Does SEO Still Have a Role to Play?

With social such a factor for businesses today, it’s easy to overlook the tried and true in search of the new and shiny.  At the last two conferences I’ve attended, it’s a theme that’s surfacing: if we’ve got social, and it drives business, do we need to invest in SEO?

For those reading this blog, and in the industry, the answer might seem obvious, but let’s examine this a bit.

Social has the ability to take a website form launch to IPO at warp speed.  The ability to activate customers to become advocates and spread the good word about your business has never been greater.  And businesses should be using social to do the heavy lifting of engaging with customers and driving awareness and positive growth.
Using social to accomplish growth is not a simple, straight line option, but its proven to work and when you figure out what resonates with your customers, it’s like uncovering the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So many sites, apps and businesses rely on social alone, as I’ve learned working with startups for the past year plus.  Many of those businesses think of marketing their product in terms of social only.  Their sole focus being to spread the word via Facebook and Twitter to drive awareness of their product.

And with SEO being a bit complex in many site owner’s eyes, it’s tempting to seek a shorter path.

But if you feel SEO is related to usability, it’s still an important area to cover.  Improving your website should always be a priority, and sorting SEO-related factors is no different.  SEO is as important today as it was 5 years ago.

Title tags still should be unique to each page and relevant to the content of the page.  Meta descriptions are still best when optimized to be relevant and to contain a good call to action, given their prominence on the search results page.  Meta keywords are still not really used for ranking in any way.  Clean URLs can help with crawling, well written article titles (<H1s>) are appreciated by readers and depth of content matters a great deal today – much more so than 5 years ago.

Understanding what form of content your customers like to consume is important so you can deliver it to them: video, audio, written text, lists or long-form, etc.  Catering to your customer is a way to get them to love you.  In fact, 0ne of the surest ways to get a search engine’s attention is to create a site that customers love.  When they love it, they tell others and we see that information spread across the web.

So while it might not seem like the tactics employed in SEO work aren’t really changing, and that SEO can be put on the back burner in favor of a social-only approach, the reality is that it’s still a blended approach, with the focus being on an amazing customer experience, that wins the race.

So, yes, SEO very much still has a role to play.  Links still have a role to play.  Usability’s role continues to become more and more important.  Content still matters greatly and social is an important component, too.  Mobile matters more than ever now as well, meaning sites need to think beyond the laptop and plan for success across tablets and smartphones.  Stick to the known best practices and focus on impressing customers – it’s a path to success.