If you ask someone what is SEO they might respond… an “IT job”.
Other person may say that this is a “marketing job”.
Although we all know what SEO is, it can be hard to define it and different people have different views of it.
I recently tried explaining this profession to a person who had no clue.
I told her that SEO is a job where your client can be on top of the world at one moment only to fall flat on his back the next one.
No matter how you define it, search engine optimization is definitely a very dynamic environment.
Although we know that changes are inevitable in SEO, let me ask you a few questions before we begin.
How important are innovations?
Can you have a profitable company by simply coasting on someone’s back and copying their strategies?
Or do you have to create new processes by yourself? Something that will be specific to your organization?
We will discuss it in this article so make sure to stick around!
Environment that Google created
First thing that needs to be considered when analyzing trends is Google itself.
The company has been on top of the world since 2000s. Still, the progress they’ve made during this period of time is staggering.
This progress can be attributed to series of improvements to their search engine.
Nowadays, it is even regulated by a machine learning system called RankBrain.
But for SEO experts this progress is not always positive.
In order to stay in the game, it is necessary to constantly learn and adapt your strategies to algorithmic changes.
Methods such as comments and directory links became obsolete overnight.
There is something even worse to be considered.
Information that wasn’t disclosed by Google.
Whenever a new update hits us, we have general understanding of the changes that have been made.
We never know how much these changes’ weight and what kind of alteration has really happened to ranking factors.
Although Google can tell us that SERPs will be more affected by user engagement, how much does user engagement as a factor affect ranking of an individual page?
Are links still the most valuable ranking factor?
This is why adaptability is the most important trait of an SEO expert.
If you’re unable to accept these changes and create a blueprint that will work with them, you might as well quit your job.
How to adapt to these changes?
Based on everything I’ve said so far, it seems that the situation is quite desperate for SEO experts.
But it isn’t really so.
Here is how you can be prepared for any future changes:
- When an update hits, make sure to get as much as data as possible. Even the biggest SEO websites will have scarce news (for example, we know that the latest “Fred” update affects shallow content on e-commerce sites) so you will need to dig deeper and listen do different opinions
- After realizing what the biggest change is, make sure to start your testing. Check the websites that have lost rankings and try to analyze why this has happened. This can tell you more about the impact of individual changes. Focus on data that is not obvious (for example, if content update occurs and you see a website with awesome content losing rankings this may indicate that Google has made some additional algorithm changes besides the ones they mentioned)
- Once you get a clearer picture, you will know what has actually happened and then you can start making a plan that will help you adapt to it and get your rankings back.
Basically, it will all come down to two things:
- Technical issues – things such as design, usability, architecture, website speed are often affected by changes
- Content issues – you will either have to completely change the content you’re making or adapt it to latest algorithmic changes. Always make sure you don’t have any duplicate, common or thin content.
In most cases algorithmic updates Google introduces will force you either to change your website as a whole or the way you approach content creation.
Point of innovation
Have in mind that these innovations are not only a byproduct of Google’s algorithmic changes.
They are done so that a company can make extra profit for a brief period of time.
Like with any other profession, you are trying to invent something new in order to get a competitive edge.
Generally speaking, although most SEO experts like to talk about their processes as something unique, they usually do not differ from things that other people are doing.
Sad truth is that only a handful of people are trying out new things in our industry.
The main difference between SEO and any other profession is that innovation in this business are often affected by Google.
You might start developing an awesome strategy which you will abandon half-way through simply because Google decided to change its algorithms.
Why is this uniqueness so important?
Here are some main reasons:
- Uniqueness implies expertise – If you are so different from your competition, it signifies to potential customers/ visitors that you have such a grasp of SEO that it isn’t a problem for you to create something completely different or to employ strategy that no one else can copy
- Creating your own approach can improve your profitability – Although people tend to copy methods, by creating your own solutions you can make some extra profit until the trend catches on. That is, if the method is good enough
- People are often blinded by trends – In SEO like in any other profession, new trends are always welcomed. In fact, due to the dynamic environment, people presume that you constantly have to innovate in order to stay on the top. New approaches are often seen as a breath of fresh air and both clients and SEOs alike are prepared to accept them without much thinking. In a way, innovation itself is perceived as valuable.
Still not convinced? Let’s check some real life examples.
Rise and fall of infographics
Infographics have been around for a while.
Since 1980s they became common way of presenting information.
Due to their visual appeal, they were seen as a good way of transferring information and a good substitute to plain text.
Now, I don’t want to talk about visual design and its history.
I am mainly interested in infographics as an SEO tool.
Infographics experienced boom in 2012.
Why? Well, suddenly everyone was creating such.
What’s the catch?
You create an infographic, post it on your website and start pitching people to publish your piece on their site with a link behind it.
Clever, eh? Also, an incredibly simple and efficient way of building white hat backlinks.
This trend existed for several years (an still exists).
Fast forward to 2017 and SEOs rarely use infographics for as a link building weapon.
- People got bored – Like everything else within the SEO business, this strategy became over-spammed. No matter how great an infographic may look, if you’ve been pitched with 5 of them during a day you will get fed up. It’s the simple principle “When everything is cool, nothing is cool”
- They actually do not explain anything – What do I mean by this? Infographics are great for presenting stats but they are simply not able to explain a process with a sentence or a short paragraph
- They simply are not good for internet – Infographics are great for education and presentations. In both these cases you have a person who is talking about a problem and infographics are used only to jolt your memory and point out the most important things. Without that person they quickly lose value
- SEO game changed – Even though links are still very important, user engagement metrics have increased in value. This means that visitor needs to stay on a page for longer period of time. Given that infographics are nothing more than a quick info (or stat) they are not very good for your audience engagement stats
Fall of the infographics can be attributed to loss of interest and SEO changes.
By the time most SEO companies learned how to make them, trend has already passed and only the quickest ones managed to reap the benefits.
Rise and fall of Power Pages
Here is another great example.
Power Pages were invented by Brian Dean several year ago and the trend caught up pretty quickly.
These are basically guides consisting of every information possible.
The general idea was that by creating something amazing people will get stunned by its magnificence and will be more inclined to link to you seeing this resource as very useful.
And for quite a while it worked like a charm.
As someone that creates and promote Power Pages, I’ve seen a steady decline in number of links I am able to get.
- People got bored again – Like with infographics, people got bored and have seen through this link building strategy. Something that was initially cool soon became seen as a scheme and today this approach is even irritating so lots of SEOs
- Too much content – No matter how great a Power Page may look like, only a handful of people will actually read it entirely. People simply do not have time or patience. It is even worse if the text lacks focus
The moral of the story?
Every strategy has a flaw.
Problem also occurs when people recognize it as a link building strategy. This alone may persuade them to avoid it.
What should you do?
Innovations and creation of new processes should definitely be considered.
No matter what you do, you should always try to be unique in some way.
Unfortunately, developing new method does take a lot of time. And not everyone can do it.
As you can see, no matter how good your method is, it will have short shelf life.
Things become even worse when you consider how evolving this profession is and how quickly people adapt.
So, there are two options in front of you:
- constantly invent new things and try to make extra profit for a brief time
- simply copy other people’s strategies and use them until they die off
It is the good old catch 22.
How often do you innovate things? Do you prefer copying someone else’s strategies? Leave a comment and let me know.