For years now there has been a battle between the various components of online marketing: search engine optimisation (SEO), content, user experience and design.
Each group of practitioners in turn have had strong case studies to support the argument for siphoning more money towards them and away from other disciplines. This has more often than not been a very healthy way to move forward with each team trying to outdo the other.
Working in a big agency for some time gave a lot of insight into this. In fact for many years big agencies have moved forward as successfully as their clients with this dynamic. But this dynamic is changing.
Online marketing is still an unregulated space.
There are obviously boundaries when advertising, that subset of marketing is used, but when it comes to what tactics are deployed it’s still the decision of other individuals in this unregulated space.
This makes every decision subjective and sometimes clients can suffer as a result, particularly when dealing with a lack of experience.
This year however Google has made some very big changes that affect the online marketing world deeply.
The art, or science, of SEO has always been about staying one step ahead of the algorithm and exploiting this knowledge to benefit a clients’ business.
The essence of this success, the crux around which all SEO activity pivots, has always been the keyword. The first activity conducted in SEO is to define the keywords, and the last check box in the on-going loop of SEO is how well the keyword is performing compared to the previous month.
As entrepreneur, author and journalist John Batelle recently said: the era of the keyword is coming to an end. Google must have been listening as they have served 2 master strokes to help cement this idea:
1) Since the beginning of 2011 Google’s own analytics platform, Google Analytics, has not been passing back organic keyword data for users logged in to their Google account. There is really no reason for them to hide this information. Google state that it’s a security issue and they are doing it to protect us. Go figure. Now we have less and less of an idea of what keywords are working.
2) Since the Penguin updates from May and June of this year Google has clamped down on the over-use of the keyword within the anchor text link to a website. The practice of SEO has always had keyword targeted link building at its heart, as Google’s ranking factors have historically placed a lot of emphasis on the use of anchor text. What we are seeing now is Google starting to abandon anchor text as a major ranking signal, even to the extent where the over-use of optimised anchor text can have a detrimental effect on your rankings.
So the battle lines are moving forward beyond where the SEO’s once stood and favouring more the disciplines of content, user experience and design. Today, if conduct these activities correctly, SEO success will follow.
Keywords are still important and they will still be there in your (relevant, researched) content, but how good the user experience of your well designed website is, is now paramount and also factored into Google’s algorithm with what is perceived to be, growing importance.