7 ways Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has Drastically Changed

CW seoThe world of search engine optimization (SEO) has changed drastically since the advent of Google, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, and AltaVista in the 90’s. SEO marketing strategies are now adapted to modern user trends, Google’s algorithm updates, and today’s current technology.

SEO used to be a shady practice of stuffing keywords, tweaking back-end code and spamming links until your website started ranking well for the keywords you wanted. Thankfully, Google has taken steps to get rid of those practices and its search algorithm always evolving.

Even though most of these outdated SEO techniques no longer work, they’re still common advice given to new content creators from SEO specialists.

Make no mistake, these outdated strategies can penalize your sites, as Google now recognizes and demotes websites with low-quality or irrelevant content


So how has google’s algorithm and our approach to SEO changed in the past 10 years?

#1 Content Quality

Content Marketing

Content marketing is now a huge part of a successful SEO strategy. Google has refined what it considers to be “good” content over the years, and has served a death blow to spammy content and keyword stuffing, and gimmicky content-based tactics. A common practice was favoring a high quantity of content while sacrificing quality and substance. Now, the search engine winners are the  ones who produced the best, most valuable content.  Conent is more KING than it has ever been.

“With Google trying to cut down on spammy, buzz-word SEO techniques, it’s important to shift focus and create meaningful original content. One effective method of doing this is by empowering employees to develop their personal brands. Identifying internal brand advocates to create white papers, bylines and blog content will help your business engage with different segments of your audience base.”   - Jennifer HawkinsHAWKINS International Public Relations Inc

Natural Language

One way to improve content is to use natural “conversational” writing.

“Due to the increase in mobile searches and voice searches, having content that is conversational (a natural dialogue) is a big change for our clients in the coming year. This is changing the way we develop content, set up paid ads and define brands.”   - Korena KeysKeyMedia Solutions

Organic Ranking

Another important thing to consider is Post-Click Rankings, (organic searching) 

“Greg Corrado, senior research scientist at Google, confirmed that Google RankBrain is the third most important signal for the result of an organic search. What this means is that post-click engagement metrics are more important than ever. It's now critical to go beyond all the pre-click optimization tasks and ensure an excellent user experience that drives greater page views and user interaction.”   - Tom ShapiroStratabeat

Information Value

Rich answers and information will land you at the top of SERP’s.

“People are changing the way they use Google. No longer are people satisfied with looking for information, they want to ask Google specific questions and receive an answer. Sites with rich answers installed will appear at the top of the SERPS. What are dental implants? What is Kobe beef? How do you get a visa? What is organic traffic? Sites answering these questions will receive preference.”   - T. MaxwelleMaximize

Image Optimization

And we can’t leave out the importance of image optimization.

The image search is becoming more competitive than the content search. Millennials love the easy route; when searching for data, they'd rather find an infographic. If they're searching for something on the go, usually on their phone, chances are they will search for an image rather than a content link. Make sure your images are optimized. I recommend including an original image on every post.”   -Raffi Keuhnelian, INexxus

#2 Less really is more

Having fewer high quality pages is much better than having many lower quality pages. Content pruning, site caching, and code optimization is more important than ever.

“Search engines aim to showcase results that are not only relevant, but those that provide the best possible user experience. Caching will significantly improve your website's load time, which in turn will result in better ranking and lower bounce rates. Basic browser caching is still effective, but it's worth looking into AMP, which will deliver content from the Google-hosted cache reserve.”   - Ahmad KarehTwistlab Marketing 


#3 Site Security Matters

Search engines like google are emphasizing the importance of security, and rewarding pages appropriately.

“It is still very important to do it by using best practices and predetermined guidelines. Just pushing pages to https:// won't cut it; informational architecture is equally important.”   -Goran Paunovic, ArtVersion Interactive Agency

#4 The death of link scheming

Google has provided its own definition of what a link scheme is, along with some examples. The simple definition: Any attempt to deliberately influence your ranking with links.

Google has worked really hard to get rid of black-hat and spam-based link-building practices, they even penalize participants in link wheels and exchanges and paid linkers. Now, only natural link attraction and valuable link building with guest posts will help your ranking.

#5 Focus on Local

Local SEO today is a totally different animal.

Google has more heavily incorporated traditional web ranking signals into its ranking algorithm, giving well-optimized websites a major edge in local searchs. Local searches have become more common and more location-specific over the last few years, thanks to mobile devices.

Prioritization of Mobile

Mobile devices have exploded in popularity since the iPhone first emerged in 2007, and Google emphasizes the importance of optimizing websites for those mobile users. In 2015, mobile queries officially surpassed desktop queries in Google search. Optimizing for mobile is not just common, but a necessity these days, in no small part due to Google’s insistences.

“Google has been rolling out updates that will soon make mobile search the primary index, and the fact that nearly 60% of searches are now coming from mobile devices, the shift to a mobile-first approach has become a top priority when developing and executing SEO strategies.”   - Revecka JalladDivisa

The quiet death of keywords

Google killed off the practice of keyword stuffing, but a smaller, more curious update in 2013 has been the quiet death of keyword optimization altogether. This update introduced semantic search, Google’s way of deciphering user intent rather than mapping out individual keywords and phrases. Even though keyword-centric optimization doesn’t work the same way, keyword research is still relevant, as it can help guide your strategic focus and provide opportunities.

Here’s a quick Chart of Old School vs. New School SEO Strategy

Old School SEO (late 1990s-late 2000s)

New School SEO (early 2010s-forward)

Ranking for all keywords

Rank for relevant keywords

Use multiple variations of the same keyword

Keywords are secondary to content

Keyword stuffing

Use keywords sparingly

Continuously reuse evergreen content

Write new, relevant content

Put links, keywords, and tags into footer

Use a clean footer with important information

Cloaking (one page to search engine, another to users)

Never employ black hat SEO practices

Overusing internal links with same anchor text

Only employ internal links when pertinent, use anchor text that fits within content

Dedicated pages for every keyword variant, separate microsites, and domains

Appropriate landing pages for content, but no additional pages to rank

Unstrategic linkbait to get users to click

Appropriate titles that draw users in

Here is another useful resource: Keyword Discovery

Keyword Discovery provides access to the biggest keyword database derived from all the search engines. Access to search phrases that people use to find products and services, as well as the search terms that drive traffic to your competitors.


Jayson DeMers, 8 ways SEO has changed in the past 10 years

Brandon Gaille, Infographic, 10 Big Ways SEO has Changed Over the Past Decade

Forbes Agency Council, 11 Recent Changes Impacting SEO

Reuven Shechter, Chart, Old School vs. New School SEO Strategy

Tags: digital marketing, website design, methadology, web browser, research, SEO, search engine optimization, targeted content, mobile marketing, website development, search engine