SEO Every year, like clockwork, internet marketing “experts” like to declare the end of SEO. Everything from Rankbrain to Google’s expansion of Google Ads (formerly Adwords) was supposed to be the final nail in the SEO coffin. While there is no disputing that major changes have happened in the past few years, SEO is still an important part of any business’ digital marketing strategy. SEO has certainly changed from the early days of search. From the mid-90s through the early 2000s, webmasters could artificially raise their search ranking simply by stuffing any and all related keywords at the bottom of a page, in 4pt white font. Once Google cracked down on keyword stuffing, these spammers were out of a job and started the first “SEO Is Dead” blog posts. And who could forget the infamous “miserable failure” Google bomb during George W. Bush’s presidency? Over the past 20 years, Google has continually refined their algorithm to give their customers, searchers, the best product possible. With the frequent and seemingly arbitrary changes in the search algorithm, “black hat” SEO, or SEO professionals who try to manipulate and look for loopholes in search engines, are in a constant dance with Google to keep their sites on the front page for their targeted keywords. Every black hat SEO has a story about how he or she ranked a high-value keyword on the front page of Google, only to have it smacked down to the 5th page, or deindexed all together. The latest boogeyman is “Rankbrain”. Search engine professionals have said that, with the advent of A.I., traditional SEO is dead and the old rules can be thrown out the door. To some, Google has now become some kind of search engine SkyNet, handing out rankings completely without human or algorithm input. Keywords no longer matter, HTML tags are done with, and even backlinks are no longer useful. The sky is falling, and there is nothing anybody can do anymore except pray to the Google gods. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. On the surface, for all the reasons previously mentioned, it does seem like the entire SEO landscape has changed; and depending on which website you read, businesses can either disregard SEO completely, or they have to spend five figures each month just to keep up. However, when you take a deeper look in the search results, you can see nothing much has changed. Kyle Roof, of High Voltage SEO, proved this when he successfully ranked on the first page of Google for “rhinoplasty Plano”. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be big news. After all, this happens literally hundreds of times every day. What makes this special is he did it with a website populated almost completely with Lorum Ipsum text, and with no backlinks. Not only did he rank on the first page, but he also got into the map pack for a nonexistent business. So how did he do this? Did he get hundreds or thousands of backlinks? Did he do some tricky HTML or CSS coding? Bribe a Google employee? No, he simply used old school on-page SEO best practices. On-page SEO, which includes keyword density, HTML tag optimization, and content length among others, should be the base on which a proper SEO campaign is built. By using only on-page SEO best practices, Kyle has shown definitively that it is still possible to reach the front page of Google. No guest posts, no link pyramids, no syndication networks needed. Just good, solid, old school SEO. The same techniques that have been used for the past decade. What Kyle did was analyze the on-page SEO for sites that were already ranking on the first page of Google, and emulated what they did while also improving on the other site’s shortcomings. His word count on the page (roughly 1400) was the average for sites on the front page, while keyword density (.14%) was slightly above average. This part is key because so many writers and web designers think they have to blow the competition out of the water with keyword density. For most niches, a keyword density of under 3% is actually the best. He also used pictures with relevant keywords in the alt tags and liberally used H2, H3, and H4 tags with related keywords. He didn’t try to stuff his keywords into the H tags, instead, he used semantically related ones. He also made sure to include relevant JSON schema and had seven 5 star ratings, where the average for a site on the front page was 8. These are all things that should be SEO 101 for any web designer or SEO professional but have become almost completely forgotten and looked over today. Why is that? Backlinks. On-page SEO has taken a backseat in recent years to off-page SEO, or “backlinking”, which has become almost worshipped in the SEO industry. Backlinking, for those who may not know, is the process of getting relevant links from other sites to yours. In Google’s eyes, relevant backlinks from good quality websites act as a sort of vote of confidence for your site, showing Google that you can be trusted and could be ranked higher. Backlinking has become so revered, that some digital marketing agencies have even started to refer to their SEO campaigns as “digital p.r.” This seems to place an incredibly high level of importance on getting links from other sites, but as we have seen, it is not a magic want to rank sites. Backlinking is the sexy side of SEO. It requires reaching out and almost seducing other site owners or writers in order to get a link back, or creating amazing content and getting yourself or your business mentioned. On-page SEO, on the other hand, is more akin to salt and pepper in a soup. When it’s there and doing its job, you don’t notice. But when it’s not, all of a sudden the soup tastes funny, and nobody will come to your house to have any. Hopefully, this experiment will help SEOs and web designers to remember the importance of on-page SEO. Backlinks will always be an important metric Google uses when ranking sites, but we also cannot lose sight of what Google really wants; a great user experience that fulfills the searcher’s query. And the best way to do that is creating content with on-page SEO in mind, and remembering the salt and pepper in your soup.