Should you care about what kind of marketing is hot? I got a question recently from a small business owner on how important readable URLs are for a Web site. The reason he was asking is that his technical adviser told him that "SEO just isn't that important anymore." Is he right? Well, you probably wouldn't expect me to agree with that point of view, and I don't, but there is some truth in the idea that search engine optimization is not the be-all end-all of Internet success that it was a few years ago. And the question of readable URLs is as good a topic as any to use to explore the larger issue of the importance of SEO.
I got the question for a site called JamSeed, which shows off musical acts so they can get publicity they don't get from mainstream media. Each act has a profile page, with a computerized URL (www.jamseed.com/musicianProfile.php?id=126).
So the question was, for SEO purposes, should JamSeed be using a more readable URL (www.jamseed.com/musicianProfile/acityheart)? The technical adviser said, yes, but not for SEO reasons. He said that you want something readable for links and social media, because SEO isn't that important anymore.
Now, readable URLs are something I think are very important, for both search and social media. Search engines still, to this day, index fewer pages with dynamic URLs than with static, readable ones, especially those with ID attributes like this one. But this is less of a problem than it once was, and there are alternatives (such as sitemaps) that can help you get your pages indexed.
But the point on social media is a really important one. Readable URLs are far more likely to be passed along. They are more likely to be linked to. They are more likely to be clicked when shown in e-mails. In every way, readability of URLs helps your Internet marketing--including your search marketing, because more links helps you in search, too.
So, is SEO less important than it once was? Yes. Just a few years ago, most companies could afford no expensive Internet marketing, so SEO was everything. It was the only game in town, so it was of paramount importance. Now, with the myriad social media options that cost nothing, SEO takes its place as an important technique among many. So, in that sense it is less important.
But that's not the point. It really doesn't matter, decision by decision, because you don't need to think about what kind of marketing is most important. What you need to do is to decide what you will spend your time on, tactic by tactic. You need to think much more granularly.
This example shows why. After thinking about all the reasons to create readable URLs, you decide that it is the right thing to do. It's easy enough to change the automatic schema for your dynamic content, so it's worth doing because the time expended will bring you more value than doing something else right now.
So, instead of deciding whether SEO is important, think instead of the value of each particular piece of work you can do. Many of these tactics, such as readable URLs, help you across many kinds of marketing. It's fun to think about what's hot and what's not, but it's profitable to spend your time on what matters, regardless of its trendiness.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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