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SEO: I Keep Forgettin’ We Are Not In Love Anymore

seo-heartbreakAs the great Michael McDonald sang, “I Keep Forgettin’ We Are Not In Love Anymore, I Keep Forgettin’ Things Will Never Be The Same.”  This soulfully explains what my relationship with SEO has become.  I have been optimizing websites since 1997 and over the past year, we have seen the most significant changes to the industry that I can remember.  I used to be in love with SEO but the reality is that it will never be the same again.  They (Google, Bing, etc.) made it very easy to love them in the past.  We were able to look good very easily, knowing the “secrets” of how to rank websites.  There really were no secrets but as SEOs we liked to believe there were.  There were simply tactics that were either designed to make your site more attractive to the engines or if you used “black hat” techniques, you used tactics that broke rules in order to compete.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, marketers could simply register a domain name with a keyword and make it to the top of the rankings.  In fact, we could register 10 keyword rich domains and fill up a lot of the first page. Times were good.  We were in love with SEO and we made a lot of money doing it.

Then in the mid 2000’s, link building became the secret of success.  While everyone began to pay for links and see great results, the engines caught on and made it clear that buying links was not acceptable.  While things once again changed, I was still in love with SEO.  We just had to figure out ways that did not involve paying for links and we had to make sure the links were relative and made sense to the visitors.

Over the last few years, links and link acquisition tactics had become more scrutinized.  Social media emerged and became an integral part of ranking factors, building links, and distributing content.  While I don’t consider myself a big social media guy, I was still in love with SEO.  I appreciated the changes and understood the game always changes.

Then we enter the last year and half.  Google pushes multiple updates and begins a huge shift toward semantic search.  This is where I realized that we were not in love anymore.  Things will never be the same.  While I know Google doesn’t owe me anything, a one-sided relationship simply doesn’t feel very good.  Maybe we can be “friends with benefits”?   I had to come to terms with the fact that the SEO industry is not what it used to be.  I have the option of breaking up and leaving, or staying and adapting to the changes.  The truth is, I don’t want to leave.

So I did what I have been doing for over 16 years…I decided to adapt to the changes.  I also realized I was able to fall in love again, but not with SEO.  My new love is semantic markup.  It is an incredible world of new opportunities, both exciting and overwhelming.  I created a new division of my company called Rich Snippets (www.richsnippets.com) to focus on this area.  It feels good to love again.

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