It seemed like only yesterday when SEO was primarily concerned with keyword stuffing and keyword research to get those rankings for their websites.
What an easy life optimization specialists had back then because few of them paid any attention to the quality of their content and still got the prime rankings that they wanted.
Then again, the only reason they ever got that far despite the absence of quality content is that search engines—mainly Google—were not that stringent with their rules.
Their bots back then were easily tricked into giving sites high rankings as long as they had a lot of keywords.
Sites that offered great and engaging content but carried too few keywords languished at the bottom of the search engine result pages or SERPs.
However, nothing lasts forever, and the happy days of SEO practitioners who have benefitted from gaming search engines for years came to a crashing end with the advent of algorithm changes that transformed the face of SEO.
Panda and Penguin
With Google aggressively implementing major algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin a few years ago, many websites that have been striking SEO gold for years suddenly found themselves disappearing from the top of the SERPs.
The fall of these websites can be directly attributed to the algorithm changes that target and penalize sites that got too comfortable with spammy backlinks, keyword stuffing, link farms, duplicate content, and article spinning, all of which are now classified as black hat SEO techniques.
Many SEO practices that used to be prevalent in the industry could now get your site in trouble if you’re ever caught doing any of it today.
You will be at the receiving end of penalties which will impact rankings, among other things.
Focus on UX
The crackdown on black hat SEO has pushed webmasters to do better, and the results are downright encouraging.
The quality of website content has vastly improved, and webmasters all over are now doing what they can to make the user experience as pleasant as they can make it.
User experience, often referred to as UX, is now a major SEO ranking factor according to Google, and it only makes sense for webmasters to make providing visitors what they want or need a priority.
To benefit from Google’s UX drive, webmasters provide not just high-quality content, but also a website that boasts of, among other things, clear navigation elements, faster loading times, and appropriate fonts.
SEOs today have also been focusing on long-tail keywords that serve user intent better. All of these enhance the user experience and make people stay longer.
Smarter users and search engines
Search engine users now know precisely what they want, and they’re showing it with the types of queries they now confidently type into the search bar.
In place of short, specific keywords, users can now type in long queries that may even come in the form of a question.
Even better is the fact that Google et al. have also gotten a lot smarter.
Gone are the days when typing in specific keywords got you results that are too general and don’t have much to do with whatever it is that you’re looking for.
Today, search engines have no problems processing long and very specific queries and coming up with the most accurate results it can provide for any particular search.
Over the years, SEO has seen a lot of earthshaking changes, but backlinks remained largely untouched.
They are, after all, an important indicator of the credibility of a given website.
More importantly, backlinks still impact your rankings on Google, and that is why they are still very much in play when it comes to SEO.
These days, however, there appears to be a shift towards getting more quality backlinks instead of just getting as many backlinks as you can, which, incidentally, was encouraged by Google just a few years ago.
A backlink is considered quality if it comes from a high domain authority website that both search engines and searchers trust.
Then again, the quantity vs. quality backlinks debate is still raging on, with advocates claiming their side helps websites rank better.
It may still take years before this issue is definitively settled.
The rise of voice search
By 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches.
That is the prediction of ComScore, and the growing popularity of smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo/Alexa is pointing towards it becoming a reality.
By then, countless people will only have to say things out loud when performing their searches, and that’s why SEOs will have to optimize for voice search as well.
Content has become more diverse
For the longest time, we have equated online content with the written word.
Things, however, have changed. Sure, the primary content of websites remains to be articles and the like, but webmasters have seen fit to provide a much more diverse array of offerings for their audiences.
Infographics, which are so much easier to digest than articles that run for a few thousand words, are quite in-demand.
The same goes for stunning photography and streaming video, whose popularity continues to rise with each passing day.
Compared to twenty years ago, Internet users these days are indeed fortunate with the wealth of easily-accessible content.
The rise of mobile
Responsive web design is all the rage today, thanks to the fact that mobile users have long surpassed the number of desktop users.
While it’s true that many websites still don’t display well on mobile devices, the widening gap between mobile and desktop and the ever-increasing benefits of mobile responsiveness will eventually make it the standard for web designers and SEOs alike.
There have been many changes in SEO over the last few years, and we haven’t seen the last of them.
If anything, there will only be more of it in the future. Those in the industry will have to keep up with the constantly changing face of SEO.
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