I really wish I had a nickel for everytime I've seen articles over the last couple of years speculating about whether or not SEO still matters? Let's just say there are MANY and they feature widely varied opinions. Of course the opinions are often attached to the professional role of the writer. If making a living as an SEO professional of course it makes sense to assure everyone it is at the heart of online marketing success. If SEO is applied with less enthusiasm you might be singing a few lines from the Wizard of Oz ~ "Ding dong the witch is dead" as you craft a post laying out a case for moving on to something else.
So, does SEO still matter? Here are 3 things to think about as you ponder the question from your own vantage point.
1. Search Engines Are Still In Business
As long as search engines are still in business and doing a good job of delivering a high volume of relevant traffic to websites, optimizing yours to encourage them to funnel people to it is a smart idea. What's needed is a shift in thinking to help them work for you instead of against you. My own opinion is Google and other engines have realized having their search results being driven more by people who learned how to manipulate results than by providing value to the person looking for something was hurting their business model. The person using the search engine to find something is both a customer and a product so having average people searching and getting a long list of links that really aren't what they expect to see hurts their business.
Another issue is the value and reputation of the services people find in search results. If they are scammy, low quality offerings that end in a bad experience, it attaches to the search engine's brand. People might tend to regard an online search as being to blame since they assumed it was credible because it was listed there - especially if it was high on the list of results. Whatever jargon any of us care to dump out explaining how one site overtakes another in search really doesn't matter to John Q. Public and the businesses better able to serve him.
As the engines craft a better method for sifting out the good from the bad, making sure they present credible businesses and a higher liklihood of people finding what they are looking for, it makes ignoring the criteria they use risky since it can mean having your business left out of consideration. This can have a big impact on your bottom line.
2. SEO Has Changed Drastically
What you don't know can hurt your business more today than ever before when it comes to search engine optimization. The opportunities for being ripped off are many and varied because how search results are delivered has gotten way more sophisticated. Ignore it or get it wrong and the only thing to suffer will be your bottom line. Where people used to pick up a phone book to find a business now they turn to a search engine and it's often at the end of their arm on their mobile device.
One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses making these days is not having a responsive design for their website. It's a somewhat simple thing to address, especially for businesses just getting around to a serious effort for building a website since they can simply choose to build it on a responsive platform.
In addition to the impact responsive design plays (Google recommends a responsive design so wouldn't it be smart to follow their recommendations if you want to be found?) there is a laundry list of other do's and don'ts that come into play that can literally make or break how well your website performs. Taking advice from anyone who hasn't stayed up to date with all the changes on the technical side can lead to disaster; lost business, lost time and money spent putting things in place that are of no value. If anyone offers to help you and seems to have a bit too much of a know-it-all attitude about it; run! The days of "guaranteed ranking" for keywords are long gone. Instead of discussing all the updates that have been made to how engines display results, just have a look for yourself.
Even a casual glance at the algorithm change history should illustrate 2 things to you. First that it's a lot more than you can begin to understand on your own if SEO isn't your primary focus and second it's about way more than trying to rank for keywords. Take care in picking out someone who can help you, aiming for someone who will partner with you to figure out the best path for your unique needs instead of filling your head full of nonsense and scaring you half to death by comparing your website to competitors to show you how terrible things really are for you. Beware of the high pressure sales tactics, ridiculously low prices, over simplification, etc when you set out to build your website.
3. SEO Continues to Evolve
At the end of the day a search engine is really nothing more than a giant library catalog system just like the ones some of us used in libraries when we were kids - before technology put this stuff at our fingertips. People will always be looking for something and businesses will always be coming and going as the "something" changes to adapt to consumer needs. As technology changes, how the information can be delivered will have to adapt with it. With all of these variables in play SEO will be a fluid, constantly shifting sand and it will need to be addressed with an eye toward understanding that it that it rarely works well as a DiY project. Be sure to arm yourself with as much information as you can stand to absorb (let's face it, it is a boring topic for anyone not making a living from it) and find someone trustworthy to help you navigate the course.
SEO is a tactic that is part of sound inbound marketing strategy. It shouldn't be taken alone and it should sync up with all of the other online tactics you'll use including social media, email marketing efforts etc. The best thing you can do right now is take the time to see the big picture. Your website should be built to execute a strategy for generating leads and sales, and supporting customer retention. We put together a free SEO guide to help you. Learn how to cut through all the technical jargon to get a website that meets your unique business goals.