Google’s new Hummingbird update completely changed the game for SEO. Focusing less on keywords and more on strong content, Hummingbird makes SEO feel almost obsolete. Jill Whalen, a long-time, professional SEO recently retired from her career, stating, “Google now works. The tricks to beat and spam Google no longer work as well. This means, my friends, that my work here is done.”
Others are also arguing that because Google is now focusing on strong content—often created outside the world of SEOs—that SEO is dead. This isn’t entirely true.
While Hummingbird does change the SEO approach, it doesn’t change everything. However valid the arguments for the end of SEO are, here are 5 reasons to believe that it is alive and well.
1. A New Look for SEO
Rather than disappear, overall, SEO is merely changing shape. If Google is looking to showcase a specific type of site, people—SEOs specifically—can still help companies and websites find favor with the search engine.
In this new landscape, SEO is now more about the validity of the HTML, how well the website is designed, and how strong the content is overall.
To help clients “optimize” their websites, SEOs can now ensure that all these necessities for optimization are in place. While the focus on keywords might be out, the focus on other elements of a web-page is in and SEOs can help clients meet these new optimization needs.
2. SEO Has a New Set of “Keywords”
Because Google is attempting to meet user searches as closely as possible, they will give bonuses to websites that best meet search criteria. For example, if a user searches for “skydiving videos,” Google will more quickly and efficiently pull up sites with skydiving videos. If someone searches for “great chocolate chip cookie recipes,” the search engine will feature sites with clear recipes.
In order to get clients’ sites optimized, SEOs need to advocate that their sites feature content that best matches search criteria—videos, recipes, songs, exercises, etc.—and that the content is original to that site. In other words, SEO will now focus on content matching the keyword instead of simple “strategic placement” of that keyword on the site.
3. SEOs are Now Part of a Team of People
Whereas SEOs were once in their own isolated industry, they are now part of a team. In addition to thinking of their own jobs differently, SEOs will now work more closely with social media departments, content developers, public relations specialists, and advertising/marketing sectors.
In Forbes, SEO expert Sam McRoberts argued that “SEO, the art of making content more accessible and understandable to search engines, will exist and thrive for as long as search engines exist.”
He later asserts that SEOs have moved “from [the role of] specialist/technician to more of a project manager/strategist.” In this case, SEOs aren’t obsolete—they have instead become vital parts of a key team for website optimization. They might no longer work independently, but SEOs certainly still have jobs.
4. Avoiding Penalties
Past simply seeking “bonuses” for websites, SEO is now also focused on avoiding penalties. Old SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, doorway pages, and invisible text—all black hat techniques—could be penalized by Google, which is now better at catching illegal SEO practices. Sites can also be penalized for “slow load times,” especially on mobile phones.
In addition to being advocates for strong content and fair SEO practices, SEOs will now take on the necessary role of encouraging their clients to maintain sites that load quickly. If sites load slowly, SEOs might now advocate that smaller/fewer images or a strong Content Delivery System is required. If an SEO wouldn’t be the person to fill this role, who would?
5. SEO is Now More About Context
Finally, because the Hummingbird Update deals with more “context” and “intent” for searches, SEOs now have to consider that in their strategies. What that means is that instead of keyword research, SEO will need to place more focus on market research to get more in tune with search engine users and specific site content. SEOs are most certainly capable of doing that—and are perhaps better equipped to do that than anyone—so their services are far from unneeded.
Essentially, SEO isn’t dead—it just operates differently than it used to. There will always be a place for SEOs as long as search engines exist, but they simply need to adapt and think creatively to find success in the new landscape.