It’s hard to imagine a world without search engines. Even though they are only two decades old, search engines have given people superpowers with unlimited knowledge at their fingertips. And with this endless source of knowledge, many things in our lives have changed.
Search engines have changed how we discover information. They've changed how we connect with friends and family. And most importantly, they've changed how we look for goods and services. No longer are we waiting to stumble on an ad to realise we need something -- we're actively seeking out information online about products and services we want to buy.
These changing consumer behaviors have led to explosive growth in the field of SEO as businesses looked to capitalise on potential customers searching for information related to their product or services online. Today, there are almost a million people on LinkedIn with SEO in their job title.
But as SEO has evolved, a growing division has grown between those people in marketing who try to stay within Google’s guidelines (as best they can), and those who try to beat the algorithm. So the search engines reacted by changing their algorithms -- many times. Google wants reward companies who develop brands and put their customers first. They want businesses to create valuable content and earn brand signals (links and social shares). But there are still some people who think that the only way to get to the top of Google is through tricks, schemes, and spam.
The constant state of change in search has people questioning the importance of SEO at all. Just this week a major news publication questioned if SEO was dead.
To help us make sense of the SEO world today, we decided to go back in time. In the SlideShare below, we chart some of the biggest events in the history of SEO over the past two decades -- all which helped shape the SEO industry we know today. From the big news stories caused by Google updates, to some of the lesser-known facts about the SEO evolution, the SlideShare shows us just how far SEO has come.
So What is SEO Today?
Looking back at the history of SEO, we can see how much marketing strategies have changed to adapt to search engine algorithms. Today, Google wants to reward companies who focus less on gaming algorithms and more on creating value for their leads and customers. A strategy Google would love today includes:
- A website with an amazing user experience. One that keeps people coming back for more because it’s been developed with your potential and existing customers in mind.
- Content that is designed for a certain group of people; people who have shared goals, pain points, and challenges (we call these buyers personas). Content that’s available in the right place at the right time, so it’s helpful and relevant, not interruptive.
- Social channels that are used to communicate with customers to help them and make them happy.
If I focused on those things, would I have a good SEO strategy? Would I start to capture more traffic from Google? Of course I would, because I am building a brand and we all know what Eric Schmidt from Google thinks about brands (and if you don’t, you might want to take another look at the SlideShare above ;) ).
Today, if you’re a search engine agency or a company focusing on inbound marketing, it’s the focus on “SEO” in the traditional sense that could be leading your results astray. Look beyond the technical nitty gritty of what you’ve always done and think about the bigger picture:
- When planning your keyword strategy, think about your buyer personas and what keywords are relevant to them. What language do they use to search for information that’s relevant to your products or services? Use that language in your website copy and blog posts.
- Have a clear understanding of who you’re trying to attract to your site. This will help you create a lovable user experience. Spend time looking at areas of your site with low engagement and high bounce rate. Are there opportunities to improve this? Traffic from mobile devices is growing at a crazy rate. Have you checked your analytics to find out how much traffic you’re getting from mobile? If it’s significant, you need to consider the user experience of your mobile site as well.
- Is your content developed with your dream customers in mind or are you using low quality sources to just create lots of content to target keywords? Content is really important. The right content will help solve problems for people. It will provide them with something of real value. It will live beyond your website. People will share it with their social networks; they will bookmark it and refer friends to it. Content should help you attract links, make sales, and reduce business costs.
- Relationships with influencers are a key part of any marketing strategy. The PR industry has known this for years, but search engine companies are more than capable of developing those relationships in a completely different way. Richard Baxters (from SEOGadget) targeted outreach process for your content can result in a lot of links, social shares, and referrals.
- Marketing is all about communication now. Are you using social channels to delight your customers? This is an important part of developing yourself into a real brand. To do that, you obviously need the right social tools.
If the history of SEO has taught us anything, it's the world of SEO is getting bigger -- it's no longer just about the right keywords. SEO companies are more than capable of making that shift. A lot of the SEO experts already are. SEO companies need to wake up and smell the coffee; it’s a new a day in search.
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Originally published Jul 30, 2013 4:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017