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State of the SEO Union: Alive or Dead?

Search Engine Optimization is very much alive — but different — in 2013.  A panel of experts convened in mid-March at the SXSW Interactive session said pretty much what we’ve been telling you for the past six months:

SEO remains as relevant as ever, but ranking high on Google and Bing pages demands that you — and your SEO provider — prove your worthiness.

Some takeaways from the Austin conference, which featured panelists such as Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, and Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land, include these insights:

Links Still Matter

Inbound links remain an important part of your ranking strategy.  But some links are better than others.  If you’re an auto detailer in Miami, it won’t help your rankings to have 200 links from Mumbai.  It’s better to have a handful from local, high-authority sites, such as the Miami Herald or the Miami Daily Business Review.

Links from high-authority sites are harder to acquire than random links, so it may take longer to achieve your ranking goals.

The good news, though, is that your links are far more likely to be permanent.  The Miami-Herald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, has been in business for more than a century.  A link from the newspaper may last another 100 years.    And your reputation, by association, will also hold up for the lifetime of your business.

People are More Important than Robots

Content on your site must hold value to your reader.  Use keywords in your copy, but use them naturally.  Imagine you were telling a story about your mother.  Keywords such as “mother” and “mom” could naturally appear in the story more often than, say, keywords such as “tiger” or “monkey” (unless the story about your mother took place at a zoo.)  But you wouldn’t use a variation of “mother” six times in a single sentence.

If you write content that’s relevant to what you do, you don’t have to worry about “optimizing” your website content.  If your keywords — and your content — relate to your business, your keyword density will take care of itself.

Meta Tags Help Google and Bing Find You

Meta tags, used to describe your site’s pages, used to be an ideal place for stuffing keywords.  Keyword stuffing — anywhere and in any form — is no longer tolerated.  But you can still use some keywords in your meta tags — and the strategic use will improve your rankings.

Let’s say we were writing a meta tag for the “About Us” page on our site.  A meta tag that read, “About Us | SEO Visions — Vancouver SEO Internet Marketing Leader” would promote our brand within recommended guidelines.  A meta tag that said, “About Us — SEO Visions, SEO Marketers and SEO Consultants” would be guilty of keyword stuffing.  On the other hand, a meta tag that read simply, “About Us — SEO Visions” fails to take advantage of the power of meta tags and keywords.

Protect Your Reputation

It’s easier to maintain a pristine online reputation than to polish a tarnished one.  If you are launching a website for the first time, you enjoy a distinct advantage over your competitors: you are starting with a clean slate.  You’ve never done anything to annoy Google or Bing, never played a trick their algorithms didn’t like.

Keep it that way.  Work with an SEO provider who will coach you on the best practices for 2013 and beyond and who will work with you to build and maintain a stellar reputation.

There’s no I in SEO

If you want search engines — and your potential customers — to find you, SEO matters.  What has changed is that the content you put on your site must also matter.

SEO providers used to be solo artists, who improved your rankings with little or no help from you.  Today’s SEO requires teamwork.  A good SEO company will work with as well as for you.

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