Happy 2020! With the dawning of a new decade, we all tend to look back on the past and review the highlight reel – understanding what went right, what changed, and where the best ideas came from are terrific ways to prepare for what’s to come.
The 2010s changed the landscape of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), therefore changing the way we do business. With one eye on the future, let’s take a step back into the past to see the ways SEO has evolved over the last ten years—and highlight how you can utilize this information today.
When SEO appeared on the scene around 1997, keyword stuffing and excessive tagging were the names of the game. However, we’ve learned to steer away from those practices in the 2010s. The Google Panda launch in 2011 changed the way results were ranked, bringing high-quality content to the forefront of Google (and thus flagging pages with too many keywords as suspicious). In 2013, the algorithm changed again, this time analyzing a user’s intent behind a query—otherwise known as “semantic search.” This algorithm, called Hummingbird, presently affects 90% of all searches, making it more important than ever to know the audience you’re targeting—right down to the precise words and phrases they search for.
Takeaway: Don’t overuse keywords and know the search terms your target audience is using. Please pay special attention to long-tail keywords and creating unique, quality content for them to live in.
In order to combat any “get-links quick” schemes that some people used to trick Google into thinking they had a high amount of online traffic visiting their sites (such as buying backlinks or including themselves in link directories), Google launched its Penguin algorithm in 2012. This algorithm effectively penalizes websites for using shady link-building strategies. All links included on webpages need to be relevant and valuable to receive a ranking from Google (and not be penalized).
Takeaway: Create quality content (for which you are an expert) that generates natural link attraction and spend time focusing on earning guests posts and links with other valuable users and sites.
In the SEO of the 2010s (and today), having quality content on websites became more and more important. With Google cracking down on link strategies and keywords needing to be fine-tuned, it made sense that online content would undergo a similar critique, needing to be excellent in order to rise to the top. Mark-downs for spelling and grammar errors, plagiarized content, and irrelevant information factored into Google rankings, so sub-par content was quickly filtered out.
Takeaway: Don’t feature duplicate content (from others or from yourself), invest in great writers and editors, and prove that you are an authority for your brand by staying relevant and valuable.
In 2014, Google further revamped the way we do SEO with the Pigeon Update. This algorithm improved Google’s distance and location-ranking parameters and provided users with local search results that were more useful, accurate, and relevant. Targeting the local community and ideal audiences became that much easier, giving a relevant boost to well-optimized websites.
Additionally, with social media usage steadily on the rise, it makes sense that connecting social and SEO strategies grew in importance in the 2010s. It’s becoming increasingly more common for businesses to have a presence on social media and is key to any company’s brands. Utilizing social media establishes trust and authority and boosts traffic and value for your site, which then allows for higher Google rankings.
Takeaway: Center your sights on your local audience and make sure you’re using (and staying up-to-date with) the right social channels for your brand.
“Go mobile or go home,” the saying should be. In 2015, Google ranked mobile-friendly websites higher than mobile-unfriendly ones, and in 2018, Mobile-First Indexing was introduced. Google now creates search listings based on the mobile version of a website’s performance. Gone are the days when optimizing for mobile was an option—now, it’s a necessity.
Takeaway: Have a specific mobile-search strategy in addition to a desktop-search one. Make sure every page on your site is adjusted to fit on mobile and tablet screens and be aware that voice search factors into SEO, as well.
Understanding how SEO has grown and changed over the last ten years will allow you to enter the 2020s on a strong note. Don’t forget the past as you look forward to the trends of the future, and you’ll always stay a savvy online marketer.