I was reading an article recently written by an SEO specialist claiming that SEO had ruined his perception of the internet (http://selnd.com/b9iXiQ). Overlooking his mildly irritating misunderstanding between the internet and world wide web it became apparent that one of the key issues the author had with many websites that have been ‘SEO’d to death’ is that such websites have forgotten their true purpose.

Although I disagreed with much of what he had to say it is certainly apparent that there are too many websites which are geared to appeal to the search engines far more than to real people.

Of course, as any SEO worth his SERPs placement will tell you creating good SEO copy today is not about keywords, but quality. Even Google’s use of LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) means that over-using keywords or synonyms means content is likely to be ignored or demoted rather than given undeserved credit. In some cases it can even result in a website being blacklisted entirely, which is not a good thing in anyone’s book.

This has pushed the quality of SEO copy up several notches, and the best content today is that which is optimised just as successfully for the search engines as it is for real people. I suppose the best complement anyone could ever pay to someone who’s written SEO web content or SEO articles is that they didn’t realise it was optimised.

But has SEO really harmed the web? I think not, because in many ways SEO has helped to ensure a better quality of website. After all, websites with poor or inadequate navigation structures get penalised by the search engines; websites with insufficient content get penalised by search engines; websites that simply copy content from elsewhere get penalised by the search engines.

SEO today is not just about keywords. In fact, it’s hardly about keywords at all. Today it’s much more about quality, breadth, structure and good coding. Whether you’re optimising your website’s structure and navigation, creating more useful and more informative page titles, including alternate text for images or using headings and subheadings to help structure your text, it all adds up to a better class of website.

If anything, SEO has helped to improve the quality of content on the internet. But I think that part of the perceived problem is that too many website owners are either using outdated SEO, including keyword stuffing, meta tags and duplicate content, as well as black hat SEO methods such as hidden text, misspelt domain names and jump pages. It’s these tactics combined which have resulted in a huge number of very poorly constructed websites which make it abundantly clear that their primary audience is not carbon based, but silicon based.

As search engines become ever more intent on generating results which are highly relevant, highly reliable and of the highest quality, SEO specialists and website owners are likely to find themselves pushed harder and harder to create high quality content. But at every stage, if an SEO specialist or website owner ever once takes their eye off the fact that websites are there to provide services, products or information to real people, then the game is over.

SEO is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and it’s those people who forget this who go on to create the kind of content the author of the article was bemoaning. SEO is only a way of ensuring you get the attention of real people. But getting attention, and keeping it, can be two totally different things.