The search engines change, and tactics that rely too heavily on any specific quirk of the algorithm risk getting knocked out of the search results by the next update. This is what happens when self-professed SEO experts believe they have discovered the “secret” to ranking #1.
Long term strategies by reputable companies rely on more than a technical understanding of how the search engines currently work. They also rely on an understanding of how search engines in general have to work. They also demand marketing, networking, and content-production strategies that won’t go stale tomorrow.
Search Engines, the Broad Approach
It’s risky territory to say that the search engines will always rely on this or that, but it’s safe to say that the following elements will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
1. Keywords – Near as anybody can tell, search engines will always rely on keywords. It’s difficult to imagine how else a user could tell the algorithm what they’re looking for in the first place. Social media is growing as a secondary source of information, but until searchable keywords are incorporated, they won’t provide the targeted kind of information that a search engine does. Once they do, they will become search engines themselves.
2. Authority – A search engine has to have some way of deciding what appears near the top of the search results, and authority is one of the most important elements of this. Authority, in the general sense, comes from one of two places. Either it is granted from on high, or it is voted for by the group. Except in the case of advertising, search engines rely on the second method, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
This means that any foreseeable evolution in the search engines will depend on signals of trust from users of the web. Google started this with links. They are now expanding into social media. The basic idea is the same. The more signs of trust in your site that can be found throughout the web, the better you will rank.
3. Relevance – Search engines will always seek to provide users with the most relevant information. This means that it is about the keyword that they searched for. Increasingly, it also means that the content is up to date.
SEO Skills for the Long Haul
Bearing in mind these three factors, the SEO skills that you foster should revolve around these three criteria. This means that the following three skills will almost certainly stay relevant as long as search engines exist.
1. Keyword Research – It will always be necessary to identify which keywords are most popular, how much they indicate about a user’s stage in the buying cycle, and how much competition revolves around the keyword.
2. Networking – Authority comes from influential relationships. Those who understand how to build these relationships will almost certainly have no trouble ranking well in the search results for many years to come.
3. Content Production – Content is king, as they say. Unless a business can continuously produce content that people actually want to find, they will always risk being rendered irrelevant and removed from the top of the search results.
While understanding how the search engines work today is necessary in order to fully optimize a website, an SEO strategy without these three skills as cornerstones will likely fail in the long run.