This blog post covers the 10 reasons why SEO is still alive, how & why SEO has evolved, and what you can do to keep up with an ever-changing industry.

SEO is far from dead. But we’re witnessing old school tactics falling by the wayside, and as that happens we need to embrace a new age of SEO. Today’s SEO game is a very different one from that which played out five or more years ago, and this post will shed light on how it’s matured.

So, if you want to keep ahead an evolving industry, here are my top 10 considerations to place firmly on your SEO agenda.

1. Thinking about SEO in isolation will give you tunnel vision

First off, don’t place yourself into an ‘SEO box’ because you’ll never see the bigger picture of what needs to be achieved. If you request only SEO goals and targets, that’s all you’re going to get.

What should you be asking? My advice is to address the broader questions,  such as ‘What’s the vision of the company?’ Or ‘What are the marketing objectives?’ By understanding the bigger picture, you’ll have a clearer view of how SEO can add value and how it can support the various marketing activities being used by the brand. This also provides the opportunities you’ll need to work collaboratively with other departments and marketing channels.

2. Success metrics have moved on

It used to be that we measured an SEO campaign’s success by how many links you could build in a month, or how many keywords you could get into the top 10 of popular search engines such as Google. But let’s face it, this means almost nothing to CEOs and business owners. Today we need to align KPIs more closely with business goals, such as growing customer acquisition by 10%, or online revenue by 15%. Measuring ranking improvements is merely a proxy of success. My advice: just don’t hang your hat on how many ranking improvements you have made over the last quarter.

3. Data-driven insight is vital

Being armed with the best keywords in the industry, and knowing when to target them, made the difference between a strong SEO campaign, and one that didn’t perform. But that approach only got us so far.

Remember:  organisations are often sitting on the best data in their industry. They’ve got first-hand knowledge about trending products and services, and they know regional variances between buying behaviour. By having access to this information, you’re privy to data which no one else has. So share this information with the PPC team to boost regional sales where customers are likely to convert at a higher rate. The learnings from the targeted PPC can then be used to strengthen the SEO campaign.

With access to an organisation’s data, you’ll be able to feed into other marketing campaigns which contribute to overall marketing objectives.

4. Even minor tweaks to PR activities can support SEO in a big way

It’s rare to see PR teams working collaboratively with SEO teams. This is mainly because PR teams are concerned that SEOs want to start contacting press on behalf of the organisation, and that long-standing relationships could therefore change.

But due to how link building has evolved over the years, SEOs no longer require advertorial links that point to commercial pages (this has become an exploited tactic). The best types of links are those created naturally through newsworthy campaigns. Organisations which generate a healthy amount of positive publicity could always do more when it comes to attracting links. There’s no secret or rocket science to this.

If a brand has executed a great marketing campaign, it should create a share-worthy landing page that complements campaigns and offers links for the press/media. When the brand is mentioned online, the PR team should reach out to the journalist or blogger who has cited the campaign with a message that ‘more information can be found here’.

Giving journalists more information for articles generates better links than a bunch of old school guest posts. Once this approach becomes the normal process, the overall number of high-value links steadily grows at a natural rate over time. This improves the trust and authority of the site, contributes towards better rankings for non-branded keywords, and drives more traffic.

5. User experience is a part of SEO

Poorly designed websites which are difficult to navigate are less likely to receive links compared to those with a good user experience. This involves conversion rate optimisation as well as on page optimization. This ensures we keep users engaged and help them along their journey while removing the characteristics which create a bad user experience, such as high bounce rates and low page load speed. Organisations can address this with more usability testing. Likewise, monitoring the upward trend of mobile traffic, and taking action if levels of engagement or conversion rates differ for the desktop and mobile user.

6. Understanding the customer journey is vital

Optimised landing pages have always been within the SEOs remit. But SEOs should also look at supporting content which is hosted externally of their clients’ domain. Those who think the entire buying cycle happens on the website are misinformed. Depending on the industry, users may visit three or more websites before making an informed purchasing decision. A number of tactics can put the brand in front of users, such as display or paid social.

But clearly, giving users useful information, in the right places, at the right time, is what will boost brand engagement and loyalty, and it helps influence a branded search in Google or Bing. This can involve having your products reviewed by influencers in your industry, working collaboratively with an authoritative website to help them improve their buyer’s guides, or posting useful information where you know your target audience will see it. There are a number of ways to approach this as long as the onsite content is not the only consideration.

7. Content means more than web pages

The diversity of content on the web means that text heavy pages are likely to lose out to web pages which serve the same content in a way that’s easier to digest and captures the user’s attention long enough for them initiate the desired interaction (such as a click through to a product page, a lead generation, or reading another article). Depending on the industry, content will be consumed in different ways. Before creating more content, review your competitors and assess how they’re making use of video, images, infographics and podcasts, for example.

8. Don’t forget about technical SEO

Having the best engaging content in the world is meaningless if search engines can’t find and index your content. Maintain proactive checks, such as reviewing Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) and set up alerts for sudden drops in SEO traffic .Also make it your business to know when the development team plan website changes. Through a number of proactive checks, you can maintain organic traffic and minimise any traffic drops.

9. Keep up to date with search innovations

The key to being an informed SEO is to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry. Follow industry blogs such Search Engine Land, Google and Bing webmaster blogs, and Moz – as each of these sites provides a wealth of information. Not only will you get official information from the search engines, you’ll also get anecdotal information of tried and tested techniques. If you want to know the difference between your schema mark-up, to your canonical tags, and know how to set up your geo-targeting for your international website, these websites are a great place to start.

10. Winning is not always about being at No.1 in Google

Being number 1 for your core term in your industry is a great way to drive a lot of traffic to your website, but you should not feel disheartened if this is not achievable within the next 12 months, as long as SEO can be used tactically to meet marketing goals.

As I said, once SEOs have a clear view on the marketing objective, they can look at ways to meet targets without the need to be number 1 for all keywords. This can involve improving click through rates from the search results by incorporating micro-formatting into the page and improving the visual appearance of listing in Google’s search result page. Conversion rate optimisation can drive more sales with existing traffic levels. As long as SEOs have a target, there are a number approaches which can be deployed to achieve the desired outcome.

Conclusion: ‘it’s not SEO in a box’

To the quality and effectiveness of organic search engine traffic, marketers need to be feeding SEO best practice into all aspects of marketing. Not all businesses are ready to hear this – many are still looking for SEO in a box. But it will be those organisations that understand how SEO has changed who’ll be the ones that adapt best and take visibility away from their competitors. They will be the ones who build SEO into all their various campaigns from the outset and realise the long-term benefits of SEO much sooner.