Because of the constant changes in Google’s search algorithm (other search engines are available), search engine optimization is always in flux. Read on to see how SEO has changed, and improved, over time.
Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past
In the early days of the World Wide Web, 'webmasters' would severely overuse, or 'stuff', keywords into their web pages to have the pages rank higher. The resulting text was an unreadable mess, but it seemed to work for a while.
They would also use other techniques to keyword stuff, such as making the keyword text invisible to the reader, and sometimes they would place the keywords into the code too. Fortunately, Google eventually caught on and adjusted the algorithm.
Today Google, and other search engines, ‘reward’ websites that use natural keyword placement. It is also common practice today to use keyword synonyms and keyword phrases (properly and naturally placed).
Quality over quantity
Along with how keywords were utilized, there was also a change in the way that content was written. Previously, there was a focus on the quantity of the written content, as opposed to its quality.
For instance, websites would have page after page of completely irrelevant content, often duplicated, and it was usually very poorly written too.
Websites could easily rank this way for certain keywords, for a while at least, despite the fact the content was low-quality, duplicated and irrelevant. Because Google was, and still is, the dominant search engine it was highly likely that Google took users to these sites.
Google’s main income comes from advertising, so these types of results made them look bad and advertisers started to use other methods and services. It quickly became in Google’s best interests to make these websites rank lower in favor of better, more relevant content.
Mobile became a priority
Over the last ten years or so, there has been a shift in focus for search engines, from desktop to mobile. This is because more people browse on mobile phones these days, and so search engines began to reward mobile-friendly websites.
More and more websites, over the last few years, have been optimizing their websites for mobile (as well as desktop) to cater for the way the majority of people now search the web.
It is very rare now that you will find a website that is not is mobile optimized, but you may come across a few sites that are not optimized very well - these are thankfully few and far between.
One thing to note before we move on is that Google now uses the mobile version of your site, not the desktop version, for indexing and ranking - this makes it even more important that your website is taking a mobile-first approach.
Local search became a thing
One of the most important evolutionary changes in search in the last few years was the focus on local search. By embracing the change in the way search engines put a focus on local search, businesses open up more opportunities for themselves. GMB (Google My Business) allows bricks and mortar businesses to create a profile with the specific aim of ranking in local searches for their business type and/or products.
Together with the huge increase in local search there comes even more opportunity for keyword and keyphrase optimization. Businesses can now optimize their website content for location-specific searches and this helps them more easily reach their intended audience.
Link schemes came to an end
In the early days of the web, and so SEO, a lot of webmasters participated in link building ‘schemes’ that would generate, potentially, huge numbers of fake links - thus increasing the website’s ranking. Like all nefarious tactics, Google caught on and began to penalize these websites in various ways such as banning sites or de-listing those that take part in these schemes.
Google rewards, values even, those sites that gain links that point to their website in natural, organic ways. Common, legitimate, link building strategies include making guest posts on other sites or garnering backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites.
Search has come a very long way, and it is easier than ever to find the relevant, high-quality content or answers that you search for. In part, we have unscrupulous practices to thank for that.