Few marketing channels have evolved as quickly or as dramatically as search engine optimization (SEO). In its infancy, SEO was the shady practice of stuffing keywords, tweaking back-end code and spamming links until you started ranking well for the keywords you wanted. Thankfully, Google stamped out those practices pretty quickly, and its search algorithm has never really stopped evolving.
Much of Google’s foundation was in place by the mid-2000s, but how has its algorithm — and as a result, our approach to SEO — changed in the past 10 years?
1. The rise of content
First, there’s the rise of content marketing as part of a successful SEO strategy. Google has steadily refined what it considers to be “good” content over the years, but it was the Panda update in 2011 that served as the death blow to spammy content and keyword stuffing.
After Panda, it was virtually impossible to get away with any gimmicky content-based tactics, such as favoring a high quantity of content while forgoing quality and substance. Instead, the search engine winners were ones who produced the best, most valuable content, spawning the adoption of content marketing among SEOs — and content is still king today.
2. The death of link schemes
Google has provided its own definition of what a “link scheme” actually is, along with some examples. Many find the guidelines here somewhat ambiguous, but the simplest explanation is this: Any attempt to deliberately influence your ranking with links could qualify as a scheme.
By the late 2000s, Google had worked hard to stamp out most black-hat and spam-based link-building practices, penalizing participants in link wheels and exchanges and paid linkers. But it was in 2012, with the Penguin update, that link building really became what it is today. Now, only natural link attraction and valuable link building with guest posts will earn you the authority you need to rank higher.
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