The evolving importance of SEO

Back in the early days of search engine optimization, or SEO, I used to think it was the biggest scam in the industry. Not because it wasn’t important — it was. Because it was just so easy, and SEO consultants were making big bucks pretending it wasn’t. Figure out what people are searching for and make sure those keywords appear throughout your website. Sure, it was a little more complicated than that, but not by much.

The tricky part about SEO was that you were trying to hit a moving target. At its heart, SEO is about getting search-engine users to visit your site. Because Google is the dominant search engine, what Google says goes in the SEO world. The one thing Google doesn’t want is for you to game the system — but gaming the system used to be what SEO was all about.

In the past there were two basic ways customers would interact with you digitally. They’d hear about your website and hit it directly, or they’d search for something and just happen across it. The second case was what SEO covered. But the landscape has changed so much that SEO has gone from the simplest discipline in digital to one of the most complex. Do you care about whether customers visit your site at all, or is it enough that they get the information they need directly from Google? Are they still on a desktop, or are they using mobile devices? How do you want your digital properties interact with social media? These are all important questions to consider when you develop an SEO strategy, and what you end up doing will change depending on the answers.

One thing isn’t in doubt: SEO is more important now than ever before. And if you want a leg up, you’re going to have to conquer it.