SEO: The Difference Between Helping and Hurting

All businesses with an online presence are trying to achieve the same basic goal – getting the largest possible captive audience so that the highest possible percentage of that audience will become (and remain) customers. Search engine optimization is one of the key ways to achieve this, because search engines are generally the first stop for people who are looking to purchase something or solve a problem. As such, the quest to rank high for particular search terms has become both an art and a science, with new techniques for optimization continually surfacing.


It’s important to remember, though, that the SEO game should not simply be about high rankings, but relevance. In the pursuit of getting to the top of Google, it’s easy to forget that when people see a top-ranking hit, there is an expectation there. There’s little point to being ranked highly for a particular term, only to have visitors disappointed or even angry when they arrive at the site to find that what they’re looking for isn’t actually there, or not to the standard that they’d hoped. Usually this does not happen intentionally, but sometimes the competitive nature of search optimization can lead to results being misleading.


In other words, it may pay off more in the end to back off the obsession with SEO, and veer toward a more balanced approach, in which relevant content helps drive rankings. This differs from older SEO techniques where keyword saturation and other little “tricks” were given more attention than actual content. Now, quality content is the driving force of SEO, as search engines employ increasingly sophisticated algorithms that reward true substance, and ignore or even punish those who try to manipulate the system to their advantage.


This is actually good news for everyone, marketers and consumers alike. It means that in order to find the audience you’re looking for, all you have to do is focus on showing what you can do for them, and let the search engines (and social media word-of-mouth) take care of the rest. Spending less time “trying” to rank high frees you up to concentrate on your area of skill, and demonstrating your expertise will not only help you rank high organically, but will also impress visitors and help build reputation and trust. The days of SEO tricks are coming to a close; the age of demonstrating quality has arrived.


How has your attitude toward SEO changed over the years? Do you find yourself relying more these days on actual content rather than ranking tricks?