Over the past few years SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become one of the most important things to do with a website. There was even a point when SEO mattered more than the content itself. You could easily see poor quality sites, but with top level SEO, rank on the first two pages on Google. Then, the company started changing things.
Today page ranking features thousands of criteria and Google keeps evolving. Machine learning, AI and other new technologies play an increasing role in determining if a website is a quality one and whether its SEO is legitimate, not trying to simply rank high with poor actual content. Moreover, the algorithms are more and more capable of figuring out if the content is relevant to the search query and is not a mere copy of something else.
So, with all that in mind, it’s safe to ask the obvious question. Does SEO still matter? Will simply focusing on good content be enough?
The short answer is – yes, SEO matters.
However, it continues to evolve and what was important just a year or so ago quickly fades away. The online competition is so stiff that simply creating quality content is not enough. You will miss out on potential visitors if you don’t optimize your site. Plus, these days Google shows a lot more information as boxed snippets with content from the top ranking sites. That might change with the pending new EU copyright regulations, but even so, it will only affect a portion of Google’s global market.
So, yes, you have to continue optimizing your site for search engines. Old things which are still important:
- Keywords and keyword research
- XML sitemaps help Google crawl the new pages faster
- Keyword anchor text linking still matters, just don’t overuse it
- Long form content doesn’t mean quality content
- Having a mobile friendly site
- Following good practice HTML coding standards
- Adding an SSL certificate
But wait. There’s more.
Having basic SEO in place is pretty much a no-brainer. But if you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to go one step further. There are new trends which are becoming more and more important.
One of them is voice search. Recently Google has said that 20% of queries on Android devices and its own mobile app come via voice search. With the rise of Alexa-powered devices, Siri, Google Assistant and more, using voice search will continue to grow.
The good news is that most classic SEO practices work well with voice search. Still, you can further improve by learning how people actually construct their voice queries with certain keywords.
Voice searching has a different style than typing in a search box. This means that you have to explore more to see how your potential visitors actually talk about your niche and match the content to that.
Another important “next level strat” is structured data. AI and machine learning are taking a greater role in search rankings by the day. So, learning more about structured data and finding ways to incorporate it into your site whenever possible, can be beneficial in the long run. Structured data will help intelligent algorithms understand your site and topic better.
Google still emphasizes quality over quantity. So, arange your content in a way which allows visitors to get more value. This doesn’t necessarily mean a long form, but just having enough depth and value. If you just make a long post for the sake of it being long, it can actually hurt your site. So, balance between length and depth is key.
Finally, continue to explore and stay on top of the new SEO trends. Don’t rush to try everything new, unless the new “criteria” are actually proven. Also, remember that there’s no 100%-guaranteed recipe. What works for website A, may not work for sites B and C. SEO is a lot about trial and error until you find the right mix of practices which work for you. And, yes, it still matters.