Search engine optimization, or SEO, the concept of manipulating a website or page to get favorable search rankings, is really nothing more than trying to fool Google. It is a cat-and-mouse game, where one side (Google) tries to determine what web pages are best to present to the world at large, and the other side those (SEO specialists) who try to crack Google’s methods to ensure that their — or their clients’ sites — stay on page one.
It used to be a much easier game to play. Google placed a lot of emphasis on how often a search term was found on a page. All a website had to do to cheat their way to the number one position was to load the page with the search term. For example, you could have repeated the word “CAD” on a web page a hundred times. The words would be hidden in a normal view as can be done with a microscopic font, white text on a white background. But Google got smart fast.
Methods on both sites have become more sophisticated. While Google keeps its exact algorithms secret, an entire industry has been spawned that frets over how Google searches so it can “help” websites be more prominent. Millions of dollars hang in the balance. Products that don’t appear in Google don’t get bought. Companies know this and, for a while, had been leaning on SEO to help them. SEO got big as a result. There are conferences about it. Emails from SEO specialists used to flood my inbox. There are still thousands of SEO firms and consultants willing to take your money. One “independent authority on search vendors” reports on over 8,000 of them.
You can have an SEO consultant fidget with your website for weeks, or overhaul it over a period of months. In fact, the process never has to end. Google catches up to most SEO tricks, so SEO tacticians can keep themselves employed.
But maybe the SEO game is one that website owners and marketers should not be playing. Even its leading practitioners are announcing its demise. Says Adam Torkildson, who Forbes calls one of top SEO consultants in the country, has said “SEO will be dead in 2 years.” That was two years ago.
As more and more companies are discovering, it is better to put more actual information on your website so that Google “naturally” ranks it higher, rather tricking it with keywords, metadata, H1 tags, page titles, etc. How about real content? Useful and interesting stuff. Isn’t that what users really want. It’s not good to try to fool users. Or Google.
Google doesn’t like getting fooled. A cheap trick by an so-called SEO expert may lead to the dreaded Google ban, with a domain never to appear in a Google search again.
The Death of SEO: The Rise Of Social, PR, And Real Content, Ken Krogue, Forbes, July 20, 2012