It was always a close race. BOTH were at some point the proverbial chicken and egg.
SEO had always depended heavily on content. And with Google’s relentless algorithmic updates, it became clear the bar was rising and ONLY companies with a WELL DEFINED content strategy were going to SURVIVE, leave alone compete for the hallowed 10 links.
But the relationship was co-dependent. Content also needed SEO in order to be seen. Marketers worked hard to write, hyperlink, and tag content basis trending search themes (or keywords as we used to call them). Not every post could have an indefinite promotion budget backing it – We needed it to show up in ranks organically!
But nothing is the same anymore. There is little, if any, disclosure on the operational logic behind search algorithm updates and the SERP page specifics are likely to change twice in the time that it takes for me to write this post.
The reason I use the word operational is because knowing “how” Google was upgrading user experience ultimately told us “what” needed to be done to keep up. We were always slightly distanced from the end user experience, distracted almost perpetually by Google’s opinion of it.
Well … we may have been shortsighted.
Not only can you get completely outflanked by AN ADVANCED SERP feature , ranking well in itself is no guarantee of a higher CTR given that Google is taking ALL THE BEAUTIFUL CONTENT you worked so hard to write and displaying it on the SERP for itself.
Now, viewpoints may differ but I think with recent developments in voice, mobile, and other contextual search, it is harder and harder to predict what will rank not to mention in what format. Now, the value of SEO was in its ability to provide assured returns at a fraction of the cost of other marketing efforts. But as of today it requires an increasingly greater investment and effort for returns that are increasingly ambiguous, if any.
With a stated vision “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.” and a mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, it’s time to remember that Google was NEVER really interested in us and how much traffic we got. SEO as a discipline was just a necessary by-product of the process acting much like a middle man or translator to help us navigate what we believed to be complex algorithmic changes.
Circa 2018, there are no real “updates” to decipher any more. Google just wants us to be AWESOME, and no SEO strategy can get us there. It’s time to re-examine our alternatives. With Google better able to read and rank “content” as it is with its focus on AI, the spotlight is finally back where it should have been in the first place – the actual user!