Date Published: 31-Jul-2014 | By: Pete Dubaka
The way to rank earlier in SERPs was to do a lot on a few things. Write a lot of content, build a lot of links – directories, articles, forums, blogs, blog comments, social, etc.
With panda and then penguin bringing focus to quality rather than quantity, things have changed for hitherto SEO ‘experts’.
Past habits come back to haunt website owners today
The mantra at that time for many website owners especially (SMB owners) was to keep the costs low, hire several firms and keep the per unit cost of doing SEO low. Most of them hired multiple SEO providers for doing off page link building. One SEO company would not know what work others are doing for the site and in most occasions, they don’t even know that others are also doing in SEO.
Over a period of time, several SEO vendors were appointed by the SMB owner and neither the owner nor the SEO vendor fully tracked the kind of SEO that was being done. Eventually, with pressure on costs and cheaper vendors always winning mandates, quality went down the drain. Also, adding SEO Tactics based on what got written on some forum or a website further created SEO spam.
By the time Google made changes in 2013 to algorithms to identify spammy content, links and sites not focusing on customers, the website and its past SEO work became a minefield.
Some of these websites have realized it is better to abandon than continue with the existing site. Instead of having credentials of several years, they are starting from scratch as if they are new in the business.
SEO lessons to learn from the past
While nothing can be done about the past choices, there are lessons from this history.
- First, SEO is not operational anymore. It is not about some tactics that are deployed to build a large number of units of content, links or pages.
- Now, SEO is more about quality rather than quantity.
Discernment – the key skill required in search engine optimization today
Now quality implies judgment. That means SEO experts should know how things work and should be able to judge what is high quality, medium quality and low quality. Earlier life was effortless at least mentally and no discernment was required on part of the SEO Company and their team.
Attitudinal realignment in SEO needs personal character
In addition to discernment, there are three additional things required to deliver quality SEO. One is objectivity. For discernment to work properly, the SEO person should be able to refuse doing something when quality does not match. This requires a certain character, because when the payment is received for the units of work done, the tendency is to be lenient and build substandard work.
This can be overcome only when the SEO Professional or firm has character. For those used to doing grey hat and black hat work, this transition is difficult to make attitudinally.
Discipline across the SEO team
The next change needed to do quality work is having discipline across the team. A few years back, SEO was about doing a lot at the least cost and this led to hiring low quality people at low wages in that business model.
Most of these people doing SEO, especially from offshore locations are a liability rather than an asset on the team today. To be sure, some will make the transition but most will not.
We can go to a great length to discuss the issues with low quality SEO work and the problem in people, processes, intentions and business models. But it serves no purpose beyond a point. The thing to bear in mind is that things have changed fundamentally in search engine optimization.
Key take aways about SEO today
- Looking at a large number of variables that lead to results in getting top rankings in SERPs today. The person should have the caliber to evaluate on a larger number of dimensions in order to enable rankings.
- Attitudinally, also there is a need for a different kind of people. Today, SEO rewards sites that are customer friendly. So, today’s SEO expert needs to be market oriented or see things from the customer’s point of view.
- Shopping is always better if the store clerk or the store owner has a good understanding of the product and how it matches the needs of various customers. Similarly, authoritative articles help the visitors by helping them make better purchase decisions. Needless to say the prospect may not buy every time with that store. However, the truth is that the sales of the store increases because of that knowledge sharing. Many times even if the store does not look good, customers will still buy for the value addition done by the expertise of the store salesman or mom/pop business owner.
- The nature of the current algorithm has changed the focus, pricing, procedures and skills required to deliver top rankings in SERPs. This change is more strategic and knowledge intensive. Unlike in the past, it is not possible to deliver SEO results by purely operational tactics.