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Should you give up on SEO?

     
5:14 pm on Jun 27, 2019 (gmt 0)

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For everyone dealing with Google traffic drops, "Not giving up" sounds nice but it's not always the wisest course of action. You want to figure out what is influencing your SEO traffic change. If you can't figure it out, then you are going to have little chance to successfully improve the situation.

Did the traffic drop due to a change to the serp layout?
Did the traffic drop due to a change in your competition (new sites or new pages outranking you)?
Did the traffic change because Google adjusted their ranking algo?

If your traffic changed due to Google adjusting their ranking formula, take a step back from your site and evaluate your ranking signals. Do you have good content? We all think we have good content but is your content generating traffic from social sites? If you are not getting a good amount of social traffic, then maybe your content is not as high quality as you think. We all think our own baby is cute but let's be honest not every baby is super cute and not all content is great. Engage with relevant social audiences for your website. Pay attention to the content they want and the content that is gaining traction from them. These are good clues on how you can improve your own content.

Start sharing your content with relevant social audiences. Check your ego at the door and be very receptive to criticism. It doesn't matter how you feel about your content, it just matters if other people like & want your content. So listen to the social audiences and give them the content they want. Doing that will help you build up a healthy traffic source outside of Google. It also boosts Google traffic. For example more brand awareness from social audiences can lead to more backlinks & that definitely helps SEO.

Once you have great content, worry less about your Google SEO trouble and build up your network of traffic referring websites. What websites would make good cross promotional partners for you? Traffic generating referrals and cross promotional partners are high quality backlinks. Backlinks aren't easy to develop but they are rocket fuel to Google rankings. Ask yourself when was the last time you gained backlinks that actually drove real traffic to your website? If you can't answer that, then it is likely part of the reason why Google is not giving your site as much love as it used to enjoy.

The more you make your site popular outside of Google, the more it comes crawling back and boosting SEO traffic to you.

Bottom line - we all want to make sure that our hard work will make a difference to our websites. Be smart and take a step back to assess the situation to make sure you are working on the right thing at the right time. Working harder isn't always smart. You can punch a brick wall as hard as you like but its not going to help your SEO rankings. Be careful that you aren't blindly working without knowing what is actually needed to fix your rankings :)
6:00 pm on July 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We all think we have good content but is your content generating traffic from social sites? If you are not getting a good amount of social traffic, then maybe your content is not as high quality as you think.


I would disagree with that statement for the below reasons:

1. Not all content is shared on social media. People share very specific type of content and completely avoid sharing others. For example, no one is going to share an article they read about, 'how to write a good Ashley Madison profile '. So simply because an article is not shared or doesn't get enough social traffic, doesn't mean it is of bad quality.

2. Social signals can be easily manipulated. Shares, followers, traffic - everything can be brought and so easily at that. So to judge an article based on social signals is a highly inept way of judging things and if Google is doing that then they are on the wrong path.
7:34 pm on July 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@equidistant I suggest you reread that quote and notice I said MAYBE.

Why did I say MAYBE? There are many different industries with many different types of content. The example of using social sites was never intended to be the only way to test content so I said MAYBE. The simple truth is not all content is good and some MAYBE downright garbage. Everyone thinks their content is good but MAYBE we are all a wee bit biased. So MAYBE it would be smart to evaluate our own content by how well a social site responds to it, or how well an email newsletter list engages with it, or how it is received when presented at an industry conference or MAYBE be smart enough to figure out what evaluation would make sense for our own specific situations. I think that if someone is smart enough to test if content is good enough, they wouldn't sabotage their own quality control by manipulating the results but MAYBE just MAYBE I am wrong ;)

Anyone can disregard my suggestions and nitpick on the wording but it doesn't change the fact that falling in love with bad content is dangerous to one's chances of online success.
9:00 pm on July 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Should you give up on SEO?


Or "should you stop being obsessed by SEO and focus on other aspect of web publishing?"

It kills me when I see everybody talking about keywords density, nofollow, and all kinds of mathematics stuffs... when some venture to talk about "quality" content, it quickly turns into, how many words, how many synonyms, should one put a single or double quote, ... when it's about user experience, it exclusively about the score returned by speed test tools. Some times I wonder if web publishers are visiting their own site, and looking with their own eyes ... working on the page layout is always neglected, where as it's important, is a site pleasant to browse, invites to read more pages, etc....

No one talks about how to keep visitors and make them return for example. To me it's the most important , to bring a content ,which gives the will to visitors to browse more pages, to interact, and to return. When you rely exclusively on Search engine traffic, it means that you consider that people visiting your site will never return by themselves, ...then you might wonder "why"...
10:12 pm on July 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The common perception/practice of webdev that has built up over the years is determine keywords from Google (and tools mining G) data tools, write keyword based content targeting Google organic search rankings, funnel such traffic through Google AdSense, and use various tools to identify backlinks to heighten Google search ranking. In that sense SEO has been increasingly dead/out of date/gambling for the past decade. Why? Because following the same behaviours levels the playing field and makes everyone exchangeable aka interchangeable aka equally worth less.

On the other hand if one is building for human market segment audiences then SEO still has it's place, as it always has, as part of an online business's marketing plan. Because that is what SEO fundamentally is, a marketing tactic for optimising SE organic traffic. One marketing tactic among many within a broader marketing strategy. Sadly, too many webdevs treat SEO, by which they really mean Google Optimisation, as their strategy entire.

This mindset has not been, is not helped by SEOs who, a decade or more ago as their efforts were increasingly futile or short term, began to sell any marketing, especially SM, as part of their 'SEO' service. And nearly always screwed those SM efforts up even more than they had their original SE offerings.

A site should be useful, usable, findable, credible, desirable, accessible, and valuable (Peter Morville's seven UX factors). SEO is a big part of initial findability as it has been the best source of new traffic for years. And so, to answer your question directly, one should NOT give up on SEO.

On the other hand one should also NOT treat SEO as a one size fits all sole answer for either marketing or traffic. Rather it should be but one, valuable but limited, aspect of a broader outreach. The nice thing about such an SEO mindset and methodology is that it can readily, naturally be incorporated into site architecture, navigation, content et al right alongside accessibility, usability, and the rest of the necessary requirements for building a long term web business.

Added: Yes! :) Damn straight.
Or "should you stop being obsessed by SEO and focus on other aspect of web publishing?"
12:25 am on July 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I've never obsessed over "SEO" ... which is really too fluid and encompassing these days ... I've relied on tried and true ordinary advertising, marketing and consumer satisfaction. However, I do not IGNORE SEO ... it is just one more tool in the box, and some tools are used for specific tasks ... and knowing when to use the tool is the big trick, not the tool itself.

SEO is not dead, but it has been horribly abused and obfuscated over the years ... and the top SE's have (by their actions) put SEO on their hit list of things "not desired".

To me, the real SEO is "don't do something stupid!" while chasing traffic/recognition. The other concept which few admit, or even recognize, is that "not every site is a winner" and "great content is in the eye of the beholder".

While my commercial days on the web are mostly done (sold my biz and passed on all but three clients), the info and hobby stuff I do on the web is just as passionate as when I started out doing same in pre-internet days ... and that content deserves the best marketing, presentation, and upkeep as any of the commercial gigs I had in the past.

SEO is a tool ... but it is not applicable to every TASK. Know the difference and it all works out.
12:44 pm on July 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Quality post and insightful responses. Thank You.

Let me add, I have fallen victim to relying on too many bad SEO articles. How to write has been fine tuned for centuries, with the web being the latest platform, yet writing for the web somehow changed how to create a proper article because people seem to be more focused on chasing traffic then creating a pleasing article. How search engines algorithms scan and rank articles a symptom? Seems so!

Writing a story? Books have been published for a long time; there is no need to wonder how a story should be formatted or written.

Writing an information or instruction piece? Look to manuals. Again, the print industry has fined tuned this process over a long period of time.

The problem with what SEO taught us? Add the keyword as often as possible or look for synonyms of the keyword. Even as extreme keyword stuffing fell away, we are still left with SEO practices like headings incorporating the keyword nonstop…"Why does the Blue Widget…", Where to Find the Blue Widget…", If the Blue Widget…", "What Not to Like About the Blue Widget", and so on.
8:30 pm on July 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I pick and choose with SEO. I've never worried about keywords and keyword density because I know if I tried to reach a designated goal it would seem too staged and I have always wanted to put the reader first. In other ways, I do follow SEO by following recommended practices such as https etc.

I've given up on Google, when I see them replace my correct information (with authority references to back up what I am saying) with incorrect information in the answer box I know they put too much emphasis on prominent websites even at the risk of causing harm. So branching out, I am trying to be more focused on other ways to generate traffic such as social media, push notifications and will eventually get around to a newsletter. Unfortunately, my experience is that FB followers tend to prefer funny memes or pretty images to actual content (in my niche anyway). I have 1,000 articles on my site and schedule two posts a day on FB and Twitter (my Twitter account is dire with only 47 followers, but I've never really used it until now), and then share the odd funny photo or meme and it's the memes that get lots of likes and shares. Infographics are also shared, but they don't really bring eyeballs to the site.
1:43 am on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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You need to learn what to avoid -- mistakes and pitfalls -- things like

-- repeatedly making changes to your site
-- churning out new content at too fast a pace
-- obvious keyword targeting
-- obvious link-building
2:52 am on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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-- repeatedly making changes to your site


@aristotle ...

I would qualify that advice to "making too many changes to EXISTING content that is NOT AN UPDATE OR EXPANSION.

Sites grow. Existing Content sometimes Changes. Some of those changes are valid---but when they are for KEYWORD STUFFING or GAMING SEs ... that's a problem. :)

SEO, these days, is all over the map. Too often it is preached from an historical mantra that no longer works, but is all the SEO experts have in their tool box. MODERN SEO is a different kettle of fish ... leaner, more to the point.

As the web evolves, as the SEs evolve, SEO needs to evolve as well. The "old days" are NOT coming back. One of the reasons why AI is being activated ... and I bet the machines will out think the humans on this "game the system" SEO. :)
8:37 am on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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A lot of interesting posts, except that they don't seem to address the title of the OP, namely "Should you give up on SEO?"

And I think for many the answer should be yes, you should give up on SEO!

Why, because the ROI isn't there any more compared to PPC. With PPC you get to the top of the page, with SEO (even very succesful SEO you don't. With PPC you get something definite for your money, with SEO you don't!

We recently spent as much per month on SEO as we were spending on PPC. We spent this with an agency who claimed expertise on SEO. We did this for 6 months, at the end of the period our SEO / Organic results were no better than they had been at the start of the process. But during that period our PPC spend had been bringing in the enquiries.

We do get some enquiries from organic, but the majority come from PPC.
Because of this weak result from 6 months worth of SEO, I think we would probably avoid spending on SEO in future.
1:32 pm on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I don't do PPC any more. Was paying more and more and getting fewer visitors and sales. Asking for $6/clickthrough for a keyword that no-one else was bidding on while waffling on about quality of search results was too much for me in the end.

As for SEO, if anyone has been following what Google recommends for the last decade or more, they may have noticed that much of it defied gravity and almost all of it has since come about face anyway.
3:48 pm on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Why, because the ROI isn't there any more compared to PPC. With PPC you get to the top of the page, with SEO (even very succesful SEO you don't. With PPC you get something definite for your money, with SEO you don't!

It is very much dependent on niche and query. Not all queries return ads at all, not all queries with ads have more than one or two. Just as not all queries return Knowledge Boxes, Local 3-Packs, etc.

It is very much dependent on SE, remember that SEO doesn't just apply to Google.

It is very much dependent on language as all of the above can be quite different depending upon language.

Also arbitrage between ppc cost of traffic referral and said traffic conversion value is also highly niche and time dependent.

PPC can work well; on the other hand it can also be a bust. It depends. As usual.
4:03 pm on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Or "should you stop being obsessed by SEO and focus on other aspect of web publishing?"


I think you just won the entire internet with that question --
5:42 pm on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I use some analytical tools to measure the value of certain websites and pages and to find out what kind of improvement to do onsite. The more content good I add, the better results I get. I agree that one should be obsessed by the SEO, however. at the end of the day direct sales are something that help businesses grow. All forms are of marketing - SEO, Content Marketing, PPC are just suplemental.

When it comes to Social media, it has been invaded by marketeers and as a consumer and social media user, I don't pay a lot of attention to anything g that looks like marketing.
7:21 pm on July 5, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@HColor ... Welcome to Webmasterworld! More fun with more people!
7:56 am on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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We all think we have good content but is your content generating traffic from social sites? If you are not getting a good amount of social traffic, then maybe your content is not as high quality as you think.

My sites target localized traffic (based on geography), and while I used to rank in the Top 10 for virtually anything you searched for pertaining to that region, now I'm not even sure that I'm in the top 100. I have tens of thousands of users per week, but somehow template sites with low traffic, no keyword density, etc ranks higher than me.

It makes no sense at all.

As for social media, though, I would consider Fakebook to be direct competition for my sites, so I never expect to generate traffic from it. In fact, I track how many clicks I give to Fakebook versus how many they send back to me, and I almost always send about 10 times more traffic to them than vice versa. So it's far from a fair trade, and I'm consistently on the losing end.

Am I being punished by Google for daring to compete with Fakebook, even though my sites are several years older and have more local traffic?

But in response to the subject, I gave up on SEO several years ago when I realized that the wide majority of my traffic has always been organic. Any traffic I get from search engines really comes when they are searching for my company name, so it's not like I'm getting enough new users to justify any amount of time or money to be spent on it.
10:35 am on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think that one of the "problem" is that for some, SEO is a generic word, which is used for everything and anything.
2:42 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Just adding another because it's 2019

- Did the traffic drop happen because you gmailed a <snip> meme to a friend and Google's AI just doesn't like you now?

No accusations! Whether Google are or are not profiling webmaster's offsite activity(like Twitter's CEO says Twitter does) is sadly irrelevant because people are wondering anyway(due to Google's other <snip> driven efforts). I certainly am after watching memes get banned and <snip> being shadow-banned, deplatformed, demonetized and made less visible, even if they had valid personal viewpoints and their content broke no rules.

I'm not sure how you could SEO that type of problem, however. This is a very serious post, one that I can't imagine having felt a need to write a few years ago, but this is where we are now so...

[edited by: goodroi at 3:59 pm (utc) on Jul 6, 2019]
[edit reason] Let's focus on SEO & avoid distractions :) [/edit]

6:29 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@JS Harris, I have pondered the same thing for months now. I know my politics don't match Google's, but, on the other hand, I know others who are not politically-active at all, and they have suffered greatly under AdSense.
7:19 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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IMHO, the days of SEO as a core strategy for growth are mostly over. So many startups turned into giants using the power of SEO. Glassdoor, Indeed, TripAdvisor, CarGurus, Truilia, Zillow....the list is long. Can these companies really start over today and make it to the same heights? They might gain some traction, but they wouldn't be able to upset the status quo the way they did if they started today. Reasons?

Intense competition.
Google Algorithm changes
Google Vertical Search Encroachments

Competition is intense in almost all the niches. If you operate in a niche with little competition, enjoy your moment and save your money! Sunny days don't last forever.

In a way, it's like being a Thanksgiving Turkey and actually knowing it. Most turkeys don't know about it and that's how most webmasters feel. My traffic was halved. I played by the rules. I did everything right. The turkey forgets- it's not what you do but what your master wants from you that really counts. If you are making a lot of money within the Google Ecosystem, Google wants that money for themselves. That's the nature of the game. They want to gobble that turkey and become even fatter.

The question is which month of the year you think you are in? If it's January, then perhaps continue to invest and reap some possible rewards. If it's May, kind of toss up. If it's October (like for Job sites, travel sites and so many others), you know the end is near. The end is nigh, but you could get a lucky break.

Chance, luck, perhaps, hope, may be....these are words used once all other tactics and strategies have run their course. But if this is your core strategy for growing the business or making an online income relying on solely organic traffic, a reality check is in order.

Again, everyone's YMV.
7:32 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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So many startups turned into giants using the power of SEO. Glassdoor, Indeed, TripAdvisor, CarGurus, Truilia, Zillow....the list is long.

I don't know about all of them, but Zillow was founded by former Microsoft executives. These guys were millionaires before they started with million-dollar marketing budgets, so I seriously doubt that SEO had that big of an impact on their success.

And I just read that Glassdoor was founded by one of those same Microsoft execs that founded Zillow, and formerly founded Expedia. They had $3 million in funding before they launched the website.

I honestly can't think of any well-known online business that didn't start with someone that had millions of dollars to spare... which means they had a huge marketing budget from day one.

There's an old saying: the best way to make a million dollars in business is to have a million dollars.
8:32 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I honestly can't think of any well-known online business that didn't start with someone that had millions of dollars to spare...

Amazon? eBay? Yahoo?
9:24 pm on July 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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All had angel investors, and once IPO was achieved there's no turning back.

SEO these days is more myth than tool as the SEs are actively on the watch for "gaming the system". I can't emphasis enough that SEO is really "not doing something stupid".

There are commonsense rules of the road contained in "seo" that are useful and should be acknowledged when setting up and managing a site. But there is no magic bullet for gaining traffic (and thus revenue) as in the old days before g waited until all were hooked, and then changed horses from "buddy" to "competitor".
7:11 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Amazon? eBay? Yahoo?

Amazon began with "a few hundred thousand" in 1994, then raised $8 million in funding by 1995:

[fundable.com...]

Ebay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, who had previously founded Ink Development in 1991 and sold it to Microsoft for $50 million (he profited $1 million from the deal). He began Ebay in 1995, and in 1997 received $6.7 million in funding:

[en.wikipedia.org...]
[en.wikipedia.org...]

Yahoo started in 1994, but didn't have its own domain until January 1995. By April 1995, they had received $3 million in venture capital:

[en.wikipedia.org...]

And by November 1995, they'd gotten another $1.8 million:

[crunchbase.com...]

The founders of Yahoo were students at Stanford, but let's be real: poor kids don't go to Stanford. And poor kids have no way of gaining access to venture capitalists. I know. I've tried for 20 years, and can't even get an interview.

I don't know about you guys, but my business was funding by Capital One. No multi-million dollar marketing budget, no "small loan" from daddy, no venture capitalists... nope, I had a $5000 limit on a credit card, and once it was maxed out it was either hope for the best or go bankrupt! LOL
7:27 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The sentence was :

I honestly can't think of any well-known online business that didn't start with someone that had millions of dollars to spare...


The businesses I quoted, did not start with someone that had millions of dollars, they did secure financial resources after they started yes, but they still started with just ideas and some bucks, before succeeding to convince business angels. In your example, you were naming companies started by former Microsoft executives , claiming this is how all startup began ...
8:00 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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In your example, you were naming companies started by former Microsoft executives , claiming this is how all startup began ...

Those were examples that @wondering gave, I didn't pick them.

but they still started with just ideas and some bucks

Jeff Bezos started with a loan from his dad for several hundred thousand dollars to start Amazon.

Pierre Omidyar sold his previous company for $50 million (in which he profited $1 million) before starting Ebay.

I don't know how much money the Stanford students that started Yahoo had in the beginning, but as I said, poor kids don't go to Stanford. And they don't get $3 million in venture capital within a year. So by '96 they had national TV ads:

[youtu.be...]

I might have been a little hyperbolic when I said "millions of dollars to spare", but even the poorest of your example still had a dad with several hundred thousand dollars to invest in a business that he said had a 70% chance of failing.

The point is that none of the examples given thus far made it big due to great SEO and management, it was all because they had a ton of money to invest in marketing and they had the right familial connections for venture capital.
9:34 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Write good content then you will get good rankings, thats just not true. This Google own hype about good content, dont believe it.
11:29 am on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Interesting ‚incident‘ this morning
Wrote an new article in a new page around 2 key words
Research with same keywords gives results ranked on page 1 after 90 min....
12:02 pm on July 7, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@zeus I think it is more accurate to say that "writing good content will get good rankings" is more about incomplete instructions and less about being inaccurate.

A site with bad/weak content tends to have a harder time rankings. Can a site with bad content rank? Absolutely, but if I'm launching a site for myself I'd rather make it less difficult to rank and good content does that. A site with good content tends to have an easier time developing all the other ranking signals like backlinks.
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