Seriously, a Google blog search on “seo is dead” for the past month revealed 38 blog posts with that phrase.
So what’s the deal? Is SEO really worthless? Should you ignore it altogether?
The right answer for you depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your site or blog, and what your experience level and skills are.
The reason people continue to pronounce SEO as dead is that search engines are getting better and better at knowing what real people are looking for.
Optimizing your content for the search engines and optimizing your content for real people are getting closer to being the same thing.
But for now, SEO is still important in many situations. I run some sites where my goal is to get nearly 100% of traffic from the search engines. Without SEO techniques, I wouldn’t get any traffic at all.
On the other hand, for many bloggers, you will be able to get search traffic without knowing much, if anything about SEO.
For people trying to build a really high-traffic site online, I recommend that you get a solid foundational understanding of SEO and then decide how it fits into your overall traffic strategy. In fact, you might also want to spend a few days doing SEO on a particular site so you really get a feel for how cost effective it is.
SEO could end up being a big part of your strategy for some sites, or have no impact at all. Again, it depends on your goal.
How Do I Learn About SEO?
The good news is that search engine optimization is one of those things that takes a couple of days to learn and a lifetime to master. Like surfing or playing guitar.
There are several fantastic resources out there that will give you the basics. Glen Allsopp has a great detailed article about WordPress SEO (that really applies to more than just WordPress), and I’m a big fan of SEO Made Simple by Michael H. Fleischner.
Before you go dive into those, here is quick crash-course on the basics.
An SEO Crash Course in About 300 Words
Search engine optimization is doing things that will improve your rankings in search results for search terms (or keywords as they are called in the industry).
SEO can be divided up into two separate activities: on-page optimization (things you do on your site), and off-page optimization (things you do on other sites).
Effective SEO is currently mostly about off-page optimization. The most important aspect of SEO is building links from other sites to your site (known as backlinks). This is because the search engines assume that a site is more important when many other sites link to it.
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to backlinks. A link from a really popular site could count as much as 100 links or more from unpopular or spammy sites.
On-site optimization is less important, as I mentioned, because the search engines are pretty good at figuring out what a site or page is really about. There are a few things you can do to help the search engines however, like using keyword-related URLs, titles, and by filling out meta descriptions and meta keywords.
When it comes time to show search results for a particular keyword, the search engines primarily use the number and quality of backlinks (combined with the information contained on the pages where the backlinks occur), along with the content of your page and site to determine how sites rank in the results.
Generally, the more popular a search term is, the more difficult it will be to rank well for that term.
When you understand this information and a little more detail (check those links I provided earlier), you can actively work to improve your ranking for certain terms. A few simple steps have helped me rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords on a number of occasions.
What do you think? Should everyone who publishes content have at least a fundamental understanding of SEO? Is it still relevant? Let us know in the comments!
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