Every so often, the phrase “SEO is dead” makes its way around the Internet.

SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of curating website content to achieve top rankings in Google, among others.

In the past, SEO stuffing keywords into every possible location—something we used to call the “SEO Top 5.” These include the HTML Title, Meta Description, Headings, Body Copy and Anchor text.

Google’s own documentation suggests—and even states directly—that most of these have little impact on rankings.

But is SEO really dead?

Search engines have one goal—to provide the best, most relevant results for a given keyword search. As a website owner, your goal should be to provide that best, most relevant web page. The trick is to understand how search engines make the choice.

You should always include an HTML page title and meta description, because these are usually visible in the search results. And, yes, you should use your target keyword here as well. But, write them to be helpful to humans. That way, you’ll increase traffic and help search engines learn what your website’s about at the same time.

The same is true for page content. Write your website content to be useful and engaging to visitors to your website. Use keywords appropriately, but don’t overuse them in an attempt to boost rankings. Keyword stuffing doesn’t work and may even hurt your rankings.

To get you started, here are a few things every website owner should do;

  1. Make sure your pages load very quickly, even if it means simplifying the design.
  2. Take time to build a solid Google My Business page including images, lots of helpful information, business hours and how to contact you.
  3. Learn to generate and add schema markup, and take the time to add custom schema to every page and post.
  4. Ensure your website is free of errors.
  5. Look at your competitors websites. Make sure yours is better in every way.

SEO is definitely not dead. It’s also not magic.

But, there are hundreds, if not thousands of signals search engines use to decide which websites are worthy of those coveted top spots.