Famous marketer and copywriter Drayton Bird recently made a fascinating video on SEO – something he readily admits he knows almost nothing about. So he asked Gerald - someone he works with and whose opinion Drayton values - to write in a way that anyone could understand, on why he thinks SEO is a waste of time. Since this video will likely be down by the time you read this, I've taken the following notes because you might find this exceedingly interesting.
With a minimum of paraphrasing, this is what Gerald wrote and Drayton read on the video...
"Search engine optimization is a waste of your time. First, what keywords or phrases are you trying to rank for? Whatever they are, I can't imagine you're the only person trying for them. So you'll probably be playing "keyword leapfrog" forever. Are you happy with that? Or would you rather spend your time more profitably?"
"Now imagine you want to buy something, or find out more about something. Where do you go? Chances are it's Google. And what does Google want to happen to you? Google wants you to get the answer to your question, whatever your question is. That's why they have their famous, clever, changing everyday search algorithm. But Google's algorithm doesn't just look for matching pages somewhere on the Internet and say, 'This is the answer.' It looks for a page on a relevant and authoritative site which answers your question."
"Imagine your question is, 'Is SEO a waste of time?' You used to be able to get away with and rank well for a single page website along the lines of, 'SEO is a waste of time, buy my book for $99 to find out why.' Would this site answer your question? Not really. And Google doesn't like this because Google wants you to get the answer. Google wants to make you happy. This is not because Google loves you. I'm sorry. It's just about business. Google knows it's got to give their customers what they want. If searchers don't get the answers, they'll go somewhere else and the Big G will not make as much money as they would like."
"So let's assume you have a website all about building websites, and one or more pages on your site are devoted to why SEO is a waste of time. And Google finds your site full of stuff about websites and SEO. And it sees you also have a page discussing whether SEO is a waste of time. So Google thinks this is a site that's full of stuff about websites, that has a page that's relevant to the search and answers the question. It's a better site. So it sends the person with the question to that site."
"So make sure your site is authoritative, that's it full of good stuff, that it's real, it's genuine, it's valid. Stop worrying about anything else and simply write stuff that is authoritative. Making stuff that's relevant to whatever you do is the sensible way to build your website. And it will in the long run get you better rankings."
Do you agree? Is SEO a waste of time? And if so, what is going to become of all those many SEO companies out there as it becomes known to one and all that the days of SEO are over? Perhaps they will switch over to creating great, relevant, authoritative content.
UPDATE: Evidently some people posted that Gerald's SEO explanation was too simple, so Drayton made a second video in which he allowed Gerald to answer a few questions. Again, the video will likely be down when you read this, so here's the condensed version of what Gerald had to say:
"One of the common comments we received was that we hadn't told the whole story. But when you're writing something for Drayton to explain, you have to keep it simple. What he knows about technology you could write on the back of a postage stamp."
"More seriously, some of your questions were about the algorithm. Google's algorithm changes at least once a day. They add to it, they tweak it, they've been doing this for years. What started out as quite a blunt tool is now a fairly sharp tool. Links are important but they've become less important because Google knows people can buy links, and they're looking for important, decent links. And you're not going to just get those, so I wouldn't worry about that."
"You need to rank on the first page or otherwise you may as well not bother. But you're never going to be able to buy your way in there, so just keep at what we said originally. Get a decent site together, keep it updated and do everything that Google tells you. And that includes mobile – mobile is more and more important these days, so make sure your site will work on mobile properly. And give people the full site, don't give them a cut down version."
"Somebody else said something very interesting: They said at the end of the financial period, Google shuffles the rankings so everyone goes rushing to AdWords. I don't know if that's true or not, but hey, weirder things have happened."
"That brings me on to AdWords. Adwords is the best way to get traffic to your site. You can test really quickly. Your organic rankings will come, so don't worry about them. So, just to repeat, don't try and second guess Google. Just do what they ask you to do in the webmaster guidelines. Build a decent site, and keep it updated. Keep adding stuff, run a blog if you can. That's one of the easiest ways and you pick up the links you're after."
Now then – is Gerald right? In a manner of speaking, yes. The SEO tactics of yesterday will get you in trouble with Google today. But there are methods that still work; methods that are legitimate, white hat and should keep you on good terms with Google.
For example, getting more indexed pages through 404 error pages and 'product showdown pages,' as well as moving infographics to gain honest, legitimate links and SHOCK! Targeting your content to your ideal customers. Maybe these methods are more work than buying a bunch of spam links, but just think how much better you'll sleep at night when you're not worried Google is about to catch you trying to game their algorithm.