Long Live Traditional SEO
Many people seem fond of declaring that traditional / old-school SEO i.e. on-page tactics such as modifying title tags, content, and links, is dead. These people are wrong. Even in recent months I've yet to have a client whose site didn't need these on-page tactics. More importantly, I've NEVER worked on a site where such changes didn't result in a significant improvement in rankings and traffic. So why is there such animosity towards basic SEO? I imagine it is part of what consultants and agencies are doing to differentiate themselves from everyone else. After all, if you're not doing anything different than that of someone charging half your price, why should you be hired over the cheaper solution?
In recent months, I've had a site achieve first page rankings just by correcting some mistakes in the robots.txt file along with improper use of the meta robots tag. Many SEOs looking at these corrections would undoubtedly roll their eyes and declare how obvious such changes are. And I agree with them, but with one qualification... They're obvious to SEOs because we've all spent countless hours thinking, reading, and experimenting. Should I turn my nose up to the basics just because they're basic? That would be ridiculous.
Webmasters are getting better and better at SEO, but they're still a couple of years behind the folks that do SEO every day. This, I think, is especially true when the webmaster has held the same role for many years and has a full plate just managing day-to-day activities. And so it shouldn't be surprising that what's obvious to me isn't obvious to them until I point it out. What I think people often forget is that companies are paying search engine optimizers for their knowledge and not just for the 25 page document of recommendations. It's no different for lawyers, doctors, and mechanics. When you enlist the services of these people, you're paying for their knowledge and experiences rather than just the few hours they might spend helping you.
What I think people are really trying to say about traditional SEO is that it will only take a website so far before diminishing returns kick in. I also think that the sheer number of companies that have joined the SEO marching band means that traditional SEO is now what you need to just to step onto the playing field. It may take 6 months or more to get there, but it's still a necessary and worthwhile component of any SEO effort. But as I alluded to, since many, many others have also stepped onto the field, you'll eventually need to non-tradition tactics and strategies to out play everyone else.
So I'd like to tell all of the SEOs out there to hold their heads up high when they achieve results for their clients even if all it required was SEO 101 techniques. And to clients of SEO agencies or consultants, hurry up and implement the basic stuff so we SEOs can really shine!