Today, technology allows us to deliver on the purest essence of SEO. Whether via a mobile screen or a digital home assistant, our job is to ensure that our content can be discovered and served as seamlessly as possible. The addition of AI and machine learning into search algorithms means that there are no shortcuts to success; the best content starts to rise to the top over time.
This can be powerful for sites just getting started with SEO, because frequently most of your site’s traffic will be driven by what’s known as “branded queries,” or searches that contain your company’s brand name (for instance a branded search for WordStream might be “WordStream PPC” versus a non-branded search term, which might be “pay-per-click software”). You clearly want to have people searching for your brand, and of course you want them to find you when they do, but unless your site has been penalized by Google, you will almost certainly rank for your brand and have that branded traffic come to your site’s home page. What most of your ongoing SEO efforts should be centered around is driving incremental traffic to the site (people who might not have found and engaged with you otherwise).
People have more options than ever on where they’re starting their research, both in the traditional website sense (i.e., Google, Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, Next Door, Trivago, Houzz), but also in new ways with voice search on Siri, Alexa, or Google Home. Tactically, of course, everything is different, but that’s the case with all marketing: the “how” will constantly evolve.
SEO often involves the concerted effort of multiple departments within an organization, including the design, marketing, and content production teams. While some SEO work entails business analysis (e.g., comparing one’s content with competitors’), a sizeable part depends on the ranking algorithms of various search engines, which may change with time. Nevertheless, a rule of thumb is that websites and webpages with higher-quality content, more external referral links, and more user engagement will rank higher on an SERP.