Hello there! My name is Brian Rubin, and I’m the Senior SEO Developer here at Wpromote! What does that mean? It basically means I’m old, angry, and have a lot of opinions. I’ve been in SEO since 2004, and my god has the industry changed a boatload since I began. Back then, all ya needed to do was put some gobbledygook, keyword-ridden text in a negative CSS layer so that the user would never see it, but it’d still be read by search engines and poof, rankings!
Nowadays SEO is all about quaaalllllity and authoooority and yadda yadda. This is, honestly, as it should be, since SEO is about making websites better. One thing that really grinds my gears though, is the constant whinging about whether SEO is dead or not. At least once a year, if not more frequently, I see an article asking if SEO is dead or if it’s been weakened or why it’ll never be the same after some Google algorithm update. Yadda yadda yaaaaadaaaaaa. What a bunch of freaking baloney (and that’s me being nice, I’m from Philly, believe me, I could curse up a storm about this if I wanted to).
Since I’m old and opinionated, my higher-ups asked me to write some articles espousing my opinions, so here we are. I’m gonna first tackle a couple of smaller points before getting to my final point, starting with…
Let’s Define What SEO Actually Is
When I tell people I work in SEO, I get an amazing variety of opinions, from confusion to eyes glazing over to outright anger. I’m serious, anger. I once told a dude I worked in SEO, and he began yelling at me about what jerks me and my entire industry are. No lie. I think these varied reactions come from a very simple truth: outside the industry, there’s no a clear picture as to what SEO actually is.
Let’s fix that. SEO is, to be absolutely crystal clear and simple, the act of improving a website for its users.
Wait Brian, isn’t the goal of SEO to try and get better keyword rankings? I hear you ask in my head.
Sure, that’s a nice side effect of generally making your site more user-friendly. Keywords used to be the be-all-end-all of SEO. They determined everything. Nowadays, sure, they’re still useful for a variety of things — such as tracking movement in the SERPs — but they’re not as super important as they used to be.
What DOES SEO entail then? Well, at its core, it’s:
- Helping make a site more content rich for users
- Helping improve a site’s usability
- Removing any technical roadblocks
- Improving a site’s meta foundation via better tags
Along with many other factors that will improve a user’s “stickiness”, or the time a user will spend on a site. Therefore, SEO is, at its core, a series of techniques used to improve a website so its users find it more valuable and authoritative. However, there’s a lot of misinformation out there…
Why SEO Isn’t The Snake Oil Many Believe It Is
With all of that said above, why does SEO garner such a negative reaction by, at least anecdotally, a good amount of people? Like coins, there are two sides to SEO, commonly known as black hat and white hat (so named after typical heroes and villains in old western movies). White hat SEO — the type I work in — is basically what’s outlined above. Trying to improve a website’s authority, usability and so on via visible, useful methods.
Black hat SEO is entirely the opposite. Folks who employ these techniques try to fool search engines into providing them with rankings, such as by things such as cloaking, hiding, redirecting, duplicating and other methods. Usually sites that employ these techniques do eventually get caught and banned/filtered out of the SERPS, but for a while they might steal legitimate rankings from other sites who tried to make their sites more valuable and rank via actually being useful.
To the outsider, however, it all appears to be one in the same. SEO folks are evil people who manipulate tags and crap to get what they want, and don’t care about anyone else. This is why people eat up “Is SEO Dead?” articles. A lot of people genuinely wish it were, or hope it will be soon. Besides giving these people a hearty middle finger and a “f you” for wanting me and others to lose our jobs, I’m now gonna tell ya why SEO will likely never die.
Why SEO Isn’t Going Anywhere
Search Engine Optimization will exist as long as search engines exist. Period. Bar none. Done. As long as we rely on search engines like Google and, hah, let’s be real just Google, folks who run websites will need help getting search engines to notice and rank their sites well. People who are usually good at one thing (making websites, running a company, etc.) aren’t so good at another thing (marketing, writing, etc.), which is where SEO comes in. It’s a type of expertise that fills in the gaps individuals and companies normally lack.
Search is growing into an even larger part of our lives, from local search to voice search and everything in-between. SEO isn’t just about ranking in these varied methods of search, but by helping your site become valuable and authoritative enough that it deserves to be seen by others, so that they’ll ultimately get something useful and awesome out of it. Therefore, as long as people use search engines — or let’s just say Google, if we’re honest — website owners will need help making sure their sites are as feature complete and user-friendly as possible in order to be as easily found in said search engines as possible.
So Google can change their algorithms all they want. They can add Skynet to their machine learning. They can unleash actual rabid pandas into the halls of SEO companies. It wouldn’t matter. As long as search engines are around, the cottage industry upon which it was built, SEO, will also be around.
So the next time you see an article asking “Is SEO Dead?” you can see it for the ridiculously stupid clickbait it truly is. The Buzzfeed listicle of SEO articles. It might as well be one of those excessively stupid paginated listicles for all the good it’ll do ya. God, I hate those so much.
Anyway, SEO isn’t useful just for rankings and traffic — though it is great for those things — but ultimately it’s about making your website the best it can be for its users. Isn’t that what we all want?
Thanks for reading this first op-ed of mine in what I hope will be a series of caustic, annoying and overtly opinionated pieces I plan to write. I hope you enjoy it! If there’s something you’d like me to cover, hit me up below in the comments.