My answer to an SEO colleague who basically asked me a version of the “Is SEO really dead this time?” question.
Google hasn’t killed SEO. They’ve just killed off some of SEO’s illegitimate children, namely link building of most kinds and article marketing. Personally I’m not sorry to see either of those go away.
The only recent link building I’ve seen that is apparently still working, is:
Regular on-page SEO is still very important. But it has morphed a lot over the last couple of years. It is no longer all about stuffing keywords in every available slot on a page. Now it is about making sure that the content sounds natural, that the keywords are addressed, and that one does NOT use the same two or three-word phrase over and over on the page.
Siloing (aka “page rank sculpting”) is still very important for SEO of large sites. We have sites ranking very well for a bunch of search terms (some of them very high volume) because of siloing.
Great content (RELEVANT TEXT!) is important for SEO.
The User Interface (UI) is important for SEO. What does the site DO with its visitors? If they bounce back to Google because the content doesn’t grab them, or the UI is confusing because there is more than one thing to choose, for example, or if the site is obviously NOT optimized for mobile users, then that page isn’t going to do as well in the rankings at Google.
Authorship is important for SEO.
Micro Formats (schema.org) is important for SEO.
Social Media marketing (getting likes and shares) is worthwhile for SEO. I’m not sure HOW Google is using those kinds of connections, but they apparently are using it, despite Matt Cutt’s protestations to the contrary.
Freshness of content is a factor in SEO, but so is having lots of older content. I assume that Google just wants to see that the site is still being worked on and hasn’t been abandoned.
Using WordPress or Joomla as content management systems no longer gives a site any edge at all in the rankings at Google, if it ever did.
Careful monitoring of all outbound links is important to SEO. Most of them should have the rel=”nofollow” attribute.
In my experience, if a site has:
1. Good content
2. At least a few links incoming
3. A few links outgoing, so it is not a dead end
4. Some social media mentions on a regular basis (likes, shares, etc)
5. Proper siloing
6. Proper search term indexing ( = lack of keyword stuffing)
7. Proper user interface, including good mobile layout, not confusing
8. Authorship (meaning a page at Google Plus about the author, that links back to the site, and then a byline on the page where authorship is desired, which byline links to the Google Plus page)
9. Schema.org (or open graph) micro formats on relevant data such as locations, events, and so on
10. A lack of other technical problems (broken links, slow load time, unavailability to Googlebot, bad sitemaps, proper canonicalization, no unnatural linking, not new domain, no site-wide links out to another site, not cloaking, no duplicate content, headers as they should be, no 302 redirects, etc. — all the standard SEO technical things)
Then it has a good chance of ranking very well at Google, as many of my client sites do.
I can only use my own clients and anecdotal evidence to prove this, because that is all Google gives us any more. I don’t believe half of the info coming out of Jon Mueller and Matt Cutts, and I take all data from various SEO celebrities with a large dose of salt.
I’ve been quietly doing my own thing in SEO for 18 years now, and my clients are doing well, in terms of the traffic they are getting from Google. We also do very well managing Google AdWords advertising for our clients.