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Since the dawn of time there has been a culture of one-upmanship that has guided the human race steadily along its ongoing path towards self-destruction. As long as there has been one man with, say, one goat; or one sheep; or one bright, shiny stone even; there has been another man who wants twice as many. Nowhere else has this been more fiercely applied than in the world of marketing and SEO.
Whoever it was that had the bright idea of branching online to market their business, kicked off the trend that has evolved into internet marketing and SEO as we know the beasts today.
Search engines provide a portal through which interested parties seeking to part company with their hard earned cash can find your product or service and send a bit of it your way. That's where the SEO part comes in. Its purpose is to raise your website's search engine rankings with the aim, so to speak, of 'getting one over on the competition'. A higher ranking will ensure more visitors and providing your website doesn't resemble a bulldog licking excrement off a barbed wire fence, or enjoy the road-handling of a bag of spanners, it should provide more conversions, sales and sales leads.
But a lot has been said of late regarding SEO, its credibility, and its future.
For every decrier of SEO, there is a search marketer willing to stand its corner. In the past month we have heard that SEO has no future, a claim given legs in some eyes by the authoritative status of its source. There have also been the usual claims that SEO is a con and nothing more than spam. And then, a couple of weeks back there was a whole fake linkbait rumpus, involving SEO, 'master baiter', and all-round sporting fellow of these shores, Lyndon Antcliff.
This in particular caused quite a heated debate on 'ethical marketing'... hmm.
One of the aspects of marketing is and always will be the game of one-upmanship. The 'getting one over' on the competition to increase awareness and ultimately sales. Likewise, SEO has been likened to an arms race, in that it never stands still and is constantly evolving to produce the biggest, baddest bomb, capable of killing the largest number of innocent people possible... erm, I mean new ways to influence a website's rankings in the search engine result pages.
How this works is SEO Bob (for the sake of argument) discovers a particularly tasty technique that has a positive bearing on their search engine ranking. This technique finds its way into the public domain and is utilised by every man and his uncle in a bid to improve their ranking. SEO Bob has to then find another way to improve his ranking now that everybody else is doing what he did. At the same time, the search engine adjusts the algorithm so as to devalue this particular technique. Result, everybody's back where they started until SEO Bob, SEO Jim, or SEO Dan makes their next discovery.
But the ever increasing sophistication of search engines and the incorporation of personalised search results based (in Google's case) on the Google Toolbar and web history - or even 'second query' - is what the naysayers cite as being the death knell for SEO.
But it boils down to this. So long as there are search engines and people using those search engines to find what it is they're after, there will be SEO. So long as a ranking can still be influenced, whether through a heavier reliance on social media voting and social bookmarking, or whatever - SEO won't die. So long as there's money to be made from publishing websites and search engines remain the most popular tool for shepherding visitors to those websites, there will be SEO.
Just as the search engines evolve into something that was unimaginable ten years ago, so does SEO and the definition of SEO.
There are factors that will never go away when creating websites. Spiderable pages, fluid site structure, usability, and unique and relevant content – plenty of it. And it is these that ensure SEO will never go away. Particularly when it comes to content. SEO's create content and it is as creators of unique content that people will naturally link to where the future lies. After all, natural links will retain their value, even after Google has banned every other type of link from passing weight.
Good content breeds links. This isn't manipulation; it's what Google actually ask for in their guidelines.
The future for SEO is strong. People will always want information and content. As long as there's human involvement and this human intends to spend money, webmasters will always want the better content on their website.
The one-upmanship and competitive streak that's inherent in all of us assures that as long as there remains a free internet, SEO will evolve right along with it.