I think we may be at a crossroads where search engine optimization is concerned. There is a growing interest in social media, and more and more social media marketing is becoming as great a necessity as good old-fashioned SEO, and there are some companies and consultants who are calling for regulation of the industry. In the early days of search engine marketing industry, if you could add a handful of keywords onto your web pages and stuff your meta tags with keywords then you’d be almost guaranteed a high ranking in the leading search engines of the time. Penalties for violating search engine guidelines were almost unheard of. Now, they seem common place.
But is all of that an indication that SEO is getting harder?
It seems that in some ways it is. But at the core, optimization is still the same as it was ten years ago. You still have to build a quality website with original content, you still need to focus your pages on on-page factors, navigational simplicity, and crawlability, and you still need to build inbound links to your pages with relevant anchor text. That’s the way it’s been since 1998 at least. The only difference is that there are now a few additional tools available that were not available then and quite a few more obstacles, but none that are too earth shattering.
If you’ve been involved in SEO for at least five years then you probably find it pretty much the same with not many sweeping changes. If you’re just starting out then all the rules and guidelines could be a bit overwhelming to you, not to mention the differences of opinion among professional SEOs with all the experience (the ideas on right, wrong, and in the middle are all over the map).
The reason I say we’re at a crossroads, however, has nothing to do with how difficult optimization is or will be, or even whether or not ethical SEO is a discussion that we should have. I think we are at a crossroads because we’ve arrived at a head-to-head meeting between two behemoths, one that became that way through the evolution of the Web and one that grew up with the computing age and has tried to take its strength from the real world into the virtual world. This head-to-head meeting of the tech giants Google and Microsoft is about to become like the war between Coke and Pepsi (remember those days?). And it could get nasty. In fact, it could really nasty. And some of those people calling for regulation of the industry just may get what they want. I hope you like riding tidal waves.