Is SEO dead in 2016?

Couple of thought on the state of SEO in 2016.I’ve been working with the web since 1996, and longer I am involved in the field, less I tend to believe in the magic powers of SEO.

Over the course of years, I’ve owned, and operated websites that had millions of monthly pages views and ranked tremendously well in Google and yet were never SEO optimized. Literally, I did not touch any of the code, some of which was so bad, that looking back, it’s hard to believe that Google bot was even willing to index it and didn’t ban my site right from the get go.

And then I owned web sites, which I was SEO tuning for months using all kinds of SEO best practices, just to never see any tangible results.

That said, and this is coming from my experience, tons can be done to make the website more readable to search engines, and also much easier and faster to be crawled and indexed. I just no longer believe that applying all the SEO rules in the world would help a low-quality site getting to the top of the Google results. I also started ignoring articles with headlines, such as “Top 15 SEO practices for structuring URLs”, etc. which claim to know exactly how everything works.

In the past, I was involved in a couple of invites to Google headquarters for Canadian AdSense publishers, and the consensus is that no one has any visibility into page ranking mechanism, not even Google employees. And absolutely no SEO expert can guarantee you a spot on the first page of Google results. And the rules keep changing with every update, so no matter how much money you sink into SEO, it cannot guarantee anything. It’s more of a magic dust than actual science because science is testable and doesn’t produce intermittent flaky results that are hard to verify.

I’ve learned the hard way, that even if your page is missing meta keywords, descriptions, well-structured HTML, optimized images, javascript and minified CSS, as long as it had unique content that people visit, recommend and prefer to click on, it’ll do well. Such a web site may rise to the top of search results, even if it’s not SEO optimized and is as modest and unassuming as a simplest text file could be.

And then you’d have a site like Expedia.com; that lost 25% of their visibility and traffic within a couple of days, and SEO folks spent days dissecting why and what, not coming with any palpable results. Or, do you recall the infamous Google’s Penguin algorithm update, which targeted over-optimized sites and backlink profiles? In this update, many websites lost up to 80% of the traffic. Many industries suffered a lot of lost business. That said, all it needs is a one update from Google and SEO rules that were applauded one day are no longer acceptable the the next day.

In my opinion, Google is like a huge TurnItIn network, that looks for the uniqueness of the content first and foremost and looks at the user’s behavioural stats to determine what happens. SEO rules on site optimization are probably secondary. All this said, today I would rather spend my money on generating unique and valuable content and on building a good recognizable brand, than sinking it into SEO.

Perhaps, there is something about the saying that ‘SEO is dead’ :)

Jozef

 

 

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