For many years, Google in particular has stressed quality content as the key to good search engine rankings. However, with some success achieved through simply technical means, many SEO practitioners still have not given a great deal of attention to the value of their content. I can’t count the number of times new client prospects have come to me saying that their competitor’s website has no optimization in place, and yet it still outranks them. Usually, it is because the competitors site is established and has engaged readers who regularly visit the site and have a relationship with the organization. So, what will it take for a website to attract readers and visitors?
In looking at the future of SEO in a recent Searchengineland article, search guru Jenny Halasz opined:
What a lot of people don’t understand is that SEO is a creative field. You can test it, and you can hypothesize, but at the end of the day, what works for you may not work for someone else. There are simply too many variables to say anything for sure.
For those of us mired in the depths of analytics, research, statistics and implementation strategies, considering SEO as something other than a primarily technical field this represents a fairly radical change.
Looking into the crystal ball at the future of the industry reveals some new and, perhaps, exciting changes. There will always be some technical parts of SEO, but the future of the discipline seems tied now to more creative and broad-based communications strategies.
Good SEO Requires an Effective Communication Strategy
Achieving good search rankings is no longer a singular guarantee of generating traffic. Because of all the additional advertising, places display and general “noise” on search results pages, good, organic search rankings will only go so far. It is possible to achieve top search engine rank and still not generate much in the way of increased traffic.
A compelling message – effectively communicated and delivered – is necessary to override the internet “noise.” The job then is not just to get good rankings, but to generate increasing readership. If good rankings don’t necessarily produce increasing readership, what then?
What we communicate to readers works jointly with how we attract visitors. A growing number of readers getting good information from the website usually results in better organic search placement, no matter how the readers find the site. In the future, creating more effective and engaging messaging may displace technical implementation as one of the more important SEO tasks.
SEO is Part of an Integrated Distribution Strategy
Many studies have shown that among the strong correlating factors for good search engine rankings is social media interaction. Content shared widely via social channels appears to improve search engine rankings. Understanding why this happens is key to a future SEO strategy. People share information they believe is valuable. When search engines observe certain content being shared frequently, they judge it to be valuable and deserving of higher search visibility.
Integrating a distribution strategy with messaging is important to both building readership as well as improving search engine rank. Future SEO practitioners may well be required to become experts in social media and in content creation. Utilizing social media is an active, relationship-oriented communication process and may throw highly technical SEO practitioners into an entirely new arena.
SEO Morphing Into a Content Management Discipline
Pulling all these communication and message elements together into an SEO strategy that increases website readership and attracts more visitors will require more attention paid to content and to distribution methodologies than in years past. Does this mean technical SEO implementation is dead? No, but now we have a much longer list of things necessary to improve website visibility.