, “enough to be dangerous,” only to find out that he had no clue what he was talking about. So yes, he knew enough to be dangerous - to his company's success. His strategy was actually hurting his company's ability to generate revenue.
This guy was the CEO of a large B2B corporation, and after a conversation we had about how SEO will help him get more business he replied, “Does Google really matter?” Wait...this guy said he knew SEO?
Not at all.
I tried to educate him on SEO and the importance of Google's algorithm changes, but he really thought that Google didn't play a large role in the success of his company. You see, he’s part of a small minority who thinks that SEO is dead or at least irrelevant. They’ve read about Google’s Pandas and Penguins (we’ll get to those later) and are convinced that SEO is a waste of time in 2015. But this guy was a CEO, not an SEO expert. He knew his business, not search engine optimization.
SEO is something that I deal with on a daily basis, but he “read something somewhere” so what I had to say was shot down. I left while biting my tongue on the way out and I couldn’t help but think of a quote by Benjamin Franklin:
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” ~Benjamin Franklin
Yes, Google Really IS Relevant
SEO does matter, always has, and until the government decides to regulate the internet completely, it always will. If you have a great looking, user-friendly website that can’t be found, then your website is irrelevant. Your clients won’t be able to find you. It is like having the greatest billboard but then putting it in your basement. Only your friends and family will see it. There's nothing wrong with your family checking out your site (Hi Mom!), but they rarely become paying clients. Bottom line, you need to get strangers to find your website organically. You need people who have a problem to find your site to be the solution to that problem. You are in business to solve your client's pain, right?
Google has various algorithms in place which we are studying on the regular. Google never comes out and tells us what they are looking for or how to get on the first page, but that doesn't mean that we just give up. If anything, it makes us work harder to understand what Google is looking for when deciding which sites to rank on the first page. A slight change in their algorithm could mean that thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line for our clients. If you don’t adjust your optimization strategy and change your website to meet the demands of the latest Google algorithm update, your rankings and organic traffic could plummet. From what they tell us, we’ve gained enough knowledge to manipulate the search engines for our advantage. If you know what you’re doing, you can employ certain strategies and tactics and set things up in such a way that your website, blog post, video or whatever you are trying to rank for gets bumped up the ladder.
Sometimes this happens organically with zero SEO. When a video or website goes viral, it can quickly rank high in Google. When a company is dominant in their industry their site will naturally come up first every time in a search.
But for the rest of us normal folks, we need a little help. This is where a talented SEO agency or individual can come in handy. By employing SEO best practices, a website ranking #47 on a Google search can make it to the first page within a few months (sometimes weeks).
But you have to watch out for the Google Animals. If they catch you doing something they don’t like- your website could get de-indexed, slapped, black listed or bumped down to page 100.
Pandas & Penguins
Google’s Panda update came out in 2011 and largely had to do with “on-page” website information. They pushed a lot of websites off of page one because they had horribly spammy content, duplicate content, unhelpful content, and over-optimized keywords to try to “trick Google” into sending more visitors to their site.
The Panda algorithm change had to do with what was on the page. If the content sucked, it got bumped down in the interest of Google providing its users with high-quality, relevant information from websites that actually had something to say.
When asked how to recover from a “Panda hit,” Google recommends a blog written by one of their employees. Although it's long, it is very helpful..
The Penguin Update in 2012 had to do With Backlinks
Pre-Penguin, the more backlinks you had, the better. Generally speaking. low quality or untrustworthy links helped a site rank higher. So the more links, the better. When you think about it- it makes sense. If a lot of people link to a site, in Google’s eyes, that site must be pretty useful. But Penguin changed that. Crap links started to hurt, not help. So SEO changed.
What Should I Do For SEO Now?
If you’re wondering how a website can rank higher in Google in 2015- take heart. We can point you in the right direction with some general tips below.
On-Page SEO Tips
You want to make sure that your “on-page optimization” is taken care in a way that makes Google happy. This includes several things like:
Having at least 300 words of content on the page.
Using target keywords (and variations of them) in headings and subheadings.
Insert proper Title tags, Alt tags, and Meta Description
Making sure that images are “tagged” with your target keywords.
Having internal links pointing to your other pages, and external links pointing elsewhere.
Off-Page SEO Tips
Off-page SEO has to do with anything that happens off of your website that shows Google that you are a relevant, real company with a real webpage. For the longest time this really mean link-building. Of course you want to make sure your site is integrated with your social media platforms but when someone says “off-page SEO,” they’re talking about pro-actively getting more links pointing to your website.
There are above board ways to do this that Google approves of (called “white-hat”), middle-ground tactics (“gray-hat”), and of course stuff that Google really hates (“black-hat”). Please, please, please don't do anything except white-hat SEO! Gray-hat and black-hat SEO are a great way to piss off Google and get your site blacklisted from the search rankings.
No matter what you do, you want to make sure that links pointing to your website:
Are authoritative and powerful
Are relevant to your site's content
To dig into “off-page” SEO further, check out our blog post about off-page SEO and how it works to rank higher in Google.
More visitors = More business = More money
Once you start digging into SEO, you’ll very quickly discover that it takes more than “writing great content” to rank high in Google. You’ll hear it cry out loudly, “I’m not dead yet!” When your website is dialed in and your off-page optimization is done properly, the results are tangible for your business:
Don’t discount the value that SEO brings and can bring to your website. You can shell out some cash and have someone else do it, do it yourself, or just sit around and do nothing.
But make no mistake- SEO isn’t dead in 2015; it’s flourishing.