When I first started out in SEO, I was a fresh-faced young journalist joining departments which had been newly established. People didn’t really know how SEO worked, or whether it was even important - so I struggled to get them to listen to my advice!
These days, people in the content industry - whether they’re in journalism or a related field - will generally have an advantage in the job market if they have at least some knowledge of SEO.
In other words, if you can say you know what a meta description is and talk about a search optimised headline, you’ll generally impress your employer and come across as someone who can achieve multiple goals with their content.
For those in the industry, a few people - especially the cynics like myself - have wondered if SEO will ‘die’ at some point. It’s a valid question, especially for those who have seen it evolve, grow and change over the last few years.
I first began questioning the lifespan of SEO when I was advising the newsdesk on a national tabloid. As much as optimising headlines, URLs, copy, photos and other on-page SEO elements helped, sometimes other publications would ‘win’ the placement race.
I would sometimes get frustrated, wondering what the point was in trying so hard just to have the results be a lottery. As I continued to gain experience, I learned which factors impacted search ranking more - and realised that bigger sites are both a blessing and a curse.
People in the content industry will have an advantage if they know SEO.
For major news sites, which cover a whole host of topics, there’s sometimes only so much you can do to optimise a story for SEO. If your competitor has published a lot more content on that topic in the past, they will more likely be favoured no matter what you do.
With smaller sites, while there is a lot more work to do from the ground up, you have much more chance of ranking for specific topics if you specialise in them. Your chances are much improved if you choose niche topics - but my thoughts on this are for another time.
My point is, even back in 2016, the search engine algorithms were highly sophisticated - leaving anyone who works in the industry constantly trying to guess which factors could be impacting SERP.
To make matters more complicated, the rules behind SEO are constantly changing. It’s basically like trying to juggle the stairs at Hogwarts in Harry Potter. You may think you know where you’re going one week, but the next you could be in for a surprise as the route has changed - with no warning.
This is what makes SEO so constantly interesting, as not only are the experts required to constantly switch up their strategies and ways of thinking, there are also some patterns I’ve noticed which have remained fairly consistent over time.
The main pattern is that Google is going to rank large amounts of high quality content over small amounts of low quality content. What’s more, it looks like the algorithm has also stopped showing as much preference for large amounts of low quality content.
In other words, it’s no longer enough to simply spew out content that meets basic SEO goals such as keyword implementation and a half decent headline. If the words aren’t good enough, Google’s site crawlers are going to know about it.
Happily, this is why the phrase ‘content is king’ is becoming even more relevant. Before the days of the internet, the concept of writing to sell came in the form of direct advertisements. Getting people to purchase a product was a skill that marketers and content creators were responsible for.
The rules behind SEO are constantly changing. It's like trying to juggle the stairs at Hogwarts.
These days, we can add another string to our bow by saying that we can write high quality content for SEO - while also crafting copy which sells to people, once we’ve managed to get the eyeballs onto the page. In the business world - i.e. any publication or website which aims to turn views into money - this is what people want.
So do I think SEO will die at some point? Probably not, to be honest. The algorithm is constantly changing, and becoming more sophisticated. This means those in the industry will have a constant challenge to meet - and high quality content is going to become increasingly valued.