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SEO is Dead, Long Live SEO

The future of SEO is bleak, at least SEO as we all know it today that is anyway. In fact SEO doesn't really matter. 

Here is a bit of background as to why optimising your website for search, isn’t the same game we played 5 years ago.

Google or Bing or Yahoo don't care about your website's content or your code. Search engines just care about your users. Or more importantly your shared users.

Putting this into context, in 2013 93 percent of Google’s overall revenue was linked to advertising. Phrasing that another way, over 90 per cent of Google's multi billion dollar business came from matching users with what they want. At it’s heart, that it's all that search is, matching people with the information they’re looking for. Whether that be shoes or stationary.

So how does that affect your website?

Whether you get 200 users per month or you're the Huffington Post, everything comes down to providing the best experience for the search enegine's (read Google's) users. Making sure they're happy, satisfied, and most importantly, that they come back. Ensuring that you are the correct fit for the person searching, is all that should matter.

How do you achieve this state of searh nirvana then? 

1. The speed at which your website loads

2. the experience of using your website

3. how much trust and authority you’ve gained

Starting with speed...

Speed matters. Speed matters a lot. 45 per cent of your users will leave if a page takes more than four seconds to load. And if people are leaving your site from search you can bet that search engines are keeping track of it, as well as over 200 points of data about your site and how it’s used.

In SEO circles jumping back to the search page is called pogo sticking and pogo sticking is bad news for your ranking. It means that people aren’t finding what they want and that directly contradicts the purpose of search.

User Experience

User experience, or usability is a huge topic area, covering issues such as catering for less able users, user experience (UX) design, mobile experience, user journeys, attention, and a thousand other design tidbits. However from an SEO point of view, keeping users who have come in from search is a massive priority and the primary measure of this is bounce rate.

Bounce rate is a measure of how many users only visit one page of your website before leaving. Generally, if you bounce rate is at or under 60% for your website, you’re doing well, anything under 40% is really very good. 

Bounce from search really matters. Not only is pogo sticking bad. But it has so many other side-effects other than just your pages, posts or other content and landing pages not getting read.

If users aren’t staying on your site, then they’re not truly interacting with your content. Which means they’re not sharing your posts. Which means they're likely reading posts from other sites which have a better user experience than yours.

On the highest level, user experience for your website is all about understanding what makes your users tick. Understand why they want to read you, what’s in it for them, and what will keep them interested again and again.

You should make keeping your users happy top priority because as your website grows, this initial core-group are vital to give your website authority and trust.

And that's the third factor, Authority and Trust

Pre 2011 SEO involved a lot of link chasing. The most important factor for ranking in your chosen keyword was links, ideally thousands of them.

A lot has changed since then, at least with Google. Now what matters is authority and trust, which, at least in my mind is a far better metric than just farming links.

Just like offline, authority and trust are not things which you can manipulate independently. It’s almost better to call them proving your worth and getting recognised for it.

Authority is an amalgamation of the quality, diversity, when, where you get links from other websites. It used to be the case that you could just buy a few links and bob’s your uncle. A high ranking domain.

But now search is closer to an interaction you and I would have with an interviewer, with the interviewer being Google.  They would want to check your past roles, that you haven’t been doing the same job for 20 years, where you worked, and what results it had before you’re offered a position in search.

Trust, on the other hand, is the follow up interview. A more in depth look at who links to you. Google looks at how many links you are from a major source of trust, think along the lines of the BBC or respected centres of government, or education.

Google also looks at the experience your users are receiving as a measurement of trust. Core metrics such as time on site, pages viewed or bounce-rate all play into Google’s measure of trust.

And that’s when it all comes back to user experience.

Think of it like this. You shouldn’t be optimising your site for search, for most of your websites, this will come with time, if you create conversation around your website, continue to write focused, eloquent, posts and take actions which give your site more authority.

What you should invest as much time doing, is making sure that your users come back again and again, share and link to your posts and have a great experience using your site.

So remember, all that search engines want to do is to keep their users happy. How do you do that?

1. Make your website fast,

2. Make every page enjoyable and informative to be on,

3. Give your users an opportunity to help you, by using, sharing and most importantly, coming back to your site.

You can find out more about search engine optimisation on Klaxon's blog here.