If you’re looking for something close to a top ten or link bait post talking about some cut-throat SEO strategy, then I highly suggest that you close this window now and go on with your day. On the other hand, if you’re looking to understand SEO from a deeper perspective, then you might find this article quite interesting and refreshing.
I tried my best to keep this article as succinct as possible in hopes that it would leave you a lasting impression–and possibly heighten your senses and change the way you perceive SEO. To kick start my discussion, allow me to share with you a parable from the Chuang-tzu (an ancient Taoist text) that, in my opinion, perfectly illustrates the taxing pace of the reliant SEO life:
Once there was a man who was afraid of his shadow and who hated his footprints, and so he tried to get away from them by running. But the more he lifted his feet and put them down again, the more footprints he made, and no matter how fast he ran, his shadow never left him, and so, thinking that we was still going too slowly, he ran faster and faster without a stop until his strength gave out and he fell down dead. He didn’t understand that by lolling in the shade he could have gotten rid of this shadow and by resting in quietude he could have put an end to his footprint. How could he have been so stupid?
Raise your hand if you can relate to the parable above. No? Yes?
Similar to the man in the story, SEOs are always on the run, in our case though, after the breadcrumbs search engines planted for us to pick up and follow. We’ve become so reliant on the objective stuff (though they are not at all useless), the ranking factors, the low hanging fruit, that most of us have forgotten to look up and see beyond the real landscape.
Where are We Actually Going?
I don’t know what your experiences were when you first started with search optimization, but in my early years as an SEO practitioner, it always felt like a race–a race to publish as much quality content, a race to acquire as much relevant links from PR4 and above sites, a race to submit to DMOZ and other trusted seeds, a race to do this, a race to do that.
It was a mad scramble–and it still is today. Algorithm updates from big search engines leave us in suspended reality, biting our nails, waiting for the verdict–will we squirm in dismay? Or should we rejoice in triumphant rankings?
And it doesn’t stop there, Social Media has contributed big to the constantly changing state of search–social search is not anymore a theory–it is a reality. In fact, we see social activities all over SERPs, and we are well aware that social signals impact search results and human behavior.
And again, we ride the bandwagon and join the fun run towards better rankings–do you know where we’re all heading towards?
You tell me. I don’t really know.
The Picture that Speaks a Thousand Words
Don’t get me wrong–understanding the basics of SEO, pinpointing opportunities, and creatively implementing well-crafted white hat tactics, are all good. However, until when do we subject ourselves to this unliberating consequence of being an SEO? When will we take a break, lie under the shade, and remove ourselves from the cudgels that make us typical, constrained, and common?
Honestly, I don’t believe that we should stop chasing the clues search engines are leaving us to understand. I do believe, however, that like the man in the parable, we should take a break, and loll in the shade.
I guess it’s because of the relentless analysis that we do that we forget to see the bigger picture, that the real question is not to ask where we’re going with search but to ask what are search engines after?
Believe it or not, I will end my article here and intentionally leave it open-ended. And before I finally end, here’s a tip that I want every SEO to think about in relation to the industries that they are working with:
Have you ever optimized for human intent?
It’s your turn, I want you to drop everything and loll in the shade with me. How do you think search is evolving provided that they are out to master human intent? As SEOs, how do we adapt? Follow? Or potentially even lead?