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7 Marketing Trends in 2017, Part 7- The Death of Old SEO.png

Old SEO is dead.

What is old SEO? SEO driven by simple tactical tricks such as keyword stuffing, exact match domains, and a relentless focus on exact keywords.

For example, in the old SEO world, marketers seeking to promote a coffee shop in Boston would have bought up domains like BostonCoffeeShop.com, Boston-Coffee-Shop.com, etc. They would have built dozens, if not hundreds of pages on the site, with stilted, awkward titles such as “Best Boston Coffee Shop and Coffeeshop”. Each page would have been littered with what could only be described as word salad:

“Welcome to the best Boston Coffee Shop, the coffee shop Boston that provides coffee near Boston, MA”.

Old SEO marketers wrote exclusively for the search engines, experimenting to find what the algorithms favored most. Old SEO generated websites that, at best, were difficult for consumers to use and at worst, impossible to even understand.

Thankfully, old SEO has been on death’s door for the past few years. In the last year, it’s safe to say that it’s finally dead.

What Killed Old SEO?

The nail in the coffin of old SEO is artificial intelligence. As search engines like Google and Bing have adopted more and more AI, how they index and rank pages has changed. AI-powered search engines now leverage natural language processing (NLP) to power their features.

How did AI kill old SEO? Recall that artificial intelligence is trained; machine learning functions much like a human toddler learns, through pattern recognition. What do search engines train with? High-quality, high-authority content provide the foundation for search algorithms. We will not find word salad pages in the New York Times, Washington Post, scholarly papers, or the average Fortune 50 corporate website.

Thus, when search engines with natural language processing index the web, they not only compare traditional ranking factors such as inbound links and user behavior, they also compare how sites use language.

Consider what Google Cloud NLP sees when it looks at a web page, like my homepage:

google cloud nlp data.png

Google’s NLP software dissects the page into parts of speech, genders, tags, tenses, dependencies, etc. It also deconstructs sentiment, tokenizes sentences, and determines how natural the language is.

Consider the implications of a machine being able to read a web page like the above. If Google trains itself based on high quality and high authority, how closely does our marketing hew to its training database?

If we write absurd sentences like “Welcome to the best coffeeshop in Boston coffee shop near Boston, MA”, Google’s NLP will read the absurd content, parse it, and compare its fingerprint to the training database. Our absurd copy, geared for old SEO instead of natural language, will compare poorly to the training database.

With that comparison, Google will know our site does not read like or resemble high quality or high authority content and will rank us accordingly.

What To Do About The Death of Old SEO

The age of asking “should I write for search engines or people?” is over.


  • Write for people.
  • Write with natural language.
  • Write to the level of quality we find our our industry-leading sites in search.
  • Write topically-relevant pages instead of keyword-focused pages.
  • Write content we would enjoy reading if it were not our own.

As mentioned in the previous trend, AI continues to advance and mature at a 10x rate year over year. Last year, Google’s advancements in AI and search made its search results even more relevant. This year, expect another 10x increase in its capabilities to read and understand natural language written for humans.

Write for people, because Google now reads like people do.

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