Gary Vaynerchuck advises people to jump on the newest social platform and master it as quickly as possible. Doing so gives a temporary first mover advantage. New users of the platform haven’t developed ad blindness nor grown calluses to spam. Eventually they do though. And when users reach peak marination in the new platform, they become immune to shitty marketing. Simply being there first isn’t enough to keep an audience engaged.
This is the way many still treat SEO. 10 or 15 years ago people were enamored with this thing called Google. They didn’t care what company was in the number one spot for “Buy _____.” “Hey it’s the internet lets choose the first website we see and buy from it.” With this impulse purchase attitude, ranking #1 carried lots of potential. You didn’t really have to be that popular or trusted of a company. You just had to be present in the SERPs. This mindset is how many business owners and C-suite still measure the effectiveness of SEO today. But as Wil Reynolds points out in his brilliant Conductor talk, ranking isn’t good enough anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for checking the rank of semantic keyword baskets. We want to squeeze as much juice from the SERPS as possible. But the addiction to keyword rank represents a overly simple measurement that soured years ago. Even if rank did guarantee revenue, not all SERPS are the same. These are just a few of the reasons a #1 rank isn’t universally achievable: personalized search when you are logged into google, different results for mobile devices, different results geographically(not only by country but sometimes by closest metro area). Add to that local results, one boxes, knowledge graph cards, “people also ask” cards, and were dealing with totally different real estate.
So if SEO black magic no longer works what does? Brand building is the answer you are looking for. Does this mean that you’ll have to spend more time and energy to drive revenue through your website? Possibly yes, sorry. Does this mean SEO is dead. Absolutely NOT. SEO is doing what it has done since the 1990s, it’s evolving. Good SEOs evolve with it. Bad SEOs complain how unfair Google is. To illustrate the intersection of SEO and good ole fashion Marketing/Branding, I’ll leave you with another awesome anecdote from Wil.