In the constantly changing and evolving landscape of search engine optimisation, taking a moment to consider past developments informs today's SEO and where it may be headed in the future.
In this post, we take a look at how SEO has evolved over the last decade.
What is SEO?
Firstly, you might ask, what on earth is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
In a nutshell, SEO is the art of getting more traffic on your website, or simply put, how to bring more internet users to your website by ranking higher in search engine results.
Back In The Good Old Days..
Reflecting on how things have evolved over the time span of my own professional career ( I graduated in 2007 with a Master's Degree in Translation, Interpreting and Localisation (ie Multilingual Website Design)) I can recall a very different Google than the behemoth it is today. To give you some idea, access to a good old gmail Gmail account was exclusive, and users had to be referred by an existing user in order to open a Gmail account, which back then blocked any incoming spam...how times have changed!
Ten years ago when I was a post-graduate student, our SEO studies were distilled to a couple of key principles:
- Intense use of "Meta tags" (ie hidden keywords in the website architecture)
- Building the site in HTML 4, according to the W3C (ie the organisation that sets the standards for the World Wide Web) and avoiding Flash at all costs. Flash was indeed very exciting and made your site look good, with a lot of options for animations, hence creating a dynamic page. However, any content built with Flash was basically invisible to Google. The web was populated with amazing looking sites, however, they were almost impossible to find if you did not know the direct url.
- Using as many "Black Hat" (ie non ethical) SEO techniques as possibles such as using irrelevant but trending keywords just to get traffic, stuffing your image descriptions with keywords, using popular links, using hidden text (or tiny text), copying content from another website, spamming blogs in the comment section to increase your own traffic etc etc...
Fast Forward to 2018
Fast forward 10 years or so and this "keyword centric" approach has radically changed. Best practice ("White Hat") approaches now focus more on the quality of content and the lexicon around the keywords being used, rather than the quantity of metatags.
The Evolution of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page)
Another aspect of SEO that drastically changed over this period is the SERP (Search Engine Result Page). Previously when searching a term, all SERPs would return a list of websites and images with cached terms and would not include many, if any, returns on video channels, it was all straight text based results (remember Youtube was in its infancy phase). Nowadays, search engine results include a whole lot more, including images, videos, Google advertising and 'rich snippets' to name a few.
The nexus from which a search term will pull relevant material has expanded so considerably from the days in which it was nothing more than a keyword, that returns will even factor in a user's behaviour, learning from successful searches and pulling metadata such as a user's location, search history and preferences.
The Role Of The SEO Expert
As such, the role of SEO experts has also changed. Ten years ago, such job titles were fairly rare and only a few studying Web Design knew this was an actual option after university. SEO has now become crucial aspect of digital strategy for many businesses. SEO specialists have a wide array of tools they can use to optimise their website (analytics, crawlers...). Not only that but they also need to have a very good understanding of webmarketing, content creation and users' experience.
So What Happens Now
As to what lies ahead, we can expect the practice of SEO to keep evolving as it has for the last ten years; adapting to the new algorithms and technologies with the main goal to be ever compliant with the optimisation of different search engines and above all, satisfy the users' changing needs, demands and behaviours (searches on mobiles will exceed traditional computer base searches - if that is not already the case.) For all we know, search engines might also eventually learn so much from us that they might turn into a big encyclopedia and provide answers without resorting to websites, rendering SEO completely obsolete.
Time will tell.
On that cheerful note, thanks for reading and we will see you next time for more social and digital discussion on Get Social.