Vanity SEO is Dead, Long Live SEO

by Wayne Smith

What was vanity SEO? what changed? #SEOisDead

In the good old days, one could rank for almost any term by just using the term or keyword on the page, site, in the text, and in the anchor tags pointing to the page, and use the keyword in the title, description, and headlines. For competitive terms, keyword density needed to be optimized. Silos, (groups of pages), could be created with anchors to other pages on the site, pushing those pages up in search. The silos in the past becoming a viable landing page themselves, but today those pages would be thin content or link farms.

The term #SEOisDead applies to, the old methods are no longer working, or are considerably different in construction. Today's search results answers questions in the search engine; In the past the person would need to visit a site. SEO is dead for page views for simple answers. A lot of content creators were creating pages for page views (or advertisment revenue) and not goal-based marketing leading to a transaction. For brand marketing, the goal is for the visitor to connect the brand with the solution which can be accomplished either on the website or on Google, and complete the transaction on the website.

E-A-T killed SEO #SEOisDead

In the good old days, people could market pharmaceuticals from their own sites, and some of their claims were potentially harmful. E-A-T as a website entity qualifier, killed SEO for subjects the site shows no experience or expertise in.

E-A-T, (or now E-E-A-T), may appear to operate as a ranking factor. But consider, the vast majority of searches are long tail, involving more than one entity; And, Any one of the entities can pass through the qualification test. One should also be aware E-E-A-T is not an exculsive qualification test for what appears in search.

Overly simplified: A search for brand plus keyword -- will qualify, but a search for keyword without brand may not qualify. Likewise, a page may show up with a search for, "best of keyword," for a website that qualifies for the "best of," entity (such as the yelp website). Although a site the qualifies for both entities can appear, (normally does), before the site with the minimum E-E-A-T.

If you are grinning, you know that SEO is not dead.

Google's quality rater's guidelines give insites into what Google means by E-E-A-T.

YMYL killed SEO #SEOisDead

Your Money Your Life algorithm uses E-A-T as an important website, (author), qualifier for YMYL topics: With the evolution of keywords into entities, keywords became topics that a search engine can reference the keyword's entity data and gain knowledge about the topic the search is about. Topics related to your money or your life have the E-A-T qualifier turned up killing SEO for those whose websites do not show expertise, authority, or evidence of trustworthiness.

When one thinks of gunpowder, one also associates or understands gunpowder is an explosive, and an explosive is potentially dangerous. Entities are a product of natural language processing, (NLP), and the search query is processed with NLP before the database is checked. The subject known as gunpowder is known as an explosive, which can be dangerous within the database. So only E-A-T results are provided.

User Intent killed vanity SEO #SEOisDead

Empathy guides marketing: Humans as a social being, and also a predatory being, need empathy or understanding of the other animals to survive. For animals it may be, "survival of the fittest," but for humans it is, "survival of the most empathic." If one is to go into the wild and look for meat, one needs to consider the behavior of the animal to be successful, although we may want to call this cognitive or strategic empathy. One can consider the animal may or will want a drink of water, and find the animal where the water is ... One can consider the fish may be hungry and use bait to attract the fish. But going out into the wild the animals have enough empathy to consider you may be hungry and go in the other direction, "survival of the most empathic."

Search intent or user intent is an attempt by Google, and other search engines, to discern and provide results based on perceived intention of the search. I prefer the term search intent because I agree with those who practice law, "what somebody enters as a query into a search engine does not show the real intent of the user." Nonetheless, it is reasonable to conclude that Google is trying to match the search query to what it perceives the intention of the search is: Subject to error of course.

When Google gets the intent wrong, the odd site in a sea of listings where the other sites do not provide what the user wants will increase user interactions to the site that has the correct user intent; but, when Google is correct on the intention of the user; The interactions with the site that does not match or is not helpful will be poor. If a site matches the user intent better, (as determined by interactions) the AI will learn via the interactions on the search results page, and adjust what it discerns the user intention to be in the direction of the site with the best interactions; resulting in better rankings for the best site based on user data on Google search pages.

An example of vanity #SEOisDead

A search using the word "best" is an "information" query intent at this time, (February 2024), as determined by Google's algorithms. It is not hardcoded like using the term near me in a query for local results ... instead, it is discerned or discovered to be an information search by natural language processing and AI.

An #SEOisDead example

John's Legal is the best IP attorney near you

John's Legal is the best intellectual property firm near you with 100s of the best attorneys.

To the extent Google's algorithms are correct people searching for the best attorney are looking for an information site with a list of attorneys. provides such a list that will appear at the top of organic searches -- although they don't use the word "best," Google is matching intent, not keywords. As users click on the informational URLs and ignore the specific attorney's site it gets poor interactions and determined by the algorithm to not be helpful content for this particular search. SEO is dead for this particular site.

An example of a #LongGameSEO listing

Boylan Code - Our Specialty is You

Boylan Code is a full-service, client-focused law firm specializing in real estate, estate planning, corporate law, municipal law, and litigation.

Boylan Code uses branded SEO. When a person searches for their name with the user intent of finding their site and information about them a page of information is presented. As brands are entities, A branded search normally includes the Google Knowledge Panel with additional information and other sites that discuss the company providing details of why they are a good firm written from a third-person point of view.

Pages not about the brand "Boylan Code," are determined to be not helpful by the AI and are not promoted for a branded search.

Branded search is essential a red carpet entrance to a website supporting the site and telling the user what they need to know before the user lands on the brand's website.

Brand Intent SEO #LongGameSEO

Brand intent SEO allows other sites and reviews by people to appear in the search results, which are seen as more reliable than what a person says about themselves. The brand's social media accounts are shown if they are active.

Brand intent lays out the red carpet for visitors presenting them with site links, (when Google has the information to provide them). User intent although not a qualifier, appears to operate as if it were a qualifier by demoting sites that are trying to use the brand name to steal the traffic from the brand.

Brand search is created by telling people in conversation that you have a website. Also when a site is mentioned on the internet without a link a brand search can result, or when somebody has seen you on social media and recalls the brand but is no longer on the social media site.

Information Intent SEO #LongGameSEO

Information intent can be communicated by using the word best or good. Yes, the entity for good is synonymous with the concept of best. So a page targeting best will also show up for good. Information pages for intellectual property law could be "Best Practices for protecting your Copyrights," or "Best Practices for cease and desist letters."

Information Intent rankings can be improved by sharing the page on social media and having interactions about the content on social media. Using Social Media for information content is two birds for one stone, it aids the branded search and information intent search results. Information intent pages are not a red carpet entrance to the site, one needs to quickly answer the question to win the visitor, and receive good interaction signals from Google for the listing.