SEO: Then and Now

SEO is like fine wine…it gets so much better with age.

And now, at the ripe age of 20, it has hit its peak — much like me.

What is SEO?  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  And it basically refers to methods and practices used to ‘help’ search engines find a website.  Put simply, SEO is the blanket term for hundreds of different things people focus on to drive more traffic to their website.  Why is it important?  See the previous sentence.

In the beginning, there were websites.  They were all over the place.  www.this.com, www.that.com and www.nobodywilleverseethis.com (aol.com was during this time too.)  But unless you knew exactly where you were going, you couldn’t find anything.  Enter: search.  Search changed everything.  The websites that did the searching are “search engines.”  And just like any other technology, it started out very simply.  Come on….let’s look…

1994

The first real search engine site is created.  Webcrawler uses a program (referred to as a spider) to “crawl” through the internet one site at a time and see what’s happening on each one.  It ranks the top 25 sites across the internet.

Some other search engines are actually updated by people.  Yes real people sifting through the internet and ‘ranking’ sites.

1998

Google pops up.  I could end the story here, but I’ll keep going.  Google improves on how sites are ranked by looking at backlinks.  Backlinks are basically other sites that point to your site.  For example, if you create a website dedicated to the movie Top Gun (thank you, by the way, for doing that) and your neighbor creates a similar site, the old search method would rank you roughly the same.  But let’s say that 100 other websites around the internet are “talking” about your site.  And by talking about it, I mean they have a link to your site somewhere on their site.  These are backlinks.  Google looks at these and decides that your site should rank higher.  It gets a little more complex than this, but you get the idea.

1998 – 2011

So, a whole bunch of time goes by and the algorithms used to rank sites gets better and better.  But at its core, it is still pretty much based on links, keywords, and other things that are somewhat easy to fabricate.  If you can fit the word “chocolate” on your website more than the next guy, this helps your ranking when someone searches for “chocolate.”  You can buy thousands of fake back links for a few dollars.  And in general, there are various ways to “fool” the search engines.  During this time, Google continually improves how its search works and actually penalizes companies for using these tactics to fool their rankings.  Companies like BMW & JC Penny lose their high ranking because of the tactics they use.

2011

Google introduces Google Panda.  There is a lot to explain here, but the long and short is that Panda is a new approach to ranking that focuses on the quality of the content of a site, and not quantity of keywords or links.  The specifics are of course closely guarded, but it’s clear that if you are producing quality, unique content regularly, Panda will like you.  The biggest mystery is why they called it Panda.  I mean, pandas are black and white which seems to contradict the ‘grey’ area Google is now looking to for ranking a site.  Also, a panda eats one food.  One food — it’s entire life — one food!  Again, seems to go against the idea of creating unique & diverse content.  Personally, I would have called it Puma, but that’s just me.

Today

Over the last few years, Panda (and other search products & variations) have continued to improve.  So what does that mean for SEO today?  It means that the internet has caught up with thousands of years of business.  Before computers existed, people had businesses.  And if you wanted to keep customers coming back, you needed to do quality work and keep your customers happy.  That is finally true for the internet.  If you want to keep people coming, you need to put the work in.

SEO now means creating content for your website that is relevant, timely and unique.  Keep producing content.  Write articles & posts people want to read — and more importantly, share!  Share them yourself on social media.  Then repeat.  You will start to build a loyal readership which will translate into traffic on your site, which will translate into higher rankings on search engines, which will translate into higher traffic on your site —- are you seeing the cycle here?

There are still tips and tricks for great SEO, but they’re no longer ways to “work” the system.  They’re ways to entice and engage your audience.

What are some of the SEO techniques you have used?  How have they worked?

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