While the value and importance of SEO have remained pretty constant over the years, the past decade has brought about a number of enormous changes to the search marketing landscape. Quite simply, to follow the rules of 2006 today would most likely result in your website being penalised to such an extent that it would fall off the face of the SERP rankings once and for all. And of course, the changes to Google’s rulebook continue to come thick and fast, even today.
But in terms of the most significant changes of all, what has Google rolled out of the past 10 years that has changed the face of SEO forever?
1. Content Focus
Well, first of all there’s the way in which content has become the be all and end all in Google’s book. Which to a degree makes perfect sense, given the fact that Google’s job is to point search engine users to the best sites for their needs. Rather than those that simply use all the right keywords, it’s now a case of content quality, depth and relevance that make all the difference when it comes to assigning SERP rankings.
2. Keywords Culled
Speaking of which, there was a time when repeating the phrase “painting company in Bradford” a thousand times across your website would do a pretty good job of ensuring you were picked up for this exact search term. These days, doing anything of the sort will only ever result in massive penalties. Instead, today’s SEO landscape is erring more toward long-tail keyword phrases and natural, speech-based search terms, with keyword stuffing having been outlawed in a big way.
3. Links Lambasted
Not in all instances, as quality links are now of greater value and importance than they ever were. However, attempting in any way to influence your own SERP score by faking, buying or generally spamming the web with backlinks represents an SEO crime that does not go unnoticed. Google had already clamped down on dodgy link-building practices by the turn of the decade – today they’re even stricter still.
4. The Rise of Local
Another meteoric change in terms of Google’s primary SEO focus has been that of local SEO. Now more than ever, the massive shift among consumers to mobile search has prompted Google to concentrate on local listings – i.e. the brands and businesses in the immediate vicinity of those carrying out mobile searches. As such, those focusing their SEO efforts on their own locality (as opposed to the entire world) are often finding themselves scoring and ranking far better with Google.
5. Mobile Focus
Speaking of which, Google is already well into its on-going program of giving extra credit to those who deliver a superb mobile experience, while at the same time punishing those who fail to cater to mobile audiences. Realistically though, no online brand or business should need to be reminded exactly how important it is these days to pay complete and total attention to the rise of mobile.
6. On-going Updates
Last but not least, in terms of the way Google rolls out its algorithm updates, this is also something that has changed significantly. Previously, it was a case of annual or sometimes bi-annual updates of titanic relevance, which overnight would often see thousands of businesses plummet from the rankings and in many cases be wiped out. These days, Google is making small but steady changes to the way it does business on a pretty constant basis. Which in turn means a wholly less dramatic impact for those in business online, not to mention plenty of opportunity to turn things around if you suddenly become aware you’re not in fact playing by the rules.