The Changing Face of SEO
Published on July 02, 2019
by Anthony Tisara
In the early years of SEO, any webmaster that had a working knowledge of how to do keyword research and keyword stuffing had it good when it comes to rankings. Even when their content was basically garbage, websites did well on the search engine results pages or SERPs.
SEOs back then took advantage of the relatively primitive bots crawling sites for Google and essentially tricked them to give keyword-stuffed pages prime position in the SERPs. Legitimate sites with high-quality, relevant, and useful content, on the other hand, had to content themselves with being on Page 3 or even deeper.
Thankfully, that time has long gone. The search engines have smartened up over the years with algorithm changes that have transformed the face of Search Engine Optimization. Most of the effective tricks that pioneering SEOs used to game the system no longer work. And if you even try to make them work, Google will eventually find out, and you’ll be in a world of trouble.
Indeed, a lot of things have changed with SEO over the last twenty years.
No more black hat SEO
Many SEO practices that used to be prevalent in the industry are now prohibited. Keyword stuffing, spammy links, article spinning, duplicate content, and using link farms are now categorized as black hat SEO techniques, which Google’s significant algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin decisively addressed upon their implementation.
Today, using black hat SEO techniques and getting caught doing it can earn your website penalties that will severely affect its rankings, among other things. If you got away with black hat practices in the past, you could no longer expect the same results in the world of Panda and Penguin.
Efforts to improve the user experience
Most SEOs back then focused too much on getting high rankings and had very little regard for providing people with a better experience when doing their searches.
Google has since declared that better chances of getting top spots in the SERPs await sites that make an effort to improve the user experience. Today, it has become imperative for SEOs and webmasters to focus on long-tail keywords and stuff their websites with high-quality content, both of which are crucial to serving a user’s intent better.
Users and search engines have gotten smarter
For the longest time, users had to contend with typing specific keywords and getting a wide range of results related to those keywords, but most of which have very little to do with what they were searching for in the first place.
Today, if we search for NBA scores for a game, for example, you won’t just get figures. You will also get links to videos as well as analyses of that game, among other things.
This significant improvement in the delivery of search engine results stems from the fact that users have also gotten smarter. They now know exactly the kind of information they want and are likely to type in long-tail keywords that will help them arrive at their desired result. With Google’s tweaks to its algorithms, it can now process longer and very specific queries and come so much closer to giving users the exact information that they need.
Voice search rising
We have now entered an age where we can do online searches by just saying it out loud. Smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo/Alexa will pick up your instructions, and do the searching for you.
If ComScore’s prediction that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 is to be believed, then it’s only smart for SEOs to optimize for voice search, too.
The rise of mobile
Who would have thought during the early days of SEO that mobile responsiveness would become such a big thing twenty years into their future?
Then again, few to no people expected mobile users to surpass the number of desktop users, but it happened, and the gap seems to be widening with each year.
Add to that the fact that Google launched the Mobile-First Index early this year, and webmasters and SEOs should have no more reason to resist making mobile versions of their websites.
For all the many changes SEO has gone through over the years, backlinks remain an important ranking factor. This time, however, the focus has shifted from quantity to quality.
While it’s still good for websites to get many backlinks, it would be even better if the backlinks come from high-authority sites.
SEO has seen a lot of changes, and we can expect even more in the future. The only thing for SEOs to do then would be to keep themselves updated at all times as the art and science of search engine optimization continues to evolve.