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.