Ever since Google’s first round of updates, traditional SEO approaches have started to become increasingly outdated and ineffective. Moz founder Rand Fishkin did an informative video presentation detailing what exactly changed. Watch it here:
Starting with Panda in 2011, Google began moving away from quantitative rankings, like keywords and links, and more toward qualitative rankings, like trust and value. As such, the role of SEO has shifted from a granular, tactical approach to a much broader, strategic approach.
The good news for tackling SEO is that many of the old tactical approaches are still beneficial; however, in order to be effective, they must be applied within a more holistic, strategic framework. This article will serve as a guide for traditional SEOs looking to apply their knowledge in this new way by showing how an old skill set can be applied to a new strategic method.
One of traditional SEOs’ biggest concerns was their sites’ internal link structure. Internal link architecture is still very important, but the reason why has changed. Link structure used to be important primarily because it allowed pages to be indexed effectively and to maximize the amount of PageRank spread to other pages.
When Google made changes to its algorithm, it started rewarding more than just a logical link structure—it rewarded sites it determined had the highest-quality user experience. Luckily for traditional SEOs, many of the skills and lessons honed by overseeing link architecture carry over to the field of UI/UX.
Much like link structure, building a quality user experience requires a certain degree of empathy.
In link architecture, SEOs would spend a great deal of time and energy trying to understand how Google’s indexing worked and strategizing methods to make crawling through a website’s links easier. Now, instead of building a site’s internal structure with an algorithm in mind, SEOs should focus this same set of skills toward understanding how people use the site’s front-facing components.
Although these two disciplines may seem very different initially, they are actually quite similar. There is a big difference between user behavior and algorithms, but the methodology used to understand and evaluate them is essentially the same.
Regardless of whether you are designing an interface for users or the back end for an indexer, both require fine-tuning via user testing, paying attention to the overall flow of the system, and imagining how one might behave in a wide variety of scenarios.
While link architecture might not give SEOs all the skill sets required to do UI/UX, an understanding of the process can still be used to provide strategic direction to help guide the process. Traditional SEOs can leverage their experience and flesh out these skills by becoming versed in best practices and UI/UX thinking.
Of all the traditional SEO tactics, none have changed as dramatically as link-building. The old days of Web directories, link farms, and link-trading are long behind us, and many sites that once ranked well with these tactics were penalized heavily.
Although traditional link-building is no longer relevant, many of the skills and competencies SEOs honed while practicing it can still be quite useful for modern SEO. Chief among these skills is knowledge of how to practice effective outreach for SEO.
Although the integrity of old link-building strategies is questionable, one thing no one can deny is the level of cooperation and interconnectedness many of these strategies required. Traditional SEOs would spend hours sending out countless emails to sites and directories they thought might benefit from trading links.
Link-building professionals became masters at selling site owners on mutually beneficial partnerships and identifying the best potential sites to pursue. The ultimate goal of these efforts might have changed, but the competencies required can easily be applied to modern SEO.
Whether it is guest blogging, content syndication, affiliate deals, or ongoing partnerships, outreach is incredibly important to many modern SEO tactics. Traditional SEOs can leverage their ability to identify and pursue relationships when it comes to securing deals with publications, partners, and industry influencers. Instead of trading links, focus on building long-lasting relationships and the links will come naturally.
The old SEO tactician’s every effort used to be directed toward one goal: to rank as high as possible for as many keywords as possible. Sure, relevance mattered, but the thinking was that ranking for irrelevant keywords couldn’t hurt. After all, more keywords meant more traffic that could potentially lead to more sales.
From Google’s perspective, this setup actually damaged its core search product. As a result, it started implementing updates to stop false-positive rankings. One major change was the focus it placed on usage metrics like bounce rate, click-through rate (CTR), and time on site.
Once these metrics were taken into account, broad targeting using as many keywords as possible went from slightly helpful to incredibly detrimental. If your site ranked for keywords that were not relevant, users would either not click on your page or leave soon after they clicked.
This is one case where traditional SEOs are ideal for tackling new developments in the industry. The future of SEO lies in an emphasis on keyword targeting and understanding how to drive rankings for specific niche terms, which can be incredibly useful when collecting usage metrics.
The ability to research keywords, quantify their relevance, and influence their rankings is an invaluable tool for keeping bounce rates down and CTRs up. Traditional SEOs can employ the same tactics that allowed them to push rankings for a large volume of keywords and redirect these competencies toward emphasizing only a few.
By carefully selecting target keywords and closely monitoring on-site user behavior, traditional SEOs can use their tactical understanding to solve the strategic problem of search positioning. In many ways, this last example typifies the way in which traditional SEOs can not only thrive, but also survive in the new world of search engine optimization: Taking the old methods and emphasis on tactical understanding and applying these long-honed skills to their new strategic role.
How is your organization approaching search engine optimization differently for the future? Share your thoughts below!
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