The Changing Face Of SEO

by Allana Grant

4 months ago

The changing face of SEO

Nowadays, we live in a world where marketing channels are constantly evolving; however, very few have changed quite as quickly or dramatically as search engine optimisation. SEO, as it is more commonly known, has progressed at such a rate over the last decade that it is now considered to be one of the most effective, influential tools digital marketers have at their disposal.

Google is the world’s acclaimed authority on all things SEO, a position which it made its own in the early 2000s. Back then, the practice of SEO was basically centred on building up a huge collection of back links and stuffing in keywords in order to manipulate how well a business ranked on a search engine. However, Google’s commitment to innovation and to stamping out these so-called ‘Black Hat SEO Practices’, coupled with advances in digital technology, has revolutionised the way digital marketers approach SEO.

Keywords in decline

The ways in which SEO practices have changed are too many to cover in this post, so let’s look in greater depth at four of the most significant ones.

As we have already mentioned, in years gone by, SEO revolved around the use of keywords: search engines would essentially break down content into keywords and index them accordingly. If your webpage did not include a given keyword, then it simply would not appear in the results for any search stream containing that word.

This simplistic way of indexing lead to the widespread use of a practice known as keyword stuffing, (cramming every field on a webpage with keywords to rank higher in search results), which forced search engines such as Google to take action to ensure no-one was gaining an unfair advantage by means of manipulation. It released the Panda update in 2011 which included guidelines on link building and keywords that we still use today.

This, in conjunction with the more recent Hummingbird update, which introduced us to the wonders of semantic search, has effectively ended keyword stuffing.

In doing so however, it has to a certain extent diminished the power and usefulness of keywords. Don’t misunderstand us, keywords are still very much a necessary part of SEO and keyword research remains hugely important; however, an optimiser has to choose them with greater care these days, in order to reap the best results. As well as which, keyword density is no longer top of their list of priorities.

Quality content is king

As the role of keywords in SEO has been gradually diminishing down the years, we have seen a distinct shift of focus towards producing high quality content.

All too often in the past, when businesses employed someone to take care of their SEO, much time and effort was spent building vast quantities of links; with little attention paid to the quality of the text on the page. This Status Quo began to change gradually in the wake of Panda; as Google increasingly emphasized the value of creating content which satisfies a brand’s target audience. Creating relevant content which is useful, informative and engaging ultimately encourages potential customers to visit a given site and share it with friends and family. Google has accordingly updated its algorithm to reward those sites who have taken time and care to produce high quality content; ranking them higher in search results. Sites with slapdash content that is riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, or features content copied from other pages, are also now penalised; appearing much further down listings or being de-indexed entirely in some cases.

Mobile is the future

Over the last decade, the way consumers access content has changed greatly. We have witnessed an increasing shift from desktop to mobile and last year, mobile devices overtook desktop as the primary means for accessing websites.

In addition to which, Google reported in 2015 that mobile searches had exceeded desktop searches for the first time.

Optimizing a website for mobile use is not yet a requirement, but it is something which Google strongly advises should be done; especially given that recent research indicated that people are five times more likely to leave a site if it is not mobile friendly.

In an effort to create a better user experience for this mobile generation, Google is continually working to promote the importance of optimizing websites for mobile users, as well as which, it plans to enforce a mobile-friendly update in the coming years. As it stands, its algorithms penalize sites that generate errors for mobile users.

For those digital marketers who are getting on board with the mobile trend, they have had to rethink the way they construct their SEO strategies and they are now employing responsive design techniques to serve the same content to mobile and desktop users using a fluid grid and a flexible design which automatically adapts to the size of a user's screen. Many have even gone so far as to build a whole new site, specifically for mobile devices.

The emergence of Google Analytics

The final thing we are going to talk about which has impacted SEO practices significantly is Google Analytics. Released in 2005, the free web analytics programme is now regarded as the industry standard, and is an integral part of most digital marketer’s SEO strategies. It helps businesses connect with and better understand their target audiences by providing comprehensive statistics on the behaviours they exhibit when they visit a site. It allows businesses to track everything from who visits their site to how long they stay there and even what they click on.