Few channels have changed as much as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in the recent years. Previously, SEO was mostly about stuffing content with keywords even when unnecessary, opting for paid spam backlinks to increase relevance and until your page ranked well. Now, Google has come up with updates which weeded out all that. With the rise of mobile devices and constant evolution of mobile devices, how has SEO changed over the years??
Content and On-Page SEO
Earlier, the content for a website used to be optimized using strategic placement of keywords relevant to the subject. Four to five keywords used to be selected and the various elements of the website such as URL, Meta Tags, Meta-Descriptions etc. used to be optimized accordingly. But over the years, Google has steadily refined what it considers to be “good content” with the ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ updates tweaking their backlink search policy and the latest ‘Hummingbird’ update searching for semantics instead of keywords to rank pages. This has shifted SEO focus to content marketing and promotion, specifically, who creates the highest quality content which people read the most.
Earlier, SEO practices used to focus only on the desktop as it was predominantly the device used to access internet webpages. But due to the explosion of smartphones and other mobile devices in the recent years, SEO activities have had to expand themselves to accommodate them as well. In 2015, mobile traffic officially surpassed the desktop traffic and so, it has important for SEO to optimize mobile experience facets such as load time, user friendliness of UI, app performance etc.
With the latest updates, Google has sounded the death knell for ‘Link Schemes’, claiming that any deliberate attempt to increase page ranking will be penalized. This is because Linking Scheme was a significant means of manipulating page rank in the old days. The more links you had, the better you ranked. So a keyword rich anchor text combined with paid links from a high ranked website with questionable reputation went a long way in helping your page rank higher. But now, quality is given precedence over quantity and links from spam websites are discarded, maintaining a healthy link portfolio.
In the olden days, it was easy to spam the local SEO by incorporating keywords into the business name, getting links from spam directories, fudging the business location and so on. But, with the latest ‘Pigeon’ update with its modern ‘3-pack’ layout from Google, local page rank is considered only based on positive reviews and visibility from high authority directory websites.
In 2012, the Panda and Penguin updated from Google killed the practice of keyword stuffing. Since 2013, Google has been using another update called the “Hummingbird” which essentially aims to make usage of keywords obsolete. With this update, Google aims to use semantic search which focuses on the meaning of the search query and the website content instead of correlating the keyword with the highest ranking page with the same keyword. So even though keyword based optimization doesn’t work the same, it still can influence focus and provide ranking opportunities.
Before Facebook, Twitter and Google+, sharing used to be primarily through E-Mails and private messages, areas that fell largely outside the scope of SEO. But now, social media platforms are ubiquitous with a large share of the public on it. So, SEO activities must include content promotion and customer engagement to enhance brand exposure and connect brands with their consumer. Content engagement from the audience in Google+ itself has been shown to have a great impact on page ranking on the Google results, as the social media platform and the search engine are very closely linked.
An SEO’s responsibilities have changed dramatically over the years, from traditional optimization to focusing more on customer engagement and content marketing. With elimination of most of the black-hat techniques, SEO is now more about optimizing the brand’s web properties to attract customers through all stages of the customer journey.