There was a time when search engine optimization(SEO) was all about gaming the algorithm. A time when keyword density and backlinks were the exclusive determining factors in where one appeared on the search engine results page(SERP). But that was decades ago.
Modern SEO is different. It’s less algorithm-focused and more user-focused. Keywords are still important, certainly—but not more important than creating relevant, high-quality content.
The problem is that too many so-called SEO agencies ignore this shift. They obsess over pointless metrics like what percentage of a blog post consists of primary and secondary keywords. And in the process, they ignore content quality.
When you load a piece up with keywords or obsess over the specifics of what someone is searching for, you’re creating content for algorithms rather than for human beings. That kind of content is very easy to recognize. It’s laden with unnatural language and awkward phrasing.
It’s packed with sentences that clearly exist solely to insert more keyword variations.
This approach demonstrates a foundational misunderstanding of SEO. Every algorithm update Google has made for the past several years has been an effort to move away from this type of thinking. An effort to make the SERP about content that’s valuable and relevant to human beings rather than content that plays nice with robots.
We will be blunt. The days when you could outsmart Google to outrank your competition are gone. As noted by inbound marketing blog Rock Content, Google has been trying to tell us that for years, both directly and through content penalties. While the technical details are still important—and always will be—the needs of the user always come first.
What that means is simple:
- Prioritize the experience. Your site should load fast, be easy to navigate, and not contain any deceptive or underhanded content.
- Create for intent. For each piece of content on your site, ask what the user is looking for, and endeavor to provide that as concisely and effectively as possible.
- Focus on quality. Your goal should always be to create the highest-quality content possible, with everything else as a secondary concern.
- Privacy is key. In an era of legislation such as the GDPR, customer privacy is front-of-mind. Even if your business isn’t headquartered in Europe, you must always think about consent and transparency when dealing with user data.
- Connect and engage. Modern marketing and SEO are ultimately about building relationships with your audience. Your inbound strategy should therefore be linked with social media, and your business should look for opportunities to interact with and personalize content for customers at every touchpoint in their journey.
Ultimately, the User Comes First
Keyword stuffing. Link Farming. Deceptive and hidden content. These black hat tactics used to be tools in the arsenal of every SEO professional.
Today that is no longer the case—if you obsess over technical SEO without thinking about the people on the other side of the screen, you can and will be penalized by the same algorithms you’re attempting to game. Need more info? Check out our previous thought-piece on our 5 Top Tips for SEO in 2022!