SEO is arguably one of the most commonly heard terms in digital marketing. Due to the sheer prominence of Google and other search engines, businesses have lived and died based on how easily they’re found. As a result, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has become a huge business. Of late, with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and the constant revision of search engine algorithms, there is a fear that SEO is dying.

Not Anything New

Of course, this fear is hardly new. The death of SEO has been loudly proclaimed for years, but the long-heralded death has never come. However, the concerns about new technologies rendering old ones obsolete certainly has merit and must be analysed before a judgment can be declared.

While the advancement in technology and the capability of machines increases at a furious pace, it must be noted that search engines are still dominant. While search engines exist and serve as the primary channel between web users and websites, the ranking of websites on those search engines (primarily Google) will continue to be important. This means that optimising websites to feature prominently on those search engines will also remain an important aspect for website owners.

Unethical SEO Practices

This does not mean that nothing will change for Search Engine Optimisation. Today, a great deal of SEO involves padding of keywords and a whole bunch of unethical practices intended to trick search engines into featuring low-quality websites.

Tactics include the addition of irrelevant keywords that are hidden from human visitors by posting text in the same colour as the background of the website. Such antics are clearly not in the best interests of search engines and companies have invested large sums of money to crack down on such deceitful practices.

These practices not only affect other reputable businesses and websites but also reduce the overall value of search engines. As the tools available to detect such actions are augmented with ML and AI, unethical SEO’s death knell has been sounded. Even as companies and individuals promising such services scramble to find newer ways to stay ahead of the changes, the rapid transformation and the increase in capabilities makes it impossible for Black Hat SEO to stay ahead of the curve.

Play By The Rules

So what should a business owner do to use SEO effectively and stay relevant today? The good news is that as more and more of the unethical practices are discovered and stopped, the focus on good SEO practices increases. SEO that plays by the rules of the search engines; that makes relevant content visible to the right section of users is helpful for all parties. The Age of SEO is very much still alive and kicking. Just make sure that everything that you do is in line with the expectations of the search engines. Do not try to misrepresent your content or pander to an audience far outside your own. Above all, ensure that your website has clear, relevant content. SEO remains a powerful tool even today, but knowing the rules and playing by them has become vital.