3 min read
SEO in today's world

Is SEO the same as it was 10 years ago?

If you ask someone what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is, they will mostly likely tell you it’s about getting your website to rank high in Google search results. It’s common knowledge these days for tech people as well as just about anyone that uses the web. It’s also common knowledge that SEO is done through customizations on your website, blogging and social media activity.

The most basic relationship between a business owner and an SEO consultant is to discuss goals for business growth and have a web developer build a fancy website, incorporating keyword research into meta-tags and content. An ongoing plan is developed to create content for blogs and social media posts, with the assumption that these tasks will help your new website appear at the top of Google’s search results. This is the traditional idea of SEO. 

People still do this today? 

This practice is still done today because it has worked in the past. When Google wasn’t the giant that is today, their algorithms weren’t that sophisticated and their programs crawled the internet for specific keywords like “Real Estate in Houston” on websites and immediately determined if they were fit to show on the results page of a related search. This is why some developers used to put hidden keywords on the footer on their websites, hoping Google would pick up their website as being relevant in more searches.

Google’s technology is different now - they know your weekly activity, daily Internet habits and can predict what flavor of ice cream you’d chose (yes, they already know you like ice cream).

Is SEO dead?

Not really, but it's changed a great deal. The technical side of SEO (keywords, blogging, extra code built into websites) is still useful, but not as essential as it was in the past. You may have heard the term “SEO juice”, where the thinking is that you accumulate good points (aka “juice") by following Google rules and the more SEO juice you accumulate, the more likely your site is to appear in Google results. Well, the real SEO juice is not on your website anymore.

Where is the SEO juice now?

 SEO in today's world
Google has become a giant and the household name that it is today because of the quality of its search results. Their differentiator from other search engines is that they know what you want (even if you aren’t sure yet what you are looking for) and they deliver the best results.

If you use Google Maps, they know your current location and the places you have been. If you use Google Chrome, they know the websites you frequent and the devices you use. And if you use Google as a search engine, they know what you search for.

At this point they know where you go, the devices you use, the websites you visit, what you share on social media and the questions you ask in Google search. When they combine this data and correlate all the information, they can figure out the best, and most personalized answer to your next search.

So, where is the real SEO juice now? It’s in people’s real lives, their online behavior.

All Google’s attention goes to what the users want and who can provide it better, based on real life experiences. Even if you have a fabulous website with all the right elements, if you have bad customer reviews or poor social media presence or you are located in an incovenient location for the user searching, your website might as well be a simple, static, one-page site.

Google’s SEO vs the perception of SEO

There are a lot of people trying to take shortcuts by cheating and using shady techniques to appear high in search results for their clients. Even honest agencies may do things they think are beneficial but are actually incurring marks against them by using “black hat” SEO techniques. Be warned - Google invests a lot of money to fight this, and they are winning.

So here we are with the traditional view of SEO that has seemed to work for years vs. the new algorithm updates from Google which are throwing things for a loop by changing up ranking on search engine results pages. In this new mashup of SEO thinking, where should business owners invest to appear high on Google search pages? In my opinion, more emphasis should be put toward the user experience - that is what we will see generating a lot of SEO juice online and offline in the future.