I have had a love / hate relationship with SEO for a while now, and that’s funny seeing as how all my online properties get a fair share of their traffic from SEO and I also hold down an executive position at a digital agency where I handle one side of the SEO department.
To give you a bit of context; I have been doing SEO for about 4 to 5 years (I seem to have lost count) so it’s no surprise to me to see how much SEO has changed and how getting a site / post to rank is a completely different process now than it was say just 3 years ago.
So is SEO getting harder or easier to do?
Have the recent (many) Google updates made it easier for quality sites to rank or have the updates ushered in a “new era of SEO” that is just leaving everybody baffled and wondering what will happen next?
That is the question I’d like to tackle today instead of my usual “how to tips” and I think I have experienced SEO enough to be able to make a solid statement on this:
Do newbies stand a fighting chance against the already established mammoths? Or have these SEO changes leveled the playing field for more sites (with quality content that is) to be able to rank high and mighty in the SERPS?
Let’s see… Is SEO getting harder for beginners?
I, for one am super happy when a new Google update has been released.
I have been doing SEO way before the animal updates started rolling out (Panda, Penguin, etc) and to this day; each and every time a new algo update hits; I get a bump in traffic.
While the SEO (blackhat SEO) community scrambles to make sense of their lost traffic and income, me and the others who follow these few SEO fundamentals I mentioned here are all enjoying and patting ourselves on the back for following the rules and playing up to Google’s good side.
Yes, SEO has become significantly harder to do for people who base their SEO expertise on buying up low quality backlinks, sharing thin, low quality content (or worse duplicate content) and spanning the entire web and its forums with useless junk.
For those it has become harder and to be frank; I am glad this has happened.
Cheating your way to the top has never worked, especially when you are trying to cheat a search engine giant like Google where they can track everything you do through the use of Gmail, Analytics, Webmaster Tools and all the rest.
Good SEO comes from good content. That’s the only way you can do SEO the right way.
So What Do I Mean By “SEO The Right Way”?
I for one happen to believe that there are very, very few real SEO experts in the entire world.
There are many bloggers online who can really claim they are SEO experts (Rand Fishkin from Moz may just be one them), but the rest; I seriously doubt that although they may have “above average knowledge”, very few are really experts.
The Google algorithm update is a closed box; and to this day, even with the many leaks happening from inside Google Search team, there is no way as to how one person can be the expert in this field.
SEO as we know it today, has over 200+ ranking factors that we know about and have been confirmed by Google, and I am positive there are more that we still do not know about.
Now from these 200, we know very little of the “weight” each ranking factor carries to ultimately decide your position in the SERPS.
More so, apart from the “major” search updates that shake up the pages 3 to 4 times a year, there’s also over 600 (subtle) changes happening every year unbeknownst to many of us (or just to the handful of experts in the world).
Does that mean that we’re all shooting in the dark here with SEO?
No, from those 200 ranking factors I just told you about, there are some who carry more weight and ones that have been proven to work time and time again.
Here are some of these factors that will help you make your SEO life easier are:
Original content is always a must for people who want to rank well in Google.
I am sure you know this by now, but long gone are the days where you can get away with publishing content that is not directly coming from your own experiences.
In my job as an SEO executive and also within my own business, I deal with content writers on a daily basis and one of the recommendations I give is to always write a post from their own, unique point of view.
- You’re writing a review? Tell me what YOU think of it.
- You are writing about saving money? Tell me what YOU think is the best way to save money.
This gives you two things which are rare to find these days;
- Transparency, seeing as how nobody is restricted by a guideline or “policy” and:
- Unique content: I want to hear YOUR story, not what has been said hundreds of times before you.
One of the main reasons SEO may be getting harder and harder, is because it is now required to create long in-depth content rather than a 400-word spin-off.
Obviously; creating the latter was much easier and took way less time.
Long in depth content is king. I don’t like the idea too much as I do think readers want short concise information, but search engines have agreed across the board that content that is generally over the 2,000 word mark will get more rankings.
This “rule” is to be understood and followed.
Remember search engine giants such as Google are private companies which means they can dictate exactly what they are looking for; many may not like it; but that’s the way it is so you have to make an effort to create the best content you can.
Yes, backlinks still count and if you can start creating for yourself a backlinking strategy that you can use to build your rank, then you are doing something extremely beneficial that will pay off abundantly in the future.
If you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you may remember the fuss about backlinks and people saying they are dead (I too thought the backlink days are over) but what Google was saying is this;
Backlinks built unnaturally will not help you rank better.
SEO “experts” took this as “backlinks are bad” and if you have backlinks on your site; you’re going to get deranked.
If you take a look back at what Google said about backlinks, you can see that this is clearly not the same thing.
Social shares is the least dubious of these things, but I have not found one shred of evidence that claims social engagement does not help your SEO.
It’s true that likes and thumbs ups do not help you, but there is something about social shares that can not be ignored; they get rankings.
Yes, a post with a lot of shares and from different users is a huge indicator of whether a post is valuable content or not.
This sudden sharing will trigger a lot of signals saying this post is quality and thus; you can directly (or indirectly) get a bit of a climb with your SEO.
Now, there are a lot of spam sites that do get a lot of shares due to their clickbait marketing tactic (yuck), but Facebook recently announced that these clickbait articles will be harder and harder to find as they are cleaning up their newsfeed from such articles.
I am still not convinced 100% about social sharing signals myself, but seeing as how my “getting started with Amazon post” has close to 90,000 shares and ranks for the keyword “Amazon”, I am very close to being 100% convinced social matters in SEO.
Speaking of my Amazon post, I would like to add that another SEO factor people tend to forget about his comments, which my “Amazon post” is now at around 140 comments.
Comments are great for SEO; they make the content longer (yes comment words are counted by SERPS) and it’s also a signal that this piece of content gets attention and engagement; which is a plus in search engines algorithms.
One of the best ways in my opinion to get a post ranked is by driving comments; which no; is not easy at all.
Somehow, blog commenting is dying out (which is sad) in favour of posting on social media through FB. While you can use FB as a commenting system on your blog, the old way of getting comments is dying out.
Comments are great for SEO and time and time again, the posts that have the most comments get the highest rankings and the higher the ranking, the more traffic and the more comments. Think of this is a beautiful loop to help you boost rankings.
Give comments a try, ask for them specifically when you are closing off your post and also see the SiteComments feature inside Wealthy Affiliate; it’s by far the best way to get real and legitimate lengthy blog comments anywhere on the internet.
So, Is SEO Getting Harder?
Back to our original question here and to give you my final opinion on the matter:
Yes, I do think that SEO is getting harder; but only if you are doing things the way Google does not like. If you are doing it the way it should be done, then yes; it’s also harder for you to produce great content; but getting ranked is easier.
Also, something I would like to add here before I end this post; is that if you follow the right SEO techniques and you do not do any of the spammy, weird tactics that you see online, then like me; you’ll never have to worry about a Google update.
Am I saying I am the expert here? No, there are no SEO experts out there but I have found a system which has made SEO easier for me and I hope this little post has shown you how you too can make search engines love you and send you a river of traffic.
As always, I do recommend you get some basic SEO training to help you map it out. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO; check out Wealthy Affiliate’s free introductory course where you get to see in video format how to setup your WordPress and your content for SEO success.
Let me know if you have any Q’s below. I’d love to hear from you.