Why SEO Consultants And SEO Agencies Are Going To Have To Get More Technical Again And Stop Acting Like Content Marketing Agencies.

I’ve been around SEO for a long time now and I’ve seen trends come and go. As such I’ve seen SEO consultants come and go, and SEO agencies rise and fall. These changes tend to occur when the SEOs are unable to adapt. And we are moving into a new phase of SEO and we’ll see all those SEOs who focus on content marketing start to struggle more, whilst those SEOs who are good at technical SEO are going to get a good bounce in the coming year or two.

So What’s Going On And What Makes Me Think This?

It’s perhaps best to look at what’s happened already. If you went back about 15 years, then SEO was about technical SEO. That’s because all the websites out there were fairly rubbish. If you could put all the basic technical good practices in place you’d probably have a website that you could get to rank.

Within a few years, most businesses had the first good website with good SEO practices built-in and SEOs started to shift their focus. It wasn’t long before links became the main thing they focused on. Sure, they still did all the technical stuff, it’s just it moved the dial less. It was during this time that private blog networks with spun gibberish posts specifically designed to get links started to be seen everywhere in the index and it was compromising Google.

Google did something about this by focusing on ranking quality content and it was during this time that SEOs shifted towards producing lots of content as part of their SEO strategies. Sure they still did the technical SEO but most of the systems websites are build in are fairly good out of the box and they still build links but those links are much more curated than they’d been before. What they are doing is creating content, using techniques that a pure content marketing agency would use.

OK, I’ve simplified things here – Google did a lot of other things along the way and there are so many other things SEOs need to consider. Indeed interspersed throughout the timeline I’ve laid out above where things like page speed and mobile-first – both of which are technical SEO orientated. But you get my drift.

I do think we’re entering a new era of SEO now though. Let me explain why. There has been a proliferation of content on the internet and Google is struggling to keep up with it all. They do a good job don’t get me wrong, but all that content makes their index harder to create and maintain. It costs them more money. So, what if they can demote the importance of content? I believe that’s what they’re about to do.

Not long ago they put webmasters on warning that they’d be introducing page experience as a ranking factor during 2021. The first thing to say is when Google gives you warning of 6 months you need to pay attention because it’s something you need to work on and get behind. I can think of a handful of times they’ve done this already, including SSL certificates and the mobile index. They gave advanced warnings in those situations because they knew most webmasters would have to make changes to their websites in order to meet the new standards and you can guarantee the same is happening now.

I think understanding what they mean by page experience is probably going to be the toughest thing to think about right now. You might be thinking it’s all about user experience. And that would be a fair assumption, however, it’s much more technical than that.

Page experience signals

Core Web Vitals

The page provides a good user experience, focusing on the aspects of loading, interactivity, and visual stability:

Here are some tools that can help you measure and monitor Core Web Vitals.

Mobile-friendly

The page is mobile-friendly. Check if your page is mobile-friendly with the Mobile-Friendly Test.

Safe-browsing

The page doesn’t contain malicious (for example, malware) or deceptive (for example, social engineering) content. Check to see if your site has any safe-browsing issues with the Security Issues report.

HTTPS

The page is served over HTTPS. Check if your site’s connection is secure. If the page isn’t served over HTTPS, learn how to secure your site with HTTPS.

No intrusive interstitials

The content on the page is easily accessible to the user. Learn how interstitials can make content less accessible.

We already know about safe-browsing, HTTPS, mobile-friendly and no intrusive interstitials. What we need to start thinking much more about is times associated with Largest Content Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift. 

And those three things can be tricky even for the most impressive developer because when you starting trying to improve them you find things stop working the way you’d expect them to on your website. 

This gets me thinking about those SEO agencies and SEO consultants who largely use content marketing techniques to benefit SEO. Will they have the level of technical understanding to be able to implement these changes and be able to maximise load times?

SEO agencies are only as good as the skills of their employees and these have to change over time based on the changing requirements of SEO and the algorithm updates. The ones who can bring in the right skills or who have people who can upskill will come out on top in the coming months.

So Is The Era Of Content Marketing Coming To An End?

I don’t think content is something that SEOs will stop working with, it’s just without those page experience metrics in place it’s unlikely the content will outrank competitors who have put an emphasis on page experience signals.

Experience tells me that this is going to be slightly bigger than some of those other technical SEO standards. For example, when HTTPS came in as a standard it was easy to see the benefits because it stood out in the SERPs. The pages without an SSL certificate started to feature further down the page. Eventually, it was clear you had to have an SSL in order to rank. But let’s be honest, setting up https can be fiddly but it’s pretty simple stuff really. These new standards are trickier.

This is the type of thing that theme developers are going to have to build into their themes and it’s going to take years for businesses to decide to upgrade their designs and implement new designs. This provides a great opportunity for technical SEOs to step in and improve a businesses website. It’s those websites that will win out in the short to medium term and the other businesses, unless they are interested in SE, will have very little understanding of why they have lost traffic or why they can’t seem to outrank websites that aren’t doing as much marketing as they are.

And that’s the rub, we’ve gone through an era where creating a lot of content has been beneficial but it’s not going to just be about content, at least in the medium to short term until everyone has websites that fit the new standards.

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