Although there is no shortage of industry professionals decrying the death of SEO, in one woman’s humble opinion, the tactic is far from dead. In fact, I don’t even think it’s got a head cold. As long as Google is the go-to way to find what you’re looking for on the Internet (and with 3.5 billion searches a day, it certainly still is) then SEO will remain one of the best ways to get your site to page one.
I think when people say SEO is dead, what they mean to say is that SEO has changed. It’s gone through a long transition since 2012 when Google introduced Penguin, but one that ultimately led to better content and less spam, which was tough for businesses but good for consumers. No longer could a company just blast nonsense phrases on their site and expect to get clicks. They now, much to the delight of unemployed English majors everywhere, needed to create quality content instead.
As you can see, SEO has become more nuanced than ever and as a business, you have to wield it carefully or be banished from search rankings. In this article, I’ve identified three SEO resources for each skill level—so if you’re just starting out, have a little bit of knowledge, or are already an SEO ninja, you’ll find something useful here.
Beginning: Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO
If you’re an absolute beginner, Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO is a must-read. They’ve broken it down into nine chapters, each dealing with a different level of search engine optimization. From the basics—like good HTML and site design—to the more oft-forgot—like trust.
Yes, the content on your website needs to be trusted and you need to be an authority in your field if you’re going to create a site devoted to it.
Sounds fun, right?
If you don’t want to start out with a deep dive (but I personally think that you should) then at least check out their Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors, which every SEO professional should print out and tape above their desk. When you go to write your content or optimize your site, you can look up at your handy guide and make sure that you’re touching on (or avoiding) specific points.
Intermediate: Google Webmaster Tools
If you run your own website, there’s likely no other toolset that will give you better raw data and specific technical information than Google Webmaster Tools.
Now, this isn’t just for those who’ve got administrator responsibilities, but also for those of us who want to better understand how Google responds and ranks a site. Using the Webmaster Tools, you can figure out the best way to make on-page SEO corrections to improve the overall ranking of your site.
Think of GWT as a sort of X-Ray of your site. For instance, Content Keywords, under Google Index, will show you exactly how Google is viewing your content. While you might think that you’re using really specific content, keywords, phrases and topics, Google might not see it that way. This can be monumentally helpful when redesigning the content on your site.
To be clear, trying to understand PageRank is akin to taking a walk through the mind of Larry Page (the guy who basically invented Google). It’s an explanation of how the Google search algorithm actually works on a mathematical level. This is only for those of us who want to see SEO beyond content or raw data and figure out how it truly ticks.
This is why I only recommend this to advanced students of SEO because, yes, it can be helpful though perhaps only in a roundabout way. Think of it this way: if you’re a musician, you don’t need to know how your guitar was built to write the next great American rock song, but it certainly won’t hurt.
Bonus: The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine by Sergey Bring and Larry Page
If something like PageRank wasn’t chock full of enough calculations and CS jargon for you then perhaps you should just read the paper Larry Page and Sergey Brin wrote at Stanford to present Google. I’m sure there’s plenty you can learn here about how the algorithm works but keep in mind, it’s changed plenty over the years since Stanford published the paper (way back in 2008). If this is your sort of thing, have a go at it.
The average first page result on Google has around 1,890 words worth of original content and 75% of people don’t scroll past the first page, therefore it pays dividends to understand how SEO works at both a macro and a micro level. No matter your level of SEO expertise, things change fast so there’s always more to learn so spend some time doing some research and get (or stay) on that first page!