Do you remember the time when all that search engine optimization required was relevant keywords crammed into content? 

Those were the good ol’ days of search engine optimization (SEO), a time long before multiple SEO changes when website owners didn't need to bother with providing useful content or an enjoyable user experience to get traffic and lofty rankings in results pages. While there were many websites back then that provided valuable content, they all took a backseat to fully “optimized” sites when it comes to rankings in the SERPs, and it didn’t matter if their “content” was mostly unhelpful.

Then the search engines—Google in particular—implemented massive algorithm changes that changed the face of Search Engine Optimization forever.

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Black Hat To White Hat SEO

With the advent of Penguin, Panda, and all subsequent changes to Google’s algorithm, what was considered “normal” SEO back in the day became black hat SEO.  Keyword stuffing, spammy links, duplicate content, link buying, and article spinning now fall under the black hat category, and all of them can earn websites penalties that can wreak havoc on their rankings.


A Renewed Focus on User Experience

With Google and the other search engines clamping down on black hat SEO practices, webmasters the world over were forced to up their game—with generally favourable results.

Today, webmasters (most of them anyway) try their best to offer only quality content, be it written or otherwise. Unlike in the past, webmasters now put a premium on providing visitors what they want or need.


Many webmasters today also do what they can with their web design to make using their site more convenient for users. With sites like Airbnb and Boosted that have clear navigation elements, appropriate fonts, and faster loading times, the user experience is undoubtedly enhanced. This is a good thing, especially since Google has already declared user experience as a significant search engine ranking factor.


More Diverse Content

In the past, hearing the word “content” automatically meant written content. While content made up of sentences and paragraphs still pretty much make up the bulk of what websites have to offer, infographics, streaming video, and photographic content now enjoy a prominent a place under the Internet sun, and are just as sought-after as the written word.

With the full range of mediums available today, webmasters have in their hands a number of options that will help satisfy not only their visitors, but Google et al. as well.


Search Engines and Users Have Gotten Smarter

Compared to the Google that SEOs took advantage of years ago, today’s Google has become a whole lot smarter with the way it provides searchers the kind of information that comes closest to what they’re looking for. The same goes for most search engine users, who have become so much more adept at using the right keywords when using search engines.


Quality Backlinks

The importance of backlinks to SEO has never waned, but there have been changes to how Google perceives them.

In the past, Google put a premium on the number of inbound links, and even encouraged webmasters to acquire as many of them as they can.

Google has since wised up after years of tolerating websites that were loaded with links acquired through link farms, link buying, and other unscrupulous tactics. When Google lowered the boom with its algorithm tweaks, numerous websites with unnatural, low authority, or paid backlinks were penalized and practically banished from the top of the SERPs, and rightly so.

Today, the focus is on the quality of the backlinks, not the quantity. Webmasters must strive to get high-quality links from high authority sites to get noticed by the search engines.


The Rise of Voice Search


With Amazon’s success with Echo/Alexa, it would only be a matter of time before all the other players in the smart speaker market manage to catch up. And with more people expected to snap up smart speakers in the future, we can now see voice searches making up a significant percentage of the total number of Internet searches a few years down the line. SEOs are beginning to optimize for voice search, and they aren’t likely going to stop.


Mobile SEO

People who access the Internet using smartphones and tablets now outnumber desktop users, and the gap is only going to get wider as the years go by. If SEO didn’t pay much attention to mobile a few years ago, they sure are now, especially with Google launching its Mobile-First Index earlier this year. Mobile SEO is now a major thing and will continue to be as the number of mobile searches explodes.


SEO Changes: In Summary

SEO has seen a lot of changes since its beginnings in the late 90s, but many of the elements that were in play then are still important today. For all its advancements, SEO still holds keyword research, link-building, meta info, etc. dear. However, with high-quality content and user experience now a priority, we can safely say that, in its 20-odd years of existence, SEO has indeed come a long way.

Are you looking for support in growing monthly traffic to your website? At Profitworks, we support small businesses in getting their websites noticed by maximizing their search engine optimization. Contact our team today to find out how we can help or download our free, Ultimate SEO Checklist to get started!