I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines: “SEO is dead!” or “SEO is no longer relevant!”
If you ask SEO experts, marketing experts and business owners, you’re sure to get a range of opinions on the current state of search engine optimisation.
If you were to ask many SEO Specialists, then of course, they would say no – SEO is not dead. But they’ve got a vested interest, they want to sell you monthly SEO services. But as an impartial independent SEO consultant, I’m happy to tell you when SEO isn’t right for you, and so I want to present an impartial guide to help you make unbiased decisions.
Let’s say you’re a business owner or sales/marketing director/manager attempting to get the answer to whether it makes sense to continue investing in SEO in 2023.
If SEO is truly dead, then why waste your time and money on something that isn’t going to give you any results?
Well, I’m going to give you the honest answer to the question: “Is SEO dead?”
Unsurprisingly the real answer is a bit of “Yes and no”.
Google is more of a trusted source on the matter. If anything Google would be biased against SEO, so let’s see what they say.
Google talks about SEO as an active way of improving performance in organic search results, so you get a feeling Google feels SEO is still very much something that works:
“Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimisations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”
Google even tells you how soon you can expect results from your SEO efforts:
“Remember that it will take time for you to see results: typically from four months to a year from the time you begin making changes until you start to see the benefits.”
So if Google themselves are talking so openly about SEO, then why are some saying SEO is dead?
Some of the common SEO practices over the years aren’t now effective.
This means it’s harder than ever to get more buyers from Google, but it’s definitely possible, and within reach…if you’re prepared to do the work.
I started optimising websites to enhance their presence in Google back in 2002. It was easier back then, but it still had its challenges.
SEO has changed quite a bit over 20 years, but the core principles have remained the same.
So you could say SEO is dead if you’re talking about doing SEO the old way, but SEO as an ever evolving landscape, is alive and well. It presents many opportunities for UK businesses.
But to be fair to the people who say SEO is dead, they say so from the point of view that in 2023 SEO continues to get tougher and needs a commitment of resources.
Many industries and spaces are very competitive, but there are also opportunities to give help your target audience in a better way than most of your competitors.
What SEO practices are dead?
The world of SEO is constantly changing.
What worked yesterday may not work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow.
With that said, here are a few SEO practices that don’t work anymore.
One of the most common—and least effective—SEO practices is keyword stuffing. This involves cramming as many keywords into your content as possible in an attempt to improve your search rankings.
However, this practice not only doesn’t work, but it can actually harm your chances of ranking well.
These days, Google’s algorithms are sophisticated enough to identify keyword stuffing, and you could get a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google.
Here’s what Google says about keyword stuffing:
“Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate rankings in Google Search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, unnaturally, or out of context. Examples of keyword stuffing include:
- Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
- Blocks of text that list cities and regions that a web page is trying to rank for
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural.
- For example:”
Google gives this example of keyword stuffing:
Unlimited app store credit. There are so many sites that claim to offer app store credit for $0 but they're all fake and always mess up with users looking for unlimited app store credits. You can get limitless credits for app store right here on this website. Visit our unlimited app store credit page and get it today!
Another common—and arguably ineffective—SEO practice is link buying. This involves paying other websites to link to your website in an attempt to improve your search rankings. However, this too is something that Google’s algorithms can identify, and they will try to penalise you for it.
However, some SEO specialists will have techniques to make link buying work so they fly under Google’s radar, but it’s a risky business. I guess the rewards are great, but if you get found out then you risk penalties, or the value of the links being taken away, resulting in decreased ranking and a fall in sales.
"Google does understand that buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web for advertising and sponsorship purposes. It's not a violation of our policies to have such links as long as they are qualified with a
rel="sponsored"attribute value to the
Content spinning is a practice whereby someone takes an existing piece of content and alters it slightly so that it can be republished as new content.
This might involve changing a few words around or swapping out some sentences. The thinking behind this practice is that by creating more content, you’ll have a better chance of ranking well in Google searches.
However, this too is something that Google’s algorithms can identify, and they will penalise you for it.
So, don’t waste your time with content spinning. There are better ways to spend your time and resources.
These days, SEO is all about quality over quantity. That means gone are the days of keyword stuffing, link buying, and content spinning. These days, the best way to improve your SEO is to create high-quality content that people will actually want to read. So focus on creating great content, and leave the shortcuts behind.
What’s more likely to work in the world of SEO in 2023?
SEO has come a long way in the last 20 years.
What was once an unregulated Wild West has become a complex and ever-changing field that requires constant vigilance.
However, one thing remains true: those who adapt and evolve with the times will have an improved chance to gain higher search engine rankings and increased traffic.
So as Google make it harder for SEO specialists to control the search results, there have been some changes in the way SEO is done.
But the core principles remain the same.
quality content + targeted keywords + backlinks = higher rankings in search engines
Of course, it’s not that easy and the devil is in the detail.
Google themselves say: “While there are many things you can do to improve your site’s SEO, there are a few core practices that can have the most impact on your web content’s ranking and appearance on Google Search.”
- Create helpful, reliable, people-first content.
- Use words that people would use to look for your content, and place those words in prominent locations on the page, such as the title and main heading of a page, and other descriptive locations such as alt text and link text.
- Make your links crawlable so that Google can find other pages on your site via the links on your page.
- Tell people about your site. Be active in communities where you can tell like-minded people about your services and products that you mention on your site.
- Enhance how your site appears on Google Search by enabling features that make sense for your site.
- If you have content that shouldn’t be found in search results or you want to opt out entirely, use the appropriate method for controlling how your content appears in Google Search.
These statements from Google certainly seem to imply that it’s possible to optimise your website for improved performance in Google, i.e. SEO.
SEO is alive!
One of the areas of SEO where the biggest changes happen is of course Google’s algorithm updates.
Google says: “To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors and signals, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.”
Google is constantly changing its algorithm in order to provide searchers with the most relevant and helpful results possible.
This means that what might have worked for SEO last year might not work this year. That’s why it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest changes in order to ensure that your SEO strategy is effective.
So if SEO is well and truly alive, what are some practices that are worth focusing on to get results, that Google’s algorithms could reward you for?
The big change is People-First SEO
Forget about Google.
Get get success with People-First SEO, imagine Google doesn’t exist.
Instead, it’s all about your buyers.
It’s about people-first.
People-First SEO is where your website is a beautiful haven for your ideal buyers.
Where your buyers can go to immerse themselves in everything they need to get educated before buying.
Once the trust and engagement is developed, they get in touch with you, without looking to get that same information elsewhere – or at least, you’re their first port of call.
Also, unlike the old way of doing SEO, where you have to wait months and years for results, with People-First SEO you will get a quicker ROI from those buyers who are already on your website.
And if your content is good enough, Google is also more likely to reward you with more traffic and switched on buyers.
By not investing in trust-building content to meet your buyer’s needs in 2023, the outcome is more likely to be a poor ROI and a strategy that leaves you short of your competitors over the next five years.
If you’re selling products and services, there are people right now using Google to research them before buying.
If you don’t change the way you’re doing things, then you’ll continue to lose the ability to claim your share of sales generated by Google.
So SEO is partly dead, but long live SEO — people first SEO.
The importance of user experience.
User experience has always been important to SEO, but it’s become even more so in recent years.
Search engines like Google are constantly striving to improve the user experience by delivering relevant and useful results.
As such, websites that provide a great user experience have a better chance of being rewarded with higher search rankings and increased traffic.
Having said that, that’s not black and white.
As I’m sure you’ve found out, there are still poor websites, with poor content appearing at the top of some Google searches.
But that presents an opportunity to show Google something that’s better.
Rise of mobile search
Another big change over the last 10-15 years has been the rise of mobile search.
In 2007 the first iPhone was released, and smartphones with easy access to Google have taken over ever since.
With more and more people using their smartphones and tablets to search for information online, it’s important to make sure that your website is optimised for mobile devices. This includes having a responsive design and fast loading speed.
The need for speed
In the early days of SEO, page load times were not a major concern for most website owners. These days, however, things are different.
Search engines now take page load times into account when ranking websites, which means that fast-loading websites have a leg up on their slower competitors.
If you want your website to perform well in 2023 and beyond, you need to make sure it loads quickly on all devices.
The role of social media
The social media we know today, didn’t exist in the early 2000s, but these days it’s one of the most important tools in any digital marketer’s toolkit—including SEOs.
Social media can be used to build links, increase brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website.
What’s more, although social signals are not used directly by Google to rank pages, to become an authority, it can make a lot of sense to get you and your content know via social media.
But many businesses give much too much effort to putting content on social media to promote themselves, as opposed to adding content that resonates to their website.
This means that if you’re not using social media to promote your website, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to improve your search engine rankings.
But don’t do social at the expense of optimising your high quality website content.
The popularity of voice search
Another big change in SEO over the last few years has been the rise of voice search.
Thanks to digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, more and more people are using their voices to search for things online. This trend is only going to continue in the years to come.
As such, it’s important to optimise your website for voice search if you want to stay ahead of the curve. However, for many businesses voice search is not good enough to make it the go-to way to search. Typing is still quicker in many cases because you’re more likely to get the answer you need right away. But of course there are many case where voice search is quick, and you’d be mistaken to ignore it.
People are now using voice search to find information while they’re driving, cooking, or doing other tasks where typing isn’t possible.
This means that traditional keyword research needs to be expanded to include long-tail keywords and natural language phrases, though that has been a trend anyone.
If SEO is alive, is it right for your business?
Whether SEO is right for you is a different question.
If SEO is right for you, let’s check out Google’s advice on hiring an SEO specialist:
- A good SEO expert will prioritise ideas that will improve your business, using the least amount of resources.
- They will also suggest improvements that may take more time in the beginning, but will promote growth in the long term.
- They should feel like someone you can work and experiment with, learn from, and help forge a path ahead for you and your business.
- Once hired, work with them to agree upon goals, metrics, and how to track results beforehand, so you know what you are getting out of this.“
So Google seems to think SEO is truly alive and kicking.
SEO has changed a bit over the years, but optimising your website for the search engines is still critical if your target audience search on Google for the products and services that you sell.
Today, millions of people in the UK use Google to find out the answers to their questions. Google wants to deliver the best results to its users, and there are plenty of search results which are poor – and that presents plenty of opportunity to optimise your website for the search engines which Google themselves say will give you a better chance of performing well in search.
As long as you stay up-to-date with the latest changes and trends, you can still use SEO to improve your ranking in search engines and drive traffic to your website.