Is SEO Outdated? The Answer Is Yes and No

Is SEO Outdated? The Answer Is Yes and No

Every few years a few, voices from distant corners of the marketing world whisper that SEO is dying. But with an estimated value of over $70 billion dollars, SEO isn’t going anywhere soon.

Even though the whispers are generally false, they do hold kernels of truth. While SEO isn’t deceased, over the years, elements of it have either died or evolved into something totally new. As a result, outdated SEO tactics can now actively kill your rankings.

Quick note: If you’d like to learn about how SEO has evolved, be sure to watch SEO: The Movie.

John Lincoln, the CEO of Ignite Visibility, produced and directed the documentary that features interviews with many key figures in digital marketing. Among them are:

The film takes you through the early days of search strategies when marketers were spamming keywords all over their blogs just to hit a top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs). They also explain contemporary “white hat” strategies that are far more successful.

It’s a film worth watching if you want to know about the history of SEO. Check it out here.

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5 Out-of-date SEO strategies

SEO as a whole hasn’t died, but a lot of tactics have. Stick with outdated strategies and the only thing you’ll be seeing are low rankings and potential penalties in your future. We look at a few of the most commonly used, yet outdated, tactics in existence today.


1. Going all-in on link building

Link building is still incredibly important and remains one of Google’s top ranking factors. It used to be true that all you had to do was build as many links as possible to your site and you’d start ranking highly.

But, this is no longer the case. The quality and relevance of your links matter far more than sheer quantity, and thus, spamming your links all over random digital directories no longer has the desired impact.

The takeaway: Find a few authority websites to outreach and make some sort of a deal with them - whether it'd be a guest post or a link round-up. These authority websites tend to get syndicated by "smaller" websites, and thus you're killing a flock of birds with one stone.

Dead SEO Strategies: Going all out on link building


2. Obsessing over the number one spot

So many websites focus all of their energy on obtaining the number one spot on Google. Yet, ranking number one doesn’t have the strong correlation of increased website traffic it used to have.

Today’s search results are populated with ads, featured snippets, and question boxes. So, ranking number one still means your site might be buried. As a result, modern web surfers understand that they need to scroll a little to get to the organic stuff. With that in mind, instead of obsessing over the number one spot, your focus should be on maximizing your click-through rate.

Your click-through rate can be optimized via a compelling meta description and enticing headlines. If there’s a featured snippet box ranking above you try to improve the structure of your content and directly answer the question posed in the search term; this will increase the likelihood of your content being chosen for the featured snippet box.

The takeaway: Test out different headlines and meta descriptions to use using Facebook ads or Google AdWords.


3. Over-optimizing for your focus keyword

It used to be incredibly important to fully optimize your post or page for the keyword you’re trying to rank for. But as the search engines grow more sophisticated, they have more effective means to determine what your page is about.

Instead of stuffing your opening paragraph (or indeed, your entire article) with a certain keyword — which can hamper user experience with awkwardly phrased headlines and sentences — it’s more important to optimize your content for readability, user experience, and solving the user queries.

Google’s goal is to understand the intent behind the keywords, not simply matching the actual keywords themselves. Posts that will rank in the future will provide the highest quality answers and user experience, not the posts that most expertly optimize for a given keyword. After all, if the content is good, those keywords will flow naturally.

The takeaway: Stop obsessing over keywords - cover the topics in general - and answer the user queries. Your content should be the last content they visit to solve their problems. Don't sacrifice the whole topics, and the quality of the article just because you're after high-volume keywords.


4. Creating a vast number of pages and posts

Ah, the good old “the bigger your website is, the better” myth.

It sounds plausible at first, after all, the more you have the better, right? But in reality, Google doesn’t rank website, it ranks individual web pages based on the merits of that one page in relation to the search query or keyword.

So, your focus should be on creating high-quality content that actually helps your visitors, and that often involved diving deep into a topic on one page.

Also, it’s worth noting that your posts can rank for more than a single keyword. In some cases, your lengthy and valuable content can rank for hundreds and thousands of different keywords. So, there’s no need to make a new page or post for the sake of targeting one keyword.

Ahrefs SEO case study

Finally, by focusing on providing valuable content to your readers on one page, you’ll improve important on-page metrics like increasing your time on site and reducing bounce rate. That doesn’t mean your whole website should be on one page, but you don’t need to segment your site into a thousand pieces, either.

The takeaway: Create a cornerstone-type post goes deep into a topic. At Core dna, our "How To Choose a CMS" post is an example of this cornerstone-type content. If we need to discuss the sub-topics further (for example, SaaS CMS), only then we'll create a separate post for it. These sub-topics would then link back to the main cornerstone page, which would then improve that page's SEO in general.


5. Focusing on search engines over people

User experience used to come a far second to optimizing your content and website for the search engines. But, as Google has had the time and energy to invest in their search algorithm, the search results now tend to the populated with sites that place a focus on user experience.

The goal of Google is to provide their users (people searching for things) with the most valuable and relevant results possible. This means that your site can benefit greatly by focusing on improving the experience a user has on your site.

Certain user experience indicators you’ll want to improve are the time a person spends on the page, the number of pages they view when accessing your site, and how far they scroll down your page before leaving the site.

The takeaway: I've said it once, and I'll say it again, your article should answer the user's queries and it needs to be better than what's already out there. Also, check how your site looks like on different devices. Ask yourself, is the font too small? What about the line-height? Is it responsive on IE?


6 SEO tactics still alive and kicking

SEO is continuously evolving. The volatility of rankings is probably what leads to the proclamation that SEO is expired. Instead of just hammering what not to do, we offer a few cutting-edge strategies that are helping sites rank today.


1. Focus on the long-term

SEO is a long-term game. It’s always had a more long-term focus, but today that timeline seems to stretch even farther. Take a look at how long it took our traffic to grow here at Core dna:

SEO tactic that works: Coredna organic traffic timeline

It seems that rankings, and traffic from rankings, take a long time to acquire. A lot of it has to do with the authority of your domain. Take almost any keyword result today and you’ll notice the rankings tend to be dominated by authority sites. These sites have a lot of value in the eyes of Google.

As for exactly how long it takes to rank on page 1 of a Google search result (let alone get to the top of page #1!), Ahref’s study reveals all. According to them, almost 95 percent of newly published pages don’t get to page 1 within a year. And for that ~5 percent of pages that do, it takes anywhere between 2–6 months.

The takeaway: SEO takes time; that much we know. So, start by tackling topics that you can easily rank for and have a separate plan to create “social content” or content that gets shared a lot. This type of content tends to get backlinks easily and even though the backlinks may not be as relevant to your desired or “transactional” keywords, they will “lift the whole ship up”.


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The ultimate growth marketing playbook

The exact 41 strategies we used to grow from 4-figure to 6-figure traffic in one year.


2. Create high-quality content and promote like crazy

One thing that Jonathan Dane of KlientBoost found was the power of Skyscraper posts. Around October is when he started to take their Skyscraper posts seriously, and it’s paid off.

SEO tactic that works: KlientBoost traffic

They not only increased the quantity of posts they were writing but focused heavily on promotion too. These posts were more so written for the search engines, aka they were similar to the style of posts already ranking, only better.


3. Write for the search engines (But not like you think)

Earlier we said that writing for the search engines is out-dated and the old school way of writing for search engine robots is gone, but there is a differentiation in the purpose for the content you create.

For example, content that’s written for traffic and rankings will be different than content that’s intended to get a lot of traction across social media. Your content strategy needs to account for these different types of content.

For search engine oriented content you can take a look at what’s currently ranking and create something a lot better (per the example above). Our post, Comparing Open Source vs and Closed Source Software was written to rank in the search engines, as you can see from its pitifully low number of social shares.

SEO tactic that works: Have 2 types of content. This one is for search.


But if you look at the traffic in the past 30 days, it’s actually not too bad.

SEO isn't dead: Create content for search and social


On the other hand, our post 8 Biggest Content Marketing Trends that Will Dominate 2017 was written for social media. We wanted to jump on the “what’s going to be trendy next year” bandwagon, and it performed splendidly.

SEO tactic that works: Social content

The takeaway: Whatever kind of content you’re writing make sure you know the end goal of the content before you even start writing; whether it’s evergreen, search articles or social articles.


4. Do topic research, instead of old-school keyword research

As I’ve mentioned before, keywords are on their way out. As the search engines get smarter it’s more important that your content be topically relevant, than be perfectly optimized for certain keywords.

The new keyword research is known as topic research, Rand sums it up nicely.

Rand Fishkin on SEO tactic that works

When trying to determine topics to write about, we’ve found the following process is much more effective than classic keyword research when it comes to determining whether the topic is worth pursuing or not:

  1. Download all of the keywords I’m ranking for from the Google Search Console.
  2. Sort that keyword list by their rankings. This will illuminate the keywords that I’m ranking for in top positions with little to no backlinks.
  3. Take those keywords and run them through Ahrefs.
  4. With that data, I can then determine the average Keyword Difficulty (KD) of those keywords.

Now, when planning out what content to write I can find topics and keywords with a similar keyword difficulty, and I’ll be able to rank quite high and very quickly without many backlinks.

The takeaway: When prioritizing topics to go after, look for topics you’re ALREADY ranking in the top 3 without many backlinks and find out the average Keyword Difficulty (KD) of those topics. Now you have a KD “benchmark” to go after.


5. Relaunch or edit your old content

Chances are you have some older content that forms the backbone of your site’s traffic. If these posts have been plateauing, you can actually reinvigorate that content for a boost in ranking.

For example, we found that the traffic for our post 7 eCommerce Case Studies You Need to Steal From had been stagnating. Instead of chalking it up as a loss we decided to update that content instead.

All it took was some additional internal links, a few content updates to make it up to date, and a little optimization, and boom, the traffic started to grow again. Check out the results for yourself:

SEO tactic: Content relaunch

The takeaway: Log into your Google Search Console, find out older content that are ranking between #7 to #20, and update the content with additional sections or sub-topics. These sub-topics could be topics that you're actually ranking but aren't directly optimizing for. Also, do a " AND [topic]" search on Google to see if you have missed any internal linking opportunities.


6. Run tests to improve your CTR

Optimizing your click-through rate is a hot topic in SEO. Rand Fishkin did an experiment with it, so did Larry Kim of MobileMonkey (Previously Wordstream), and more recently Matthew Barby shared his thoughts.

Matthew Barby SEO experiment

Some of the results were staggering. Although most of the experiments involved the manipulation of click-through-rates, the results are still pretty impressive.

Testing your existing titles and meta descriptions are a great way to improve the traffic to your site without any other SEO methods.

The takeaway: You can get a picture of your existing CTRs by opening up the Google Search Console and navigate to Search Traffic > Search Analytics and filter by URL. Now, you’ll be able to see the CTR for every page on your site. A/B test different headlines and meta descriptions by running ads on Facebook or Google AdWords.
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Live long and prosper, SEO

Optimizing content for the search engines is very much alive. Old school methods have died off, but contemporary methods that focus on the way search engines “judge” content today are very much alive.

Remember, no SEO strategy is set in stone. It must constantly be re-evaluated because many practices we used to know and love are out-of-date.

Got any good SEO hacks you’ve recently been testing out? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the current state of SEO in the comments below!

Want to see how high-growth companies use Core dna’s all-in-one content management platform? Let’s chat.

Dennis, whose legal name happens to be just Dennis (it's quite common from where he came from), is a content and digital marketing addict.

When he's not too busy coming up with content ideas and promoting content, you can find him at 5.30am at the gym. Yeap, he's that guy.

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