Is SEO a good investment or is it like flushing money down the toilet
You’ve heard the whispers, right?

“SEO is dead.”
“You don’t need ongoing SEO anymore, all you need is a solid foundation.”
“SEO is a waste of money.”

Etc., etc., etc. But are those whispers true? Is spending money on SEO a wise investment? Or are you, in essence, flushing your hard-earned marketing dollars down the toilet?

The answer may surprise you.

Depending on how you view SEO and what your expectations are the answer may be YES. However, if you are willing to understand how SEO has evolved over the years, you will see that the whispers are false.

Certain elements of SEO either have died or changed into something completely new, which means that if you are still paying for outdated tactics you are basically using some very expensive toilet paper.

It’s true.

So, how do you know if you are paying for old, dead tactics, or up-to-date rank boosting conversion-driven strategies? Let’s first analyze a couple of DEAD tactics that are still used by unscrupulous SEO’s.

3 SEO tactics that have gone the way of the dodo bird

Low quality backlinks can kill your websites ranking potential

1. Links, links, and more links

Now don’t get me wrong here, link building is absolutely essential to great rankings. So why do I say it is dead? In years past, it was all about quantity; the more links you had with keywords stuffed into the anchor text, like an overfilled thanksgiving bird, the better.

In fact, agencies and consultants alike farmed out links by the thousands and their clients’ sites did indeed shoot to the top of Google’s search results. But all that changed with Google’s infamous Penguin algorithm update which has now been modified several times since its initial rollout in 2012.

So if quantity doesn’t impress Google, what does? QUALITY! Just ask your girlfriend if she would prefer 200 small chunks of coal, or one large, polished diamond. You get the picture, right? The quality and relevance of your backlinks matter far more than the quantity.

Verdict: Should you be investing in link building? YES, but only if your agency is focusing on niche-specific, authoritative links that won’t raise red flags in the future.

But wait, there’s more!
Ranking for keywords is dead, ranking by topic is the way of the future

2. Being numero uno (#1 for those not Spanish inclined)

You probably chuckled a little bit here, right? I mean how in the world is being #1 a bad thing? How can this possibly be a dead SEO tactic? Well, picture standing on top of a pile of sand. It’s great right? You’re higher than everyone else, everyone can see you, you’re the king of the castle until…… a dump truck comes in and buries you. A horrible analogy I know, but it does illustrate a point.

There are so many businesses that literally obsess over that top spot; in fact, many people check daily to see if they are still there. Granted, being #1 for any keyword is fantastic, but when you start to factor in ads, featured snippets (known as 0 position), question boxes, and local map results, even if you are #1, your site may still be completely buried.

So what should you focus on? User Experience!

Use your analytics data and understand what your visitors want. Instead of obsessing over position, focus on providing your users what they crave. Look at your bounce rate, your click-through-rate, and session duration. By increasing the time spent on your site, and decreasing the number of people who leave after only viewing one page, you are telling Google you are more relevant than your competition. Examine any pages that have a featured snippet or question box on them that relate to a search phrase you provide content on. By improving the structure of your content, you grow your chances of winning or being chosen for that featured snippet box.

Verdict: Should you be obsessed by obtaining the elusive #1 spot? NO! Search results are so much more than just rankings. Focus on your user and you will see much better results, plus you’ll save tons of time by not having to check if you’re still #1.

And we don’t stop there…
Stuffing keywords in your content leads to penalties from Google

3. Keyword stuffing

Before my colleagues start planning my demise, I am not saying that optimizing a page for a keyword is wrong, nor is that tactic completely dead. In fact, at the very core that is still what on-page SEO is all about. In times past it used to be very easy to get a page to rank simply by using the focus keyword as many times as possible on the page. But times have changed, and thank goodness for that.

Google, although a machine (don’t tell it that though), has a goal of trying to understand the intent behind the keywords used. It is not satisfied with simply awarding top spot to the page with the most keyword usage.

What does that mean for you? Step away from the keyword. Topics are more important than keywords. Content that is topically optimized provides higher quality answers and better user experience. Plus, when you focus on the topic you also get to benefit from semantic variations, meaning that your post or page has the chance to rank for more than just your focus keyword.

Verdict: Should you invest in on-page SEO? YES, but you have to stop obsessing over keywords. Instead, make sure your agency or SEO team covers the topic at hand and writes content that solves your visitor’s problems and answers their questions. Never sacrifice the topic and quality of the article just to stuff in high-volume search terms.

Like any investment, ongoing SEO can make you a winner or a loser. It all depends on what, or in this case who, you invest in. To make the best decision possible for your business, let’s now look at 3 emerging trends that will shape the future of SEO.

Important SEO trends to keep your eye on

A need for speed!

1. Vroom, vroom – page speed

“Don’t care how, I want it now!”

Remember those lyrics from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory? Well, it’s true. People are in a rush, no one has time, and they want your website to load NOW.

Why is page speed so important? Well consider this: According to our friends over at UnbounceOpens in a new window to a marketing article”, over 50% of users will leave your site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

What does this mean for you?

Well, let’s do some math (hey, don’t yawn quite yet). Suppose your website averages 300 unique visits a month. If your site is slow, you could be missing an additional 300 unique visits because of load time. On average in the healthcare industry, 7% of new visitors convert into patients. If we take even half of that as our baseline, then your website could end up costing you 10 new patients a month. If each new patient was worth $6000-$8000 over their lifetime ($400 per visit twice per year for the industry average of 10 years) then your slow website could end up netting you a $60,000 loss each month.
*Numbers are not guaranteed and used only for a statistical perspective.

Key Stats:

  • When it comes to waiting for pages to load, most consumers think they’re more patient than they actually are.
  • Nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.
  • Although they know it’s important, the majority of marketers aren’t making page speed a priority.
    SourceOpens in a new window to a marketing article”

Takeaway: Speed matters. It matters to your visitors, and it should matter to you because it will affect your bottom line.

Gif of Alexa Echo Dot looking for dentists in the area

2. It’s all about the AI

Gone are the days (well almost gone) when one or two-word phrases dominated monthly searches. With more and more people using smart assistants like Alexxa, Siri, and Google Assistant, long-tail keywords are becoming more valuable than ever before.

It’s true.

If you are still paying for and monitoring only individual keywords then you’re being left behind. Literally. As of 2019, 20% of all searchesOpens in a new window to a marketing article” done on Android and Google Mobile App are done via voice search.

Voice searches also use more conventional, conversational words than the traditional typed searches which make optimizing for voice much easier and natural.

Key Stats:

  • By 2020, 50% of all searches across the internet will be voice-based.
  • By 2020, 30% of all searches will be done using a device without a screen.
  • Voice-based searches using a mobile phone are three times more likely to be location-specific.
    SourceOpens in a new window to a marketing article”

Takeaway: Investing in a qualified agency or team to optimize your site is a smart move IF they take into consideration the future. If they only utilize current standards, then you are already behind the game.

image showing the difference between responsive website design and non-responsive design

3. UX + design = SEO 2.0

Fully dissecting user experience would go far beyond the space available in this post. But what I will say is this: Search engines are smart, and they are getting smarter all the time. If one single visitor doesn’t like your website, no big deal right? No skin off your back. But what about 100? 1000? You can bet that search engines take notice of how users interact with your site. If users like it, then so will search engines, if users hate it, well, you get the picture.

Simply put…

The internet is a popularity contest; people vote every day by moving around websites. Google and other search engines see these votes. Google counts user experience and user engagement among its key metrics for SEO rankings. A website that is clean, easy to navigate, loads quickly, and has great content will 100% of the time get more votes than a poorly designed, slow website.

Key Stats:

  • Every $1 invested in UX results in a return between $2 and $100.
  • Intentional and strategic user experience has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%.
  • 74% of people are likely to return to a website if it is optimized for mobile.
    SourceOpens in a new window to a marketing article”

Takeaway: If you want a surefire way to waste money, build a website and do nothing with it. Instead, use free data from analytics and invest in your future by making the changes that your users want.

What’s needed for long-term results in SEO?

Even after reading this post you may still be wondering, “Is SEO still relevant?” Well if you take anything away from this post at all it is this: The key is to stay up to date with the advances that are being made in search technology.

SEO is such a broad term, and when you assume to know something, well, you know what happens when you assume…… anyways, enough on that. Marketers and business owners who gave up on ongoing SEO did so because they failed to keep up. They were the ones who wanted to be on page one by tomorrow, who wanted it “cheapy, cheapy, almost free.”

SEO is not dead. It is not a waste of money, if and when it is done correctly. The grass is not greener on the other side; it is greener where it has been watered. If you take care of your website it will take care of you!

In my experience…

Search engine optimization can create amazing results and bring in huge ROI if you stay on top of the industry’s rapidly changing strategies and consistently put in the necessary hard work. Without that, you won’t get results – regardless of the channels you try.

You might have the prettiest website ever, but if nobody can find it, you won’t attract new customers or grow your business.

But you’re not alone! The team here at Roadside is committed to staying on top of the trends for you and our clients experience consistent growth and results. Want to chat about SEO (one of our favorite subjects) and how your current site is performing? Schedule a call with Angela!