Although it is much less common than it was a few years ago, hopeful online entrepreneurs often still approach writers asking for SEO content, placing an emphasis on things like keyword density and link building. Sometimes, would-be entrepreneurs, hoping to make an impact in the search engines overnight, even go so far as to tell writers not to worry about quality, but only about quantity. In other words, they want content written for the search engines while barely taking into consideration a human audience. This is NOT how SEO works!

I’ll be honest with you: I barely take SEO into account when I write content for the Internet. I do not pay attention to keyword density and placement, and I do not endorse spammy link-building tactics. Instead, I write for a human audience, which is exactly what content marketing of any form is supposed to be all about. The fact is, that after a multitude of Google algorithm updates over recent years, including the first Panda update of February, 2011 and the Penguin update of April 24, 2012, it is no longer possible to game the system in such a way.

But does that mean that SEO is dead? Not quite. However, if you define SEO as a way to manipulate the search engine results through artificial means, then it is surely long dead and gone. Google is smarter than that now. On the other hand, if you define SEO as making your website and its content more accessible to the search engines, then SEO is still very much alive. Consider the following major ranking factors than Google and other search engines use when delivering results:

• Content quality, relevancy and originality
• Content accessibility, particularly using mobile devices
• Relevant backlinks that are genuinely useful to readers
• Excellent website performance and site architecture
• Social signals, such as social media shares and comments

As you can see from the above points, the search engines favour user experience and quality content. No longer do the search robots simply scan through content, pick up a few frequently placed keywords to determine its visibility in the search results: they are much more sophisticated than this, working more like humans with every algorithm update.

SEO Practices of the Past

In the early 2000s, SEO started getting a bad name, since it was largely seen as a way to game the search engines, and to an extent, this did actually work. But suddenly, content farms sporting mass-produced, low-quality articles and spammy blogs disappeared from the first pages of the search results. If you’re using any of the following SEO tactics, you’ll achieve nothing other than harming your business:

• Having links on irrelevant and/or low-quality websites
• Buying links, which is against Google’s guidelines, often leads to the above
• Keyword stuffing, a typical result of paying attention to keyword density
• Hidden text, doorway pages and any other such black-hat SEO tactics
• Irrelevant anchor text
• Guest blogging solely to build links

The above are just some of the SEO practices that were once very prolific, but are now only used by a handful of inexperienced marketers who are somewhere stuck in the past.

For future-proof content, the focus should be solidly placed on the targeted audience, and this means providing content that offers genuine value. After all, quality, engaging content is now what stands the best chance of increased visibility in Google and any other major search engine.