First, it was the Panda algorithm update from Google that did away with basic websites that did not conform with their high user experience standards. Then, the Penguin update helped to reduce the prevalence of keyword stuffing, as it was no longer an effective ranking strategy. Since then, there have been other updates called Hummingbird and Possum, RankBrain, and Core that have helped to make SEO less predictable and manipulatable. As such, ethical SEO practitioners were rewarded as the spammy webpages that clogged up results were eliminated. So, what else have these changes in SEO practices over the past decade mainly consisted of?
The Weight of Website Authority Increased
The authority of a website can be measured in age, meaning how long the domain has been continuously registered and hosted. Website authority can also be measured in terms of popularity, such as the total number of daily visitors as well as the total amount of time they spend there. Authority is also measured by way of reliability and content quality. A website such as the Washington Post would have high reliability and content quality scores as it is a trusted source for news. Over the course of the last decade, website authority has become a huge factor in SEO and search engine rankings.
The Final Assault on Web Spam Began
For almost as long as the internet has existed, spam has been a nuisance. At one point, a search for a simple keyword phrase such as “new lawnmowers” would result in terrible, spam-filled results, none of which were relevant, helpful, or even safe to click on. Spammers would capitalize on the misspelled versions of popular keywords, pop-ups invaded computer screens without warning, and internet searches became more of a high-stakes bet than an innocent online shopping excursion. Then, search engines began eliminating spammy results. They introduced new tools for reporting websites engaging in spammy tactics, and fewer users even clicked on them anyway. Most internet searches today are relatively spam-free.
Keyword Virtually Become Obsolete
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a keyword is worth, well, perhaps another keyword, at best. Keywords used to make the internet search world go around, but that isn’t the case anymore. Keywords can help internet users to get to the right definition, or even find retailers, but context is important. What changed is that internet searches became more contextual. A keyword search isn’t going to lead all users to the same set of results anymore.
Mobile Search Results Were Rolled Out
Between 2010 and 2020, smartphone and mobile device usage went through the roof. Whereas smartphones might have only been used as communication devices before, they are now the primary way that most people access the internet worldwide. You yourself have likely noticed that search results appear differently on your smartphone than on your PC. There are fewer results on mobile search result pages, with all results being well suited for mobile phones. This means that websites have had to develop responsive pages and mobile compatible versions to even be included in search results.
User Intent Semi-Replaced Keywords
Whatever you type into search engines like Google and Bing, the content is being analyzed for intent more than the individual words included. This is a relatively new change in the SEO world, as keywords were viewed as being pretty cut and dry before. In addition to analyzing internet searches for intent, users are also now encouraged to submit feedback. If the results were not as expected, you have a chance to submit a report explaining what went wrong. This major change in SEO has really altered the landscape of internet searches.
The Widespread Application of the Term “Above the Fold’
Prior to 2010, if your website appeared in the top 10 results for virtually any keyword, you could assume that you were doing a pretty good job. Of course, being in that number 1 spot was and still is highly coveted, but everyone in the top 10 listings was essentially sharing the wealth. Then, further analysis was performed, and it was revealed that to be effective, you really wanted to land ‘above the fold.’ In its simplest terms, the fold refers to the last result that appears on a search engine result page, without scrolling down. In short, internet users are always in a hurry to get to the best results. And they can generally find what they want without even scrolling down to the fourth, fifth, or tenth result on a page.
Local Searches Were Streamlined and Implemented
Prior to the early 2010s, there really wasn’t such a thing as a local search. So, if you were looking for a florist to deliver flowers to your mother in Tampa, Florida, you might find one located in Washington, D.C., at the closest. Whatever website happened to rank highest for the keyword phrase “Tampa, Florida florist” would appear in the results, even if it did not have anything to do with florists, or Tampa, Florida, at all. Local searches weren’t perfect at first, especially as there can be towns with the same name all over the country, moreover, the world, but it did get better with time. You can now type the keyword “restaurant,” and all of your results will be based on your current location instead of it just being the most popular or well-known restaurants on the internet.
Over the last 10 years, some SEO practices have completely died out while new and intriguing kinds of search engine optimization strategies have been unveiled and embraced as the new golden standard. While there have been lots of changes, what has remained the same is the determined and dedicated attitude of the students of SEO. No singular person or firm will ever know precisely what is required to take a relatively unknown website to the number 1 search engine ranking position for a particular keyword, but they will never stop trying. SEO is an evolving art, and its practitioners are well suited to ride out any new developments that come their way.