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How SEO Has Changed Over a Decade


Do you remember what the first website you ever visited looked like? If it was anytime in the 90s, odds are the page was nothing more than black text on a white background, with big blue links to click on. It’s hard to imagine a time when search engines were this limited. Today, we use the Internet for everything from communicating with relatives to the creation of the international space station.

As search engines have grown, so has the field of search engine optimization (SEO). Years ago, if you a business wanted a page to appear above others on a Google search, they would spammy strategies to game the system and get their pages shown at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Today, thanks to Google algorithm changes and a shift in consumer opinion, old SEO practices are a thing of the past. Here are just a few ways SEO has changed over the past decade.

Panda: Quality Over Quantity

Just a few years ago, companies could increase their Google ranking with repetitive content and back-end keyword stuffing. While it was good for the website’s ranking, it left consumers with nonsensical and often inaccurate information. But all that ended when Google introduced the Panda update. After Panda, a website was judged on the overall content of every page, rather than frequency of certain keywords.

Panda brought social media and news sites higher in their rankings, while lowering spammy or ad-filled sites. For the average consumer, this was a welcome change, but to advertisers, it meant a complete overhaul of typical SEO practices.

Google Penguin Update SEOPenguin: Higher Standards for Links

As long as Google continues to upgrade its algorithms, SEO practices will have to change along with them. In 2012, just one year after introducing Panda, Google unveiled Penguin. Penguin made it more difficult for sites to increase their rankings by spamming or buying link chains.

Over the years, Penguin has become a core aspect of Google’s algorithm and continues to change. In 2016, Google released Penguin 4.0. Many analysts see the newest update as a positive change, as it now allows sites to be re-crawled in real time after they had been updated.

Hummingbird Update: Searches with Better Context

In September 2013, Google released Hummingbird. Named for the “speed and precision” of a hummingbird, this update revolutionized search queries. Before Hummingbird, Google searched for each individual word in the sentence or question, regardless of what words came before or after it. Words with double meaning, slang, and colloquial terms were usually omitted, or led to some pretty strange, unrelated sites. With Hummingbird, Google considers context and the meaning behind the entire entry. It then searches the Internet for the best response to the question as a whole.

As Google continued to focus on content creation instead of keyword quantity, Hummingbird was the logical next step. Now, the top ranking results were the ones that read more conversationally and fluid.

RankBrain: More Relevant Content

Seen as a blessing and a curse, Google’s RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that tracks a user’s behavior and search intent online, and generates content that would intrigue that user. It can also make its own adjustments and optimizations to the core algorithm in real time and is always evolving. While RankBrain is certainly no “I, Robot,” many users were uncomfortable with the idea of their search history being tracked. Even more upset were the many companies whose ranking now depended on consumers’ personal preferences.

Mobile SEO: Higher Rankings for Mobile-Friendly Sites

In February of 2015, Google pre-announced their algorithm update, “Mobilegeddon,” which didn’t officially roll out until months later. The main takeaway from this update? The importance of a mobile-friendly website. Google later rolled out a mobile-friendly test that would help users see if their sites were in need of some tweaking. We soon saw many websites’ organic rankings drop if they weren’t properly optimized, and sites that were mobile-friendly rose in the SERPs.

Knowledge Graph: Quick Answers in Search

If you’ve ever looked up how many ounces are in a pound or how old a certain celebrity is, odds are you never even had to click on a link because the information popped right up in a knowledge graph or rich-snippet answer. Google began trying to simplify results in 2012 by providing users with a clear and distinctive answer to simple or frequently asked questions. The problem for SEO? These results usually appear above organic content. To combat this, businesses try to create content that can be easily featured as an answer to frequently asked, industry-specific questions.

Driven Local SEO WPO

SEO No Longer Stands Alone

Years ago, you would see the marketing team in one room and the SEO team in another. Today, SEO, marketing, and even public relations departments all work together to promote content that fully and honestly answers the questions of various target audiences.

Here at Scorpion, you get to work with a dedicated marketing team that is prepared to assist you with your SEO, as well as all your other Internet marketing needs. Talk to our team to learn how we can optimize your business’ online presence and drive more customers to your business!