SEO Has Evolved – It’s About Popularization Now
SEO is not the alpha and omega! It has evolved to become more than just search engine optimization. Also it’s not “just marketing”. You can optimize things without selling them on a market.
SEO has progressed and advanced in multiple directions.
By and large SEO is about popularizing things on the Web now. What else is popularization about?
Why We Don’t do SEO Anymore
It took me 7+ years to realize this but modern SEO is much more than expected. Even my already updated definition of SEO falls short.
My personal view on the SEO 2.0 idea that has inspired numerous others is not enough. It’s time to update the definition to the reality of daily practice.
SEO has long ceased to be about search engines only.
Many years ago, optimization for social media has become an integral part of every serious SEO campaign.
Content was always important, even though over a decade ago SEO for empty sites was still pretty easy.
In recent years content creation has been one of the pivotal aspects of SEO. You don’t have to call yourself a content marketer to create and promote content.
First Things First – Popularity Before Pleasing Gatekeepers
At first we created “killer” content to get that frontpage appearance on popular social media of the first wave. Think Delicious for example.
Both content creation and social media participation were just a means to an end. By now it’s the other way around.
High quality content and ongoing social media engagement are the foundation of the larger strategy where
good search engine rankings (mostly on Google) are just an ephemeral side-effect of our content and social media success.
We rely increasingly on audience building via mail, blogs or social media to be able to reach people whenever we prefer it instead of being dependent on the Google monopoly and the ever-changing algorithms.
The advertising corporation only offers search for free to users to lure advertisers by their reach. Google tightens the grip on organic search almost each day.
The gatekeeper gets more and more focused on its direct revenue sources, well optimized third party (that is you and me) sites aren’t among them.
It doesn’t make sense to cling to the past. It doesn’t work to remember the good old days when everything you needed were a few links and a green bar full of PageRank.
Optimizing a site or even a lot of sites for Google can only grow your dependence on Google’s whims.
You still need to optimize for Google. At least as long as the Google optimization doesn’t conflict with the user experience. This still often the case.
Just because Google wants to monetize your content doesn’t mean you still need to build your site for Google.
Clearly it’s not only about pleasing Google anymore! It’s neither about other gatekeepers like Facebook that throttle organic reach even more brazenly.
It’s about building an audience ideally that nobody can take away from you. It’s your audience not Google or Facebook users.
Real Life Optimization for Popularity
You have to be popular for real, in real life and this popularity has to be reflected online. Google can’t ignore you when people love you.
They are responsible for the search quality. It’s not your job to build a website for Google. They have to find you.
A search engine that ignores popular ideas, people or things is a bad search engine users will abandon.
With the growing spread of the “mobile Web” it doesn’t suffice to make your website responsive. You need to take into account that the Web and the offline world converge.
There is no strict difference between being online and offline anymore. The Web becomes pervasive and extends to real life.
When it comes to popularization in real life search success becomes only a nice to have.
Does Lady Gaga have to rank #1 on Google to stay popular? No, Google has to ensure it finds Lady Gaga or it would look ridiculous.
Popularity is not only about fame though. You can be popular among a specific audience or in a specific place. Can Google ignore a popular restaurant?
Can Google ignore a popular chef? No pun intended here.
The private, secure and often better search engine DuckDuckGo almost always shows the official site on top in order not to make people fall for some fraudsters.
Popularizing Things Instead of Advertising Unpopular Ones
By now it’s about popularizing your ideas, yourself and other people or things be it products or not so that Google has to take care of finding them.
It’s about making people share news about you on social media instead of self promotion. It’s about letting journalists create content about you instead of doing everything yourself.
You don’t need to buy ads to inflate your popularity artificially. When you suck advertising won’t help much.
When you rock already it can only increase your popularity by speeding it up or reaching less relevant audiences. Of course avid fans will find out when their favorite band plays around the corner.
The concept of popularization is not new. It has been used in science or music for ages.
I just adapt it to the online environment and the SEO tradition that runs against the wall currently.
It doesn’t make sense to try to do the same things that have worked five or ten years ago in a different world.
Focusing solely on advertising, marketing and selling is a game only a few fat players can win at. Everybody else keeps on improving, optimizing and popularizing instead.
All those who don’t have huge advertising budgets can’t compete and pay gatekeepers on an ongoing basis.
Get real and popularize yourself among relevant people who will spread the word about you so that Google has to follow.
* Creative Commons image by Kevin Dooley
So only focus on brand name?
kimb: branding is a good start but will not suffice. Rather it’s about real world or at least tangible activities. How do you become a popular restaurant? Is it only about getting many people to visit you by way of Google? Or is it about cooking better so that people start searching you on Google? I always try to optimize the whole business, its message, its values, its approach to the public. Search is only the last step. The customer journey begins somewhere else.
I agree partially. Yes, this is how it should be. I think about SEO the same way. It is way harder to rank a website/business that sucks.
But: We don’t live in an ideal world where everybody is awesome and every client is motivated to do the work to become popular. Sure, you can choose your clients with a lot of thought behind it like I do but you will have to compromise sometimes.
Greetings from Tyrol,
Thank You :)
Alexander: I agree with you. Most clients don’t have perfect sites or even attractive businesses. That’s why we are here. It’s our task to improve them as a whole. Marketers will just buy ads for them but optimizers and popularizers will make them likeable in the first place.
kimb: you’re welcome!
[…] blogging? Well, it’s a forest versus the trees explanation. After reading Tad Chef’s post “SEO Has Evolved – It’s About Popularization Now” (which I recommend you read) I realized we often get obsessed with details and lose sight of the […]
Agreed. It can be a struggle though, speaking from experience :)
Just checked out the rest of your site. Some fantastic articles on here!
very interesting post, I thin you right on track with SEO and how not to focus on Google but your audience.
Nice article though! But to be popular, you don’t just need traffic in your website. You need to be a true leader in your industry to build trust from your followers or customers. You know how to provide quality service and expertise to your customers to be popular. If they don’t like your service or product, then you won’t be popular at all.
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