It wasn’t too long ago that search engine optimization was almost entirely technical in nature. Publishing good content wasn’t really all that important; what mattered was that people could find that content. For that reason, SEO was focused almost entirely on figuring out what search engines liked and pumping up a page with as much of that as possible.

Times have changed.

Whereas a decade ago a well-optimized website could easily slide by on thin content, this is no longer the case today. Good content –articles, videos, or images that offer something of value to the user – is no longer optional. If you don’t offer something unique; if you don’t offer something that interests your visitors, it doesn’t matter how well-optimized your site is, it simply isn’t going to rank. Instead of appealing to the search engine, focus has shifted to appealing to the end user.

There are some who say that this shift signifies the death of search engine optimization.  In a way, they’re right. There exists a bevy of SEO techniques which – though they were invaluable in their time – are all but obsolete today. Others persist, however; and are no less important than they were years ago.

The difference is that they’re no longer the only thing a webmaster needs to consider.  There are now scores of other factors that play into whether or not a website finds success in the rankings. Mastering each of these factors is the key to bringing your site more visitors – and failure to do so might well doom you to obscurity.

One of the main reasons we’ve seen SEO move from website optimization to content optimization is that this is the shift we’ve seen in search engines. Google has been hard at work updating its algorithms to provide more natural, more relevant, and more organic search results; they want their engine to provide a user with the site that best suits their need, not the site with the best technical SEO. Factor in the power of social media, and the need to focus on the user – to create stuff they’ll talk about and share with their friends – becomes an even more pressing one.

So what does all this mean for you, exactly?

It means that in order to fully optimize your website, you’re going to have to approach it from several different angles. Your first step – and the one thing you should always do – is to create great content, and to present it in a format that’s easily navigable for your users – avoid gaudy visual design, invasive advertising, and overly-complicated website elements.

Content and visual optimization aside, your next step is to make sure Google likes you – and that’s where traditional SEO comes into play.  Figure out just what your audience is going to be searching for, and from that work out the keywords and phrases you’re going to need. Tailor your post title so that it’ll attract the most readers possible, and keep your meta description under 160 characters.

While you’re at it, look into Google Authorship to build the reputation of your writers

During this whole process, you also need to be paying attention to social media – and where possible, promoting your content on it. Most large weblogs have a twitter feed where they’ll share their work and converse with readers; this might be worth considering for your own site. Be sure to reach out to anyone you deem influential in your field, and make sure you’re always paying attention to what people are talking about – it might be worthwhile to take stock of any trends when you write.

There are some who say that search engine optimization is dead. It isn’t – it’s merely changed. These days, it’s not enough to tailor your website to the search engine. An optimized website is nothing without good content, and that content is nothing if not properly promoted through optimization and social media.

These three factors – content, optimization, and social media – work together to determine the success – or failure – of your website.  Make sure you understand all three, or you might be dooming yourself to obscurity before you even start creating.

About Daniel Page — Daniel is the Director of Business Development for Ahosting, a leading provider in SEO hosting and multiple IP hosting. Follow Ahosting on Twitter at @ahostingdotnet.