It can be a melancholy feeling when summer comes to an end and the last patches of sunburn are still itching on our skin. But search engine optimisation is exempt from these feelings, as our time is only just getting started. You can find out all about it in September’s SEO News.
Freedom through SEO
The attractiveness of search engine optimisation lies in its great degree of freedom and independence. Multinational corporations are not making money from it, and, when it comes to good conduct in the SEO industry, Google, Microsoft and other major players are not investing much more than some cheap stationery from the Far East. It is therefore with great pride, that we can hold our heads high and say that in our discipline, it is the most creative minds and not the biggest budgets that determine success or failure.
But that doesn’t mean that we get it right every time. In the fight for visibility and conversions, search engine optimisation has also left a trail of devastation in its wake over the last 20 years. Blogs, user forums, bookmark collections, infographics – whenever there has been an opportunity to misuse a meaningful feature through overpopulation and overstatement for our own purposes, we have usually taken it. For the majority of content and formats concerned, this usually meant the end. Nobody really likes to remember the ugly, keyword-filled spam pages promoting “cheap car insurance” from the middle of the last decade.
But every ending must have a beginning. One collective achievement of our industry that cannot be overstated is its evolutionary professionalisation. As a consequence of this, both spam and black hat SEO have been marginalised, and sometimes it puzzles those who take an interest how a relatively small, scattered crowd of enthusiasts across the globe managed to tackle a problem that few people at the time ever anticipated could become one. From its beginnings with nerdy, lone wolves who organised in loose networks, our discipline has evolved into a veritable agency business. Today, search engine optimisers are also firmly established in-house at most companies with a digital business presence.
The NOFOLLOW frenzy
Something that has changed little over the years, however, is the incredible tendency of the SEO industry to throw itself into discussions and conflicts with genuine enthusiasm, as if there were no tomorrow. A topical example at the moment is the discussion surrounding NOFOLLOW links. To quickly bring everyone up to speed on the issue, NOFOLLOW is an HTML attribute that can be used to tag links to control the crawling of a website by search engines and to differentiate relevant content from promotional offers. It is a method that is 15 years old – almost as old as search engines themselves.
There was great excitement earlier this month when Google published an article on its Webmaster Blog announcing an evolution of the NOFOLLOW concept. From March 2020, two new link attributes will be activated to help separately display sponsored and user-generated content. This is a meaningful extension of the existing concept, which is particularly useful for large marketplaces and shops with different forms of content.
And the entire SEO industry quickly jumped onto this latest bandwagon. Between wanting to deliver the best result to the client and the fear of missing out on an important innovation or trend, news is rapidly being spread that suggests immediate action, prophesies nightmarish scenarios for the future, or advises that it is best just to wait. As is often the case, only the Google liaison officers Gary Illyes and Danny Sullivan have been able to provide some calm to the SEO bubble.
SEO – a collaborative model with a future
However, this process is a fine example of how search engine optimisation has maintained its pioneering spirit despite larger budgets and increased responsibility. We discuss and experiment passionately across borders, even at the risk of this being an exhausting experience at times. The result of this 20-year passion project is ultimately a clear increase in the quality and user-friendliness of digital products.
For example, the transition to mobile Internet without SEO as a catalyst would, between industry standards and users, have run much less swiftly and smoothly. The channel of “organic” coverage, which is often ridiculed today, has lost nothing of its importance in information-finding and e-commerce. And that is why specialists who can navigate between closed systems and highly polished “user journeys” on the wide river of human intentions and needs will continue to be of key importance in the future.