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5 Ways SEO Has Evolved in the Past 10 Years

Claire Beutel, Senior SEO Strategist

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics have evolved dramatically in the past 10 years. With Google and other search engines continuously tweaking their ranking algorithms, making sure your website content and back-end source code keep up with the times is paramount. 

Only then can you capture attention on an on-going basis and turn prospects into customers. In this blog, part of our on-going SEO series, we take a look at five areas in which SEO has come a long way in the past 10 years.

1. More Sophisticated Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
SERPs used to simply render pages of traditional organic search results and paid ads in a way that was not all that visually appealing. But in recent years, search engines have emphasized local results in their rankings while adding organic search features—such as map packs, images, videos, facts, and knowledge graphs as well as sidebar boxes such as <People Also Ask> and <Quick Answers>. With so many options to get listed on the first page of a search (without having to pay), it all comes down to who can take up the most real estate among the different SERP sections.

The search engines also present SERP layouts in a more organized way and with much better visuals. Where your company shows up is dependent on your SEO strategy. That means properly formatting and structuring your content so you don’t get beat out in places like the <Quick Answers> space.

As Google algorithms like Panda, Penguin and Pigeon have evolved, Black Hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing no longer work. Search engines used to just look at the text on websites so that keyword stuffing would rank website pages high. But Google and other search engines now realize businesses are trying to trick the search engines, so they actually penalize for this practice. 

Alternatively, following general SEO best-practices will cause your web pages to appear in more SERPs, and you can structure content to take advantage of new SERP features. For example, using Image Alt Text along with the actual image will rank you higher in image searches. 

2. Search Engine Market Consolidation
Ten years ago, a couple dozen search engines were used by people regularly; now it’s down to a just a few, with Google dominating the market and garnering more than 90% of all Internet searches. Fewer search engines simplify the SEO game and reduce the workload on marketing teams. 

This is particularly true if you are using different tactics for each search engine, which you should since each one has its own nuances in the way it ranks website pages. At the same time, fewer search engines also means your SEO strategy must be more sophisticated to stand out from the competition. 

In addition to Google, you may want to tailor your web pages to rank high on other search engines, depending on the audience you are targeting. For example, Bing is proving effective at reaching older demographics since it’s pre-loaded onto devices using Microsoft Windows, and many users choose to use the search engine that’s already there on their desktops. 

Among other search engines, Yahoo still has a presence. And be sure to consider non-traditional search engines like YouTube, which is actually the second-leading search engine due to all the video content that the site has amassed. Another content aggregator that gets a lot of searches is Wikipedia, which impacts SEO from the standpoint of all the links the site contains.

3.  Local Search Results Gain Prominence
Local search results are becoming popular among smaller businesses that operate in a relatively small geographic area. In addition to end-users using the term <near me> more often in their searches, Google is increasingly basing search results on where people are physically located. Google constantly tweaks its local ranking algorithm so it’s important to monitor those changes and adjust the content on your website accordingly.

To improve local search results, you can customize your SEO tactics to sync with the location of your business—both the website front-end content and the back-end technical source code as well as the metadata. Another factor in localization rankings is the use of long-tail keyword phrases

For companies with many offices or stores spread across the U.S., it helps to build dedicated landing pages and/or separate websites for each individual location. Google is also good at presenting national results along with local results. Users will often see the national website pop-up alongside a local map pack showing the local store or office. 

Google My Business is another feature that impacts localization search results. It’s a service you need to register for with Google, and it gives you more control over of what shows up in the search results when someone searches on your business name.

4. The Rise of Mobile
Businesses used to build two separate sites, one for desktops and one for mobile devices. As mobile websites were sometimes slow, cutting off content or showing the wrong products, users were not getting the same experience as they were on desktops.

That prompted many businesses to adopt the Responsive Web Design approach, which enables web pages to render properly on a variety of devices and screen sizes. So rather than building two separate websites, business now just need one site that’s responsive to desktops but also shrinks elements to optimize navigation on mobile devices.

It’s vital to make sure your content loads quickly and correctly for mobile users and is easy to read because the use of mobile devices to search online goes up every year. Mobile devices have actually taken over from desktops as the primary source of searching. With mobile devices being used more than desktops for searches, Google has adopted a mobile-first index, scoring quality and ranking pages based on the way sites function from a mobile perspective. 

As part of your SEO strategy, keep in mind that people on mobile devices are more apt to conduct voice searches, which means you need to use natural language on your website. Mobile users are also less apt to be patient than desktops users as they are generally out-and-about, looking for answers quickly. To ensure mobile visitors stay with your site, consider which assets you really need to serve up and make sure image files are not too huge—the smaller the better!

5. How Quality Content Is Evaluated
Google keeps tweaking its algorithms, which shapes what quality content looks like from an SEO and organic search perspective. Google used to just crawl the text on website pages but realized users weren’t always happy with the results and were leaving the website pages quickly. 

This was due to many companies over-doing the use of keyword stuffing. But duplicative content from page-to-page will now cause Google to actually rank your website pages lower. So if you have products listed on multiple pages, or if products have similar descriptions, try to change them up a bit. 

Google is also penalizing websites that abuse inbound links by setting up link farms with other websites. Another practice to avoid is the use of outbound links that go to irrelevant websites or pages. Any links you leverage—inbound or outbound—must be pertinent to your content.

Google also wants to see quality content that’s unique from page to page. This can create a tricky challenge when trying to strike a balance between repeating your value proposition and avoiding the use of repeating words. It’s generally, it’s OK to duplicate paragraphs here and there, but don’t over-use individual words and short word strings.

The Evolution Will Continue
There’s no doubt that evolution will continue in all five of these areas as well as other facets of SEO. Google and other search engines are on a constant mission to deliver relevant results to their customers. That’s the only way they can ensure their customers will keep coming back.

To accomplish this mission, the search engines will scrutinize the content on your website with increasing granularity. That means marketing teams must tune into the latest SEO algorithms and evaluate just how easy it is for people to find the information they want when they visit your website. This not only helps you rank high among the search engines, but also helps you convert more website visitors into customers. 

This blog is part of an on-going series on Search Engine Optimization. Visit the start of the series here. In our next blog, we discuss SEO Myths to Know in 2019 to Improve Your Search Page Rankings. In the meantime, if you need assistance in evaluating your SEO strategy or in developing a new strategy to drive more prospects to your website, contact R2integrated at www.r2integrated.com/contact.

About the author: Claire Beutel

Claire Beutel offers over 10 years of experience in developing innovative SEO and marketing strategies across retail and e-commerce websites of all sizes. She has worked with a plethora of industries and business models, from the Denver Broncos to Aramark, implementing technical SEO recommendations and creating quality content that drives organic traffic and conversions. With a strong passion for increasing the quantity and quality of website traffic, Claire utilizes data-driven analysis to determine the best holistic strategy for businesses to achieve organic success.

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