Modern search engine optimization has changed a great deal from the days of keyword spam.
Share this article
If you’ve been pursuing other ventures for a while or otherwise haven’t kept up-to-date with the latest Internet developments, the key tenets of SEO have changed a great deal in the past decade.
Indeed, they change day-to-day as Google updates its algorithms, but in broad strokes, best practices for SEO firms follow this general outline.
At the most basic level, SEO is still about tailoring site content to search results. That means keywords--although it’s much less about quantity in 2020, keywords still drive search traffic and an understanding of how they relate to incoming searches is vital.
Modern SEO also includes higher level categories than the keyword: the topic and the entity. Both of these terms are somewhat nebulous and subject to specific implementation, but in general, a topic is the target of a single piece of content, such as a blog post, while an entity is simply a distinguishable feature of the site.
In general, the progression of Google’s algorithms has been away from “silver bullet” solutions and towards improving relevance and utility for its userbase (as you’d expect, given Google’s priorities.) The overall result of this, for SEO firms, has been a greater requirement for industry research when optimizing client websites.
You don’t need to become a subject-matter expert overnight, but you’ll be well served by taking the time to understand what people in the client industry are likely looking for when they enter different search terms into Google.
The demise of the SEO silver bullet has also meant the end of the one-size-fits-all SEO solution. As such, along with industry research, contemporary SEO often includes a degree of client targeting. Firms like Firestarter have seen major successes with this kind of approach, to the point where the bespoke SEO solution is generally the way to go for clients that can afford the additional price tag.
The last frontier for many who work in SEO, the technical aspects of a website’s optimization are more important than ever. The first and most basic step for optimization is to understand how Google’s crawlers work and to guarantee that every single user-facing page on your site is crawlable and indexable.
A great deal of the work in this kind of optimization is done in the site’s robots.txt. Identify which areas of the client site must be indexable (generally, anything pertaining to a potential search topic or keyword) and which should be skipped by crawlers (anything backend.)
The most technical and rarified components of SEO are those that pertain to server performance. In many cases, as an SEO consultant, you simply won’t have access to this level of granular fine-tuning of a site’s performance; in the rare cases that you do, it can be hard to sell the necessity of changes that might impact user performance for the benefit of Google’s robots.
If you’re encountering pushback on this, one tack that can work with engineers is to point out improving search rankings is the only thing likely to run you into problematic amounts of real users.
On and Off-Page
The primary categories listed have been “on-page” SEO strategies, which as an SEO consultant are the areas over which you have the most direct control. There is also a generous amount of SEO done “off-page” in 2020, which generally involves building the authority of your site.
Incoming links to your site are valued highly by Google’s algorithms, so another component of modern SEO is building a base of inbound links—the more, and the more organic, the better.
SEO is a tougher game than it used to be. There are more players, for one, and updates are faster than they used to be as well, since Google isn’t exactly a garage company anymore. Ultimately, aggressive SEO requires you to stay ahead of the curve of updates and ahead of your competitors, making the field more fiercely competitive than ever.
That said, results-oriented and proactive firms or consultants can still find great success, and the new challenges presented by the industry in 2020, while being less rewarding of rote implementation of proven strategies, are as a result increasingly friendly to creative solutions and forward-thinking innovation.