In the spirit of delivering the most relevant, up-to-date content, we’ve updated our SEO fact sheet to reflect the most recent trends in the industry.

You’ve heard of SEO and chances are, you know why it’s important to your business. But do you know what it is? “The Language of Content Strategy” by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie defines it as:

The process of using best practices to design and create content that will rank well in organic search engine results.

Think of SEO this way: If a customer-focused content marketing program is the sandwich, then SEO is the mayonnaise. It touches nearly everything and enhances the overall flavor of the sandwich, but on its own, it’s not very appetizing. — Content Marketing Institute

The consensus within content doers is this: content marketing and SEO are two very closely related disciplines and should be treated as such. While the destination might be to get prime optimization, the first step on that path is to deliver high-quality content. Without that strategic component, people might easily find you, but will just as easily lose interest after one sentence if that content lacks substance.

91% of all internet users in the U.S. searched for something online in the last month, and the top five search results received 75% of clicks. –Hubspot

But high rankings alone are not enough (or even the most important factor) when it comes to search. — Search Engine Watch

And Forbes agrees. Contributor Josh Steimle writes, “Search engine rank is the metric focused on more widely than any other, and yet in only rare cases is it the metric that matters most.”

In her new book, The Content Advantage, Content Science Founder Colleen Jones writes:

A cousin of overpromised technology, SEO snake oil is the promise of high search engine rankings with little effort. Who sells it? Slippery SEO consultants who take advantage of the fact that search engine formulas aren’t public.” Jones also reminds us that these formulas change regularly, so no one –including these consultants – can guarantee rankings. “Mostly, good design and content go a long way toward good SEO.” 

It all goes back to compelling content. Without it, SEO’s relevancy dwindles. Quickly.

72% of marketers said relevant content creation was the most effective form of SEO, yet 46% also said it was the most difficult strategy. –eMarketer

But can’t you just work the algorithm to improve your search rankings? Not so fast.

For the past 20 years, search engines haven’t stopped tweaking their algorithm. — Contently

In fact, experts say that Google changes its algorithm several hundred times per year. And when it comes to SEO, you can’t ignore Google.

79% – the amount of desktop traffic accounted for by Google last year, followed by Bing at just 7.27%. –NetMarketShare

3.5 trillion – the number of Google searches performed daily.

The rub of a search engine algorithm is that it’s constantly evolving and there’s no sure way to know exactly what a search engine’s algorithm is. While page rank and SEO brings order to the web, if you happen to figure out how to game it, the algorithm will change.  

Organic reach is the number of people shown your post through unpaid distribution—and it’s down because users are searching elsewhere. — Entrepreneur

So, where are they searching? Their friends’ social media accounts, for one. In the past two decades, searching has gotten far more sophisticated with well-written and consistent content, syndicated and repurposed content, advanced keyword research, and the aforementioned heavy social media sharing all playing a part.

Consumers also are gravitating toward earned media, rather than paid ads that show up via Google and other search results.

“Companies often overlook the significant value that can be captured by maximizing the value from owned media (such as a company website) and earned media (such as a blogger writing about your product). When managed properly, this category can help reduce the need for paid media, driving higher ROI in the process.” –McKinsey

While social media seems to play into the downtrend of SEO, people are still searching for things organically. It’s just not in the buzzword-infancy-phase; it’s now a mature channel. While organic searching may have dipped, Google is still the world’s most popular search engine by a large margin.

These days, consumers have varied search options, from search engines like Google to review sites like Yelp, to even their social media networks, though Google has said that social media presence doesn’t determine search rankings. Regardless, SEO may not be as heavily weighed as once thought.

In short, SEO isn’t going anywhere, but it’s no longer the only game in town. And remember, great search results mean nothing if your content doesn’t live up to its ranking.

CSR’s Colleen Jones said it best:

“I have a love-hate relationship with SEO analysts. I love their enthusiasm for making content easy to discover through search. I hate the outdated SEO advice many pass off as expertise and that, in turn, hinders good practices such as content archiving.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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