SEO, Like Processed Foods, Will Kill You

by Ken Mueller on March 23, 2012 · 44 comments

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A hand reaching for organic tomatoes at a farmer's market in North America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh, maybe that title is a bit of an exaggeration, but hear me out.

In our home we’ve been doing a lot of reading up on food and health and the one common factor that keeps coming up, is that regardless of the types of food you eat, whether it’s meat, dairy, produce, or whatever, the more natural and organic they are, the better they are for you. In other words, the more processed they are, the worse they are for you.

Many of the weight and health issues that we have are due to eating foods that have been over-processed.

And in the same way, as we approach our online presence, organic is generally better.

The latest news from Google out of SxSW is that the search giant is shifting away from literal search toward a more semantic algorithm. This means that Google is getting smarter and is continuing to move in a direction that makes our search engine results more relevant to us. In layman’s terms, up until now, Google has merely looked at words, which is why we put such an emphasis on keywords. Now, with a shift toward semantic search, Google will actually begin to understand what those words mean, and will then be able to deliver answers and SERPs that are far more advanced than what we get now.

The upshot of this is that the algorithm is putting a greater premium on content, and less on the previously used SEO factors. Yes, it is possible to have too much SEO on your site. And by too much, this is a new definition of “too much”. What has been acceptable in the SEO world as “business as usual” is now something that could penalize you.

This is why many of us in the content marketing world have been telling you for years that organic, natural content is always better for SEO than the “processed” stuff. This is also why I encourage businesses to write naturally, and to start a blog on their website. It is far more effective than paying an SEO consultant to charge them an arm and a leg based on specific keywords. The traditional SEO crowd is going to have to change what they offer, and in many cases this could put some of them out of business.

Is SEO dead? Probably not entirely, but it is continuing to shift in a much better direction. Again, these changes stress the emphasis of having a site that is rich in good content, and is more social in nature, rather than static.

So what are we to do?

1) Focus on content – As far as I’m concerned, this has always been the best option when it comes to SEO, but now it’s even more important. This means making sure that the content on your web pages is relevant, and you should definitely consider a blog. Remember: each new blog post adds a new page with new content to your site. Search engines love this, and the relevance of that content is now much more important. And as you create content, don’t spend a lot of time over thinking which keywords you are using, or how often you are using them. Just write. The more natural your writing, the better off you’ll be.

2) Be careful who you hire for SEO – There are a lot of agencies that offer SEO services, and some that specialize in just SEO. And many of these companies will even call you and tell you how they can help improve your ranking in SERPs. I’m not saying some of these folks aren’t legit, but be very careful before you hire them. Ask a lot of questions. Get their guarantees in writing. Ask more questions. And before you decide to work with them, get references. Do they fully understand the changes at Google and other search engines? What exactly is it that they’ll be doing to your website. And again, before you hire someone, consider looking back at point 1 again.

3) Avoid over optimization - All indications are that you will get penalized for trying to overdo it. To illustrate this for you, think of the Yellow Pages. Often a company would name itself Acme Plumbing in order to get the first listing in their category, since it is done alphabetically. Then a company comes along and changes their name to AAA Plumbing. And then along comes AAAA Plumbing. They are all trying to out-alphabetize the others. Yes, it’s a ridiculous example, but that’s sort of what happens when you and your competitors try to out-SEO one another. This is counter-productive.

4) Think twice about paying to be on directory and listing sites, and then think again – You’ll be getting calls from online directories like the Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, Manta, and more. They will try to sell you top listings on their sites, which are merely directories of links to you and your competitors, rather than “real” content. I’ve never liked these sites, but now they will lose search relevance in a world of semantic indexing.

5) Beef up your social – Google and other search engines are now weighing social media more heavily, and you need to make sure that your website is properly social. Can people subscribe? Is it shareable? Are you sharing your own content on your own social sites? These will do more for you than most traditional SEO tactics.

6) Don’t ignore the simple and most basic SEO tasks – There are things that you, and your webmaster, can do to take advantage of the most simple SEO tactics. While they are simple, they are probably the most relevant. Think them through and put them in place: things like carefully constructed title tags and optimized URLs.

When it comes to food, organic trumps GMOs every time.

In the same way, good, relevant content trumps traditional SEO every time.

So if you’re going to work on SEO, do you want it natural and organic? Or genetically modified?

Are you ready for the changes to the world of SEO? Are you prepared to focus more on your content, and less on other factors?

 SEO, Like Processed Foods, Will Kill You
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33 comments
toddbacile
toddbacile

@kmueller62 thx for sharing this SEO article. When do you think the shift to a more semantic Google will impact advice/tips from #SEO gurus?

torrado
torrado

Hi, I am an advanced SEO specialists, and have enjoyed reading your article. Keep up the good work.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@Adm1nRelated @christinemartin @meghan5580 @digett Thanks for the RTs!

CjShaffer1
CjShaffer1

@shonali title should read BAD #seo Good #seo is like a natural food. put the effort to fertilize and water your site w/o trying to cheat

kmueller62
kmueller62

@RachelStrella thanks for the RT, Rachel!

kmueller62
kmueller62

@skypulsemedia haha. thanks for the RT! #HowieIsAnOKGuy

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @KenMueller this is a great move if you ask me. If someone knows your business name and they google it, you still come out on top. If you were gaming that front page like so many do it didn't mean best results for us, just for you. This is similar to Ad Words btw. I block them with Firefox but if I didn't the 3 results were highest search term bidders not best fit for me.

 

One thing Google is doing of they pull this off is showing the can conquer the world better than facebook, amazon, apple etc. And that reason is context. We bash Klout for making people experts on things they aren't because they key in on tweeted words. Or how we use listening tools for sentiment the same way vs reading every tweet, article and post.

 

But if I was them, instead of trying to create products that take on Klouts and Radian6's I would license my technology and stick to my core markets. But we all know big companies have a hard time doing this.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@idontlookdumb actually, I think in the long run it means less work.

gwenmorrison
gwenmorrison

Awesome post, Ken! As a company that provides SEO services to small businesses, "quality" (and relevant) content has always been part of our SEO recommendations when working with clients. It goes way beyond basic keyword research and updating your meta data. It's about being relevant--to your target audience first. 

 

Social media has always, in my mind, been part of SEO. Too many businesses see social media as a "strategy" instead of seeing it as part of everything you do. It should be integrated into every activity -- online and offline. And it goes hand-in-hand with SEO. 

 

Thanks for the insightful post. All great points. There are definitely plenty of snake oil salesmen out there pushing keyword research as the golden ticket to getting found online. The game has changed, and I think will continue to change. SEO "experts" will have to be on their toes to keep up and help clients improve their visibility. 

ThreeTwelve Creative
ThreeTwelve Creative

I have been saying for quite a while that with all of their intellectual and financial capital I would be shocked if Google was not actively pursuing a true general artificial intelligence. Furthermore, with massively distributed computing and the greatest store of data ever accumulated, I won't be surprised if (when) they achieve it...

kmueller62
kmueller62

@marketingbard thanks for the RT!

ChrisDrinkut
ChrisDrinkut

Interesting post; and interesting development. Changes in Google's algorithm could prove to be a game-changer. I can't image the changes will be massive and fast, but then again - who knows?  I like the idea that they plan to bring more than weblinks in results (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304459804577281842851136290.html). I need to go back and listen to the SXSW panel more (http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP11742), but thanks for kicking the convo around. It's something I'm certainly interested in keeping an eye on. Cheers! 

shonali
shonali

@cjshaffer1 I'm pretty sure that's what @kmueller62 meant (it's his post, not mine).

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @HowieSPM I think you're right. (Wait, did I just say that?). I'm really hopeful that as we move forward, we can just focus on content, which is what users want. 

kmueller62
kmueller62

@odonnellsteve heck yeah. don'tyou ever talk to yourself?

idontlookdumb
idontlookdumb

@kmueller62 Of course. I was being wry—lots of people are looking for a "quick fix" and your post acts as their conscience!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @gwenmorrison Most definitely. The stories I hear from local businesses about some of the tactics of some SEO "experts" are pretty frightening. And there is generally no accountability. 

n3rd00
n3rd00

@Inkling_Media wootz

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ChrisDrinkut There's a lot of interesting stuff in there, and the indications are that they will move pretty fast on this. Flat out, Google says they are tired of being gamed, even if it's gaming in the right category. They're trying to clean up the game and get rid of the "steroids" and want it all natural.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@shonali @cjshaffer1 yup, that was the point of the post

kmueller62
kmueller62

@idontlookdumb ah. i get it! ha. very true

ThreeTwelve Creative
ThreeTwelve Creative

 @KenMueller Not too scared about it, really -- que sera, sera, I guess. I do feel like it's what they're striving for -- which is, after all, returning pages that are relevant and useful to a query (and *ahem* ads that also happen to be relevant). No amount of humans could read billions of pages and determine relevancy... one massively distributed AI could.

CjShaffer1
CjShaffer1

@kmueller62 ahhhh:) Have it bookmarked as I only had a chance to glance thru it earlier!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ThreeTwelve Creative Well, I mean scary in an unchartered waters sorta way. I'm not afraid of it, but boy, it's an interesting path ahead of us. 

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