It has been speculated in the last few years (and in fact, for even longer) that search engine optimisation (SEO) as a service industry is on the verge of being killed off. The logic behind this assumption is based on the fact that search engines are becoming too sophisticated to be fooled by simple tricks and techniques, so websites can’t rank higher on organic results pages just because they’re following the advice of their SEO company.
However, this is actually not the case. In reality, all that has happened over those last few years is the focus of search engines, and therefore that of SEO providers, has changed. Meta data, website statistics and other quantitative information which used to be extremely highly weighted in Google’s algorithm are no longer very relevant. Instead, new priorities have been introduced which focus much more on the qualitative aspects of website structure, design and content.
For this reason, we would argue that SEO services still have a lot to offer for businesses in 2017. Even for those people who think they have mastered optimisation for search engines over the years, you need to remember that things are always changing. Only a professional SEO consultancy firm can actually keep you fully up to date with the latest trends and let you know which old-fashioned approaches you need to drop, while you’re busy managing other aspects of your business.
What techniques are now out of date?
Originally, the first SEO companies used relatively simple methods to get websites ranked higher on search engines. These methods were not widely known, but they worked in almost all cases for that reason, since search engines were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are today and their algorithms were relatively easy to figure out.
After a few years, many techniques that originally worked in a website’s favour started to be classed as “black hat” techniques because they allowed those sites to trick their way to the top. Google and its peers recognised that they needed to prioritise quality results in order to maintain their long term success, so they started to gradually penalise techniques. Some of these simply have no effect on your SEO but make your site worse for users. Techniques you need to abandon include the following…
Lists or blocks of keywords with no additional content
- Excessive links on internal pages
- External links from low-quality or spam sites
- Copying and pasting duplicate text from other sources
- Hidden keywords or other text on your website
- Exchanging meaningless links with other sites
- Sacrificing design or content for rankings
A great website is vital
If you want to increase your online sales in 2017 and beyond, the overall quality of your website is extremely important. The basics of early-2000s SEO will not be enough to get your site ranked or to get more people engaging with your brand online. It’s important that you understand your customers’ journeys, how they interact with your brand and what factors can set you apart from your competition.
An SEO company today will not just be focused on positions and metrics like they might have ten years ago. An increased emphasis in the industry has gradually been placed on actual business success, because this is what you really need to be chasing. You can expect your service not just to focus on technical aspects, but conversion strategy too. Everything is connected to your optimisation because you need to create a seamless journey for your customer every time.
Is content still king?
We have been hearing the phrase “content is king” for well over half a decade in the SEO industry. Early adopters of this approach found themselves more successful than their peers who were still using outdated SEO techniques like the ones listed above.
The simple phrase itself, however, does not explain how to go about implementing a successful content strategy. It certainly doesn’t provide a shortcut that saves you from needing an SEO company. Content that works for your users is not something you can throw together in a few minutes for the sake of SEO, it has to genuinely work.
Google is looking for valuable content and trying to work out how your content relates to people searching for a given keyword, and that’s not just about how many times the exact keyword appears in the text (although this still matters). Search engines are looking for content that matches at least most of the following criteria:
- Structured logically
- Easy to understandable
- Formatted appropriately
- Headers used correctly
- Graphics and video embedded
- Relevant internal or external links
- Helpful and actionable
- Relevant to keywords
- Relevant to the rest of the site
- Recently added
Most of these factors will directly contribute to the chances of people taking a genuine interest in your content and spending longer on your website. This is how Google is able to judge the more subtle, qualitative aspects of your content. For that reason, any SEO company worth your time will be willing and able to guide you through the basics of getting your content up to the required standard. They should also offer optimised writing services to help anyone with limited time or knowledge to write good quality content.
What else can my SEO company do?
Of course, the exact services offered by any individual SEO provider will vary significantly. Budget providers typically provide a simpler service, perhaps based more on consultancy and making recommendations rather than spending the time doing the work. At the higher end of the market, it’s more likely that you would be paying for SEO technicians to complete all the necessary work on your website to make sure it’s all up to the necessary standard.
A few of the services you might expect from a typical SEO company include the following:
- Keyword research and strategy
- Competitor analysis
- Technical analysis of your website
- Optimisation of titles, tags and so on
- Content development and placing keywords
- Google Local search optimisation
- Position tracking on your chosen search engines
- Help and advice about more ways to gain traffic
Your chosen provider should be able to offer a service that suits you, as long as you have the budget for it. In the end most businesses find that the investment is worthwhile, and we expect that this trend will continue as long as businesses on both sides of the market continue to adapt to changing conditions and trends.