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The Current State of SEO: Not what it was

Google-panda-and-penguinThe SEO world has changed quite a bit over the last few years, with Google leading the charge. From Panda to Penguin (and who knows what animal is next), what worked in the past is no longer a strategy for the future.

With all this in mind, you have to answer the following question before you do anything else:  how will you formulate a strategy that provides SEO benefits, as opposed to one that causes more harm than good?

Once you compare the old way of doing things against the current state of the industry you will better understand where to spend your time, money, energy, and resources.

Where to Start

From a brand new website to a property that has been around for a decade or longer, your basic approach to SEO will be similar. Here are five of the best ways to spend your time:

  • Analytics
  • Content creation and marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Keyword research
  • Tracking results

The past was not nearly as complicated, with most people spending their time on one thing and one thing only: link building. The more links the better, regardless of where they came from or how they came about (free, paid, link exchange).

penalized-by-googleThe current state of SEO does not call for this same approach. In fact, if you take part in borderline link building activity you can expect your website to be penalized. As a result, you are greatly harming your chance of reaching your goals.

A Side by Side Comparison

In this section, we will examine three key details of SEO, including a look at both the past and the present:

Keywords

Go back in time and the only thing that mattered was selecting your primary keywords, which was typically based on those with the most potential to drive high levels of organic traffic. For most, this meant one to three of the highest volume keywords.

Now, everything has changed. It is more important than ever to focus on the wants and needs of the reader as opposed to a singular keyword. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Take advantage of long tail searches
  • Focus on local keywords, if applicable
  • Be willing to target smaller volume keywords with the idea that your conversion rate could be higher

Tip: if you have the opportunity to link to your website, such as through a guest post published on a high authority industry blog, don’t use your primary keyword as the anchor text. This may have been valuable in the past, but it’s not necessary today. Instead, you are better off linking to your site with your company’s name.

Content

Content is still king in the SEO world, but just in a different way.

Old SEO was all about creating content for the search engines. This meant blog posts and web content stuffed full of keywords that provided no real value to the reader. It didn’t matter if the content was high quality or relevant. All that mattered was that you had the right keywords in the right places.

The process of creating content is completely different than it was in the past. Now, your primary goal should be to create content that provides value to your audience. Leave the 250 word blog posts in the past and step up to those that are 750 words or longer and full of in-depth information.

Tip: don’t rehash content that others have touched on time and time again. If you want to create content that will improve rankings and increase your chance of audience engagement, take a unique stance that provides solid value.

Link Building

Now it is time to touch on the topic all of you have been waiting for:  link building. You want to know if this is still necessary, right?

Things used to be so easy. You could build spammy backlinks, such as through comments and forums, and quickly see your rankings jump to the top. Unfortunately, this also meant that people were presented with subpar websites with no real value.

So, here is what Google did:  the search engine giant decided that low quality, spam links would no longer hold much, if any, value. This put a lot of people out of business, but plays into the hands of those who realize the importance of quality links.

Link building now is all about quality. If you can’t get a link from a high quality, authority website, you are better off doing nothing at all. The best way to build these links is to grow your relationship with the right partners, such as through social media.

It goes without saying that it is more difficult to achieve high rankings today than it was in the past. At the same time, if you are able to achieve success it truly means something. Not to mention the fact that you likely have a better chance of staying at the top, as long as you continue down the right path.

What Now?

With all this information, you may realize that now is the time to adjust your SEO strategy. You shouldn’t expect immediate results, but once you get with the program you will feel better about the future.

To ensure that you are on the right path, answer these questions:

  • Have you cut out all SEO techniques that worked in the past but are looked down upon today?
  • Do you have a strategy in place based on what today’s search engines are looking for?
  • Are you willing to change with the times moving forward, ensuring that you don’t get left behind again?

The current state of SEO is not what it was in the past, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Now that you know what works, what doesn’t work, and how to adjust, you should be able to implement a solid strategy for 2015 and beyond.

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