Every year, Google makes changes, and SEOs have to adapt, but 2015 was a fairly uneventful year in the SEO world. What really changed? Mobilegeddon, another Panda, local became a 3-pack, referral spam became a bigger issue, local became partially paid and Google+ was stripped down.
If you had to change your strategy in 2015, it’s because you learned something new, you were doing something you shouldn’t have or you weren’t doing something you should have been doing. SEO still is, and will always be, about getting the basics right, paying attention to the details and putting it all together.
By definition, trends rise and fall. Every year, someone is proclaiming the death of SEO, link building is dead, keywords are dead, there’s too much content, the sky is falling! Right now, I see more posts about UX, less about content and an increase in posts about links once again.
The truth is that SEO is expanding, and it seems like SEOs need to be involved in, or at least have knowledge of, more and more topics. If a company is only offering one thing, or a practitioner has only one focus, then they’re missing most of the puzzle.
SEO Is Never Just One Thing!
SEO isn’t just putting keywords on a page. It’s not just building a bunch of links, and it’s not just writing a bunch of content. Many of the methods used in the past no longer work, and SEOs should be looking at everything, and I mean everything, that they can in order to put the pieces together.
No longer will lots of shoddy links get you to the top (for long, anyway), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build links. Article sites and article spinning have had their heyday, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create content.
I challenge all SEOs to learn something new and push into unfamiliar territory in 2016. It’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to ask for help — just find projects where you are always learning and advancing your skills.
Innovation and understanding do not happen without failure. The more pieces of the puzzle you have worked on, the greater your understanding of the overall picture will be.
I much prefer an environment of innovation to one of efficiency, because eventually, someone will find a better way of doing things. I personally am challenging myself to dig deeper into machine learning and data visualization in 2016.
Rather than just saying the site is wasting crawl budget and needs to be consolidated because it’s crawling http and https and has poor internal linking, I create visualizations such as the one below (where http and https are color-coded, each individual dot is a page, and each line is an internal link) that make it easy for executives to understand that everything is being duplicated and that there is a legitimate problem that needs to be solved.
Here are some key areas you might focus on learning about:
- keyword research and grouping related topics and intent
- competitive research
- how to properly write redirects,
- diagnosing and removing both algorithmic and manual penalties
- content strategy
- visualizing a site map
- conversion optimization and testing
- on-site optimization and internal linking
- buyer personas and properly targeting users
- site architecture and silos
- user experience
- how pages on a site interact
- customer journeys
- marketing automation
- how to query databases and pull data from an API
- analytics and tracking KPIs
- tag management and its many uses
- Excel and pivot tables
- reputation management
- soft skills
- link building, outreach and relationship building
- new tools
- social media
- paid media
- email marketing
- local SEO
- international SEO
- video SEO
- server config
- or one of the many other topics that SEOs might need to know about or touch on.
My point is to learn something and keep learning, because there is a lot to learn.
Look at how everything interacts, not just the one thing. I see a lot of SEOs look at a page and say it’s well-optimized, when maybe nothing links to the page or there are multiple versions of the page due to http/https issues, trailing slash issues, extension issues, subdomain issues (such as www. and non-www.), query parameters being appended, or any number of other problems. That’s because they didn’t look at every version of the page or how the page interacted with the rest of the website.
There are so many ranking factors and so many little details that make up each factor that you need to have a strong attention to detail and an understanding of the entire picture to truly understand why a site ranks or doesn’t rank.
A Bright Future Ahead For SEO
As much as SEO changes or doesn’t change, if you learn and adapt, then SEO has a brilliant future ahead of it. Challenge yourself in 2016!
Find better processes and learn more about the pieces of the puzzle, and I promise you that you’ll have a greater understanding and be able to find the quick wins and better explain to clients what’s going on with a campaign.
Keep progressing, and if you find something amazing, then share it with the rest of us. Use your favorite social media platform to tell me what you most look forward to learning in 2016.