In an Age of Increasing SEO Automation, Original Content is Still King

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Often when people find out that I own an SEO firm, they tell me about their own experience with SEO. I like that; it’s a good opportunity for me to learn how people are thinking about the subject outside of the very specific way my company handles it.

But lately, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. As 2015 unfolds, I’m beginning to hear people refer to their SEO as being “automated” more and more. When I invariably look at them with confusion, they say something like “You know, we use software to make sure everything is optimized.”

I want to take a moment to address the problems with such a statement. Simply put, SEO has never been something you can automate, is not automatable as of right now, and never will be. It is as controllable through scripts, codes, and machines as human charisma. In other words, if you think that you can follow a mechanical process in order to be liked by people, then you probably also believe that SEO can be automated.

The metaphor of charisma is fitting because SEO is essentially charisma applied to a website. According to Webster’s, charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” And therefore, website charisma is “compelling attractiveness or charm in a website that can inspire devotion in others.”

Before you decide that I’m nuts, let me explain. When you write a fascinating article, something that people in your target market find valuable or inspiring, it finds its way into the hands of decision makers and leads to new sales. It can also spread to potential employees, attracting new talent to your business. That process – the one where people liked the article so much that it sort of “went viral” in its own little way – is how SEO works today. It’s kind of like a person having a magnetic personality and other people telling their friends about that person. Charisma.

You see, when people enjoy content they come across on the Internet, they don’t just tell people vocally. They share it online – through e-mail, social media, their blog, or an online community. And when they do, Google takes notice. Although the backbone of Google’s algorithm is still inbound links, the signals Google uses to determine a website’s placement in its search results continues to expand and today includes things like how much people are talking about a certain web page online and how much time they spend on that web page.

Many companies that claim to do SEO are, in fact, doing some sort of automation that may cause Google to see a site and say “Ah okay, they’re not breaking any rules” when in fact you want Google to say “Wow, they’re really something special. We should promote them.” Google, of course, will only promote your website if it sees that people are finding real value on it. That’s Google’s job: to give their searchers value so that people continue to think of Google as the world’s best search engine.

Because of the importance of people actually liking your content, the greatest possible attribute a website can have is something quite old-fashioned: well-written, interesting content. (Nowadays, people like to use the buzz word thought leadership content.) In a world of automation, I’m proud to say that my company still prizes the exact opposite: quality workmanship. And thankfully for us and our clients, Google loves it.

Now, before I give you the impression that there is no use to all of the cutting-edge platforms and programs available to search engine optimizers, I absolutely rely on certain forms of automation. But they’re not to carry out my SEO, but rather to measure and monitor my SEO. For example, two tools my company uses every day are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. The former can tell you how engaged your visitors are, the latter can tell you if Google sees any problems with your website. As stewards of our clients’ web presences, we need such tools to make sure that the site is in good working order. But they’re not the elements that make our work successful. Those elements are creativity, originality, and hard work.

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