What is SEO? How has it changed over the years
Many business owners hear the term “search engine optimization” (or SEO) from their friends or competitors. They may view it as a way to increase sales.
What is SEO? Or, perhaps a business owner tried SEO services before and it didn’t work out as well as they expected. This article will explain what SEO is and why ‘new SEO’ is so much better.
Since before search engine optimization was called SEO, I have worked in the ranking and optimization of websites. These are the SEO changes since 2000 and the things you need to look for in SEO services your SEO Agency provides.
We look back on SEO over the years, and we explain what SEO is today as well as how to use it for your website.
SEO in 2000
- At the beginning of the Millennium, Excite and Lycos were the most popular search engines. However, only a small proportion of the UK population had internet access back then and the dial-up system was slow for those who did have access. Websites had one to two pages that contained basic information. This allowed them to load quickly (within 20 seconds). The best SEO practices were to “hide” as many keywords as possible on a page so that it was easily found for those search terms without making the page appear too spammy.
- Google introduced AdWords in 2002. It was widely regarded as the end of SEO. People could now pay for prominence on the website that is the most popular for internet searches.
- Inktomi and AltaVista were purchased by Yahoo in 2003. This was the end of smaller search engines. Google began to crack down on spamming websites and practices. Google also realized that AdWords was not going to end SEO. In fact, the natural listings’ encouraged users to return to their search engine platform. Google began to recognize professionals in SEO and encouraged good SEO over spamming.
- Google began taking action against spamming websites in 2004 and the first website was “banned” from the internet. They also brought legal action against the responsible “SEO Company“.
- You needed links back to your website to rank a website in 2006. So buying links/link exchange was the norm. Most websites had a page that listed companies and links to their websites. I am still amazed at how many websites keep this tradition going.
- Google was now the only “player” in search engine marketing. In 2004, Google began to take action against bad linking practices and companies. They also started to tighten up on spamming and buying links. All “naughty SEO practices” were effectively eliminated in the ‘Noughties, when Google focused on ranking websites according to their content and relevance to the search being performed.
SEO in 2010
- We noticed that search engines started to notice social media sites between 2010 and 2015. Soon, the search results would be filled with Twitter tweets. I can still see the face and business of one of my customers by searching Google for him. The entire first page of search results was compiled from tweets that two staff members had been discussing how awful the company was. With the Google Caffeine update, videos and images were also added to search results.
- Google introduced “personal search result” which displays websites that are based on previous searches and sites you have visited. The SEO world was a bit shocked when customers claimed that their websites were “top-of-Google” for any industry-related search. This was because they had visited their website multiple times before and Google then gave them the relevant website. This issue can still be problematic until they show you the new “Google Incognito search”.
- Ranking websites was about being found for big keywords. The goal was to rank for the search “Plumber” in Bristol.
- Google’s ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ updates figuratively killed off “link exchanges” with severe penalties for websites that have irrelevant links pointing to them. Google also introduced “Nofollow links” to allow websites to provide relevant links to other websites without penalizing one of them. This was the beginning of safe linking. Ranking in search engines was now determined by the quality and relevance of the content.
The ‘Office For National Statistics’ in 2014 released this report:
- 36.2 million people (76%) in Great Britain used the Internet daily, 21 million more than in 2006 when comparable records were first established.
- Between 2010 and 2014, access to the Internet via a mobile phone increased more than twice from 24% to 58%.
- 74% of adults purchased goods and services online in 2014, compared to 53% in 2008. Clothes (49%%) were the most popular item purchased online in 2014.
- 67% of adults in Great Britain are aware of Internet storage space, but 35% of them use these services to store their data.
- In 2014, 22 million homes (84%) in Great Britain had internet access, up from 57% in 2006.
- 91% of households used fixed broadband Internet connections.
- The UK was almost internet-savvy, and the UK used mobile phones to visit sites.
SEO 2015 and Beyond
- In 2015, the biggest change in search engines was the “penalization” of sites that weren’t mobile-friendly. A mobile-friendly website provides different information to help the user read and understand the content. Google began ranking responsive or mobile-friendly websites higher in search engine rankings to ensure users had the best possible experience. This means that the website automatically adjusts its size and format to suit the screen.
- The UK’s population used their phones to search for local information. Local companies had the opportunity to gain an edge over large corporations and ‘national’ companies online.
- Google’s introduction of semantic search, which allows Google to bring back websites not based on keywords but on the content on a page, changed the way SEO agencies approach websites. As internet users become more sophisticated with their searches, ranking for ‘Big’ keywords like ‘Plumber’ Bristol became less important. Long Tail keywords, as many as possible, helped increase website traffic and, more importantly, converts.
What is the SEO Process Today?
- It’s probably true to say that search engine optimization processes and practices have outgrown the term “SEO”.
- Years ago, focusing on the structure and content of a website was sufficient. There is much more that can be done to rank websites in search engines and to engage customers. Digital marketing is a better description of this service.
- As mentioned, the ranking was based on old practices. The business would be ranked if it focused on one keyword per page, or for the entire website.
The old method of SEO
There are many factors that you should consider when it comes to SEO. SEO is about conversion.
Semantic search refers to when Google returns information about the page and not the description that the website creator entered back to the searcher. This is an example of semantic search. You would have focused on ranking the company for “Plumber Bristol”, or “Plumber in Bristol” years ago.
However, this is no longer true for businesses that offer a solution to ‘distress purchase’. Better practice in a website is adding content that provides advice and guidance. This includes ‘long tail keywords (3 or 4, word searches), such as “Emergency plumber in Bristol with free callout” or “Reviews of an Emergency Plumber near me”.
Semantic search is a way for Google to ensure that users have a great experience and quickly find relevant information. This is also a smart move for business owners. Do you prefer your website to be found by a user searching for “Plumber in Bristol”, where they might be looking for information, a job, a service they don’t offer, or a targeted search like “best emergency plumber near BS7”? You will be found for “best-emergency plumber near BS7” and you will get a visitor to your website.
This is the biggest change Google has made in terms of keywords and it will continue to be so. SEO, or digital marketing, is not about ranking high in search engines but rather how many search terms you can be found and convert into paying customers.
Google recommended to professional SEO Agencies, only 2 or 3, that 300 words per page were sufficient content a few years back. They stated last year that the MINIMUM should not exceed 500 words.
Each day, I get asked by potential customers to review their website. Most pages have 150-250 words. This is a common practice. This can be viewed in two ways. Google must adjust its expectations because most websites don’t meet their standards. Or, you can look at it as an easy way for Google to get ahead of the competition by simply adding content.
Are you sure that Google will not lower expectations, or expect websites to meet their standards? Google released the “mobile-friendly” update in recognition that around 80% of websites would have to be updated – but they did it anyway because it was beneficial for over half of their users. They believe that quality content is important for 100% of their users.
Our customers should expect to see around 800 words per page. This content is sufficient to make the site semantic search-friendly, provide relevant content, and not be wordy.
It is a good idea to practice:
- Page Title – Describe the page’s purpose (big keyword if necessary).
- Headline – Asking a question
- The first paragraph briefly explains the solution/content.
- The solution is described in detail
- As an example, take our Emergency Plumber in Bristol
Page Title: Emergency Plumber Bristol
Headline: Are You Looking for the Best Emergency Plumber Near Bristol?
First Paragraph: Smith Plumbing provides a 24-hour emergency plumber service in Bristol. We don’t charge a call-out fee and can be there in just 20 minutes. We are the top emergency plumber in your area, according to customer reviews. Call us now…
The professional image of the Van or Plumber
Description of what they can do, common problems they solve, quotes from customers, etc.
There are many benefits to this.
- First, people who are looking for a plumber will read the first paragraph. Next, they will see the image of the van (build authority, professionalism), and then call the plumber. Others will need more information, which they can find further down. This is SEO cheating. It is not. Google will be grateful that you provide relevant information to users. The “new” SEO is how content is organized and written on pages.
- Your website will be found for more than just the words it contains – semantic search. Customers and potential customers could search for the Plumber’s name, “Smith Plumbing”, or “Emergency plumber near me”, and “Best 24-hour emergency plumber in Bristol” as well as many other search terms. Would you prefer to be found for one keyword, or several relevant customer converting keywords? Google agrees with me.
- The old practice was to create content for search engines. You must now create content that provides value to customers.
- What were your last five customer inquiries? What was their problem? Write about the problem and the solution.
In the past, link building was done by obtaining as many links as possible from as many places. We were contacted by a large company about their SEO. They were shocked when we suggested that their 1.4 MILLION links to their website be removed. The company had spent a lot of money over the years on the links. Google will see the irrelevance in your website if you have too many irrelevant links.
A few relevant links to your site are better than a million. Engaging relationships are the best way to build links. Let’s take our plumber as an example. A link from the Gas Safe Register, a local bathroom showroom or plumbing center, and a few other local websites would suffice.
Although we still see companies like these, I remember years ago when I suggested that businesses be on Facebook. My usual response was “Facebook is only for teenagers.” This is not our market. Facebook can bring more customers and traffic to your doors than your website if done right. The 25-34 year-olds are Facebook’s biggest user group, and the 35-44 year-olds are second. Facebook is used more by the 45-54 year-olds than teens, almost as much as the 18-24 year olds.
Statista: Facebook users in the UK age
Facebook is a great way for businesses to create a brand and engage customers. A review on Facebook, unlike reviews on your website that potential customers might see, is immediately seen by all of the user’s friends. If their friend “likes” the comment, all of their friends are also affected.
Our customers are receiving more leads via Facebook. People ask their friends for recommendations on businesses and get dozens of responses. If you’re on Facebook, you are more likely than not to receive a link to your contact information.
What’s next for “Social Media”? Live streaming! Twitter purchased Periscope, a company that allows you to live stream video directly from your phone. “So what?” “So what?” I hear the ’emergency plumber” asking. If I was a plumber, I would live stream my work while I fix a problem. The video will be broadcast live to my entire social media network. If your company holds a brainstorming session, periscope it. Your customer will give you the solutions.
- YouTube has no old SEO techniques for video. YouTube was originally created to show funny videos about cats.
- This has all changed today. YouTube, which is owned by Google, is the second-largest search engine in the globe.
- YouTube is used by 1 billion people.
- Every minute, 300 hours worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube.
To view all the videos uploaded within the hour, would take approximately 2 years. To view all of the videos that have been uploaded today, it would take you 2 years. According to Google statistics, 73% of all searches made through a search engine in 2018 will lead to a person viewing a video. Another way to think about it is that if 10 people search for your product or services online, 7 will view a video, and 2 will visit a site. As part of our digital marketing service, I make videos for customers.
Goincubix Digital Marketing provides a completely digital and internet marketing service that includes search engine optimization (SEO) or keyword optimization.