Why SEO would matter even MORE if search engines stopped running

published on February 4, 2011 in SEO & PPC

Search Engine Optimisation principles are here to stay

In a recent article, Andrew Hanelly (@hanelly) wrote an interesting piece about why SEO would matter even if search engines stopped running (can you guess where I got my post title from?). I can wholeheartedly agree with everything he said, as it’s all about the visitor’s experience on the site, once they’re there.

Here’s a summary of Andrew’s post:

  • Structure your site to make it easier to browse and find relevant content;
  • Focus your content on a single topic to write articles that answer a specific question;
  • Use relevant and informative page titles because they’re used everywhere (bookmarks, browser tabs, RSS feed, clincher in people clinking a link or not);
  • Check your page coherence against the meta description because it auto-generates description on Facebook and other sites;
  • Use headlines and headings to help visitors scan the page and find the information relevant to them more quickly;
  • Give just the right amount of information to the visitor (not too little or too much) to answer their question and format it in a way that is clear for everybody;

Andrew’s post gives solid on-page SEO advice but after having read it a couple of times, I couldn’t help but wish it contained something about off-page SEO. After all, link building, link baiting (or however you want to call it) often represent over 70% of the time and efforts that is put in a website “optimisation”.

So why would SEO – principles – matter EVEN MORE if search engines stopped running?

Stronger relationships with other webmasters

At present, one could simply “manually” comment on a few dozen blogs and gain high enough search engine ranking for long tail keywords. This results in a constant stream of traffic from the engines, while the traffic from the blogs commented on remains virtually null. Without engines, engagement with other blog owners (via comments but also through guest-blogging) should increase as it becomes an even more important source of traffic.

Buying links for traffic not rankings

Despite what many people think, I believe it is OK to buy links so long as you do it to get more traffic (some would argue that you need to add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to make it “cleaner”). But without engines, the nofollow becomes irrelevant as webmasters would only “invest” in links that would get people to their site – no high PageRank link from the footer of a totally unrelated site.

A lot less mediocre content, content-scraping, content-spinning and MFA (Made For Adsense) sites on the web

If the only traffic a site would get was from links (either direct or shared), 90% of the “spammy” websites would disappear. Let’s face it, that’s why Google and Bing are trying to incorporate the social “noise” in to their ranking factors, people tend to share “good”, “quality”, “interesting” content, not stuff that has be regurgitated many times before.

Smarter inbound links anchor text

Without the “higher ranking carrot” you’d use anchor that would appeal to people and get them to click on the link, you wouldn’t simply stuff keywords in the hope to gain one or two positions.

What to take out from all this

Search engine optimisation covers a very wide range of activities, from keyword research to conversion analysis, and if the search engines were to stop running tomorrow a lot of these activities wouldn’t be affected. My advice to you: optimise your site for the engines but make sure nothing gets in the way of your visitors.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

andrew February 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm

(Applause). Nicely done. I agree with your off-page stuff very, very much. If the search engines disappeared, the temptation for employing tactics that don’t serve the visitor would also disappear, which would force us to really focus on the stuff that matters. I love your points on anchor text and MFA content. Brilliant stuff.

And oh yeah, your summary of my post would be a real-time saver for people who don’t want to trudge through my sludge.

Awesome stuff!


netaccountant February 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by and your glowing comment (:blush:), and thanks as well for your post who covered all the on-page info without getting too technical (which is often what happens in our industry).


Mike from UK Job Search February 5, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I agree that solid off-page strategy is at least 70% of the battle with optimising for search, unless you’re lucky enough to be in an uncontested niche.


netaccountant February 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Indeed Mike, and as the competition on the keywords gets tougher, the greater this number has to become.


Barbara Swafford February 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

You’re right. Too often sites are written for search engines only and when the everyday reader lands on it, they’re confused about what to do next. One of my biggest pet peeves is landing on a site which ranks high on Google only to find it filled with ads or affiliate links and the content (my search string) I’m looking for is nearly non existent.


netaccountant February 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Hi Barbara, thanks for stopping by, very glad to see you here. You are off course correct MFA sites are the plague of the internet, and search engines Google should be blamed for this!


A. Hagan from Search engine blogs
February 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I agree with your statement regarding in-bound link anchor text strategies. At this time, studies have shown that a variation of anchor text, as once thought, does not necessarily give webmasters a better opportunity of ranking high for that particular keyword that is being toggled. If we ever saw the search engine “apocalypse”, it would indeed become more important.


keith Davis from Public Speaking and Presentation Skills February 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

“optimise your site for the engines but make sure nothing gets in the way of your visitors.”

Sounds like good advice to me.

No point getting people over to your site only to find a keyword stuffed landing page with flashing adds!

Sounds like another case of “all things in moderation” including SEO. LOL


netaccountant February 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Hi Keith, thank you for your comment and yes in SEO just like everything else, “excess” will get you negative results.


Redkathy February 21, 2011 at 5:19 am

Just wanted to let you know your commentluv article on growmap led me here. This is a most helpful article for someone like me who is rather new to blogging (outside of my food blog that is). Barbara put it perfectly, very confusing these MFA sites. Shows Google’s true purpose if you ask me!
In fact, I wrote a short article (rant) about Google search results. I deal with an abundance of seniors who have no clue about searching. Many assume because a site is listed 1st on Google search results, it is trustworthy! I’ve spent lots of time cleaning up their computers because of it.
Redkathy also wrote Chicken Cordon Bleu


netaccountant February 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Thank you for your comment Kathy. Seniors are not the only ones who – wrongly – think that the first results of Google are more trustworthy. Google has become so big (synonymous of “the whole internet” for many) that they really should start to think hard about the spam that is generated because of their revenue model.


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