How SEO Has Changed Over the Years

defining SEOUpdated June 14, 2023

Due to constant changes in Google’s algorithm, search engine optimization is always in flux. Keep reading to learn how SEO has changed over time, as well as the different strategies you should be implementing now on your end to see results.

No More Keyword Stuffing

In the early years of SEO, webmasters would often stuff their website pages with keywords to get them to rank higher. They would use black-hat keyword stuffing techniques such as hiding them within invisible text or inside the website’s code. Google eventually caught on to this and adjusted its algorithm.

With the changes in Google’s algorithm, websites that employed these black-hat SEO tactics faced drops in their rankings. Since then, Google now prioritizes and rewards sites that employ proper and natural keyword placement in content.

Along with our blog post regarding keyword placement, here are some additional posts we have written about keywords and SEO that we think may help you as you go to research and optimize your own web pages:

Content Quality Over Quantity

Along with the shift in how B2C and B2B SEOs utilized keywords came a change in how content is written. In previous years, SEOs focused on the quantity of content instead of quality. They would churn out numerous, non-essential pages that were often poorly written, stuffed with keywords, and featured duplicate content.

For a while, websites that did this were able to easily rank for various keywords, despite having low-quality content for their users. Most users who find a site are also Google’s users, and Google likely brought them there. Therefore, it’s in Google’s best interest to ensure it is directing users to quality content on reputable sites.

Now the focus has shifted, and Google prioritizes well-written and informative content. To rank in Google for a keyword, SEOs must now focus on writing high-quality content that naturally incorporates keywords and informs readers.

Additionally, lengthening your content can be a leading factor in ranking higher in search engines. Capsicum Mediaworks reports that pages over 2,000 words in length tend to rank higher than shorter pages, as well as appear more frequently on the first page of Google.

Prioritization of Mobile

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in focus from desktop to mobile search traffic. With more people browsing on their phones than ever before, Google now rewards sites that are mobile-friendly.

Did you know that, as of the fourth quarter of 2022, approximately 59% of website traffic worldwide comes from mobile devices? Within the last couple of years, more websites have been optimizing for mobile to accommodate for this change in how users search. Additionally, with mobile-first indexing, Google uses the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, making it even more crucial that your site is optimized for mobile devices.

A New Focus on Local SEO

One of the biggest changes in SEO over the last couple of years revolves around local search, as local searches have become more common and also more specific. For example, nearly 46% of Google searches include a specific location! So if you’re a dentist in Cincinnati, you need to be tailoring the keywords on your website to be something along the lines of:

  • Top-Rated Cincinnati Dentist
  • Family Dentist in Cincinnati
  • Cincinnati’s Best Dental Office

By embracing the new focus on local search, local companies have additional opportunities to reach their target audience. A Google Business Profile allows local companies to create a profile with the goal of ranking in local searches.

Along with this rise in local search comes additional opportunities for keyword optimization. SEOs can now optimize content to rank for location-specific keywords that help them more easily reach their target market.

The End of Link Schemes

In the early days of SEO, many people participated in link-building schemes that gave their websites numerous fake links from various sources to increase rankings. Like all other black-hat SEO techniques, Google caught on and now penalizes, bans, or de-lists websites that participate in these link schemes.

Instead, Google now values websites that have gained links in natural ways. Common link-building strategies include gaining backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites or directories.

The Rise of High-Quality Link Building

With the decline of spammy link-building schemes comes the rise of thorough and consistent link-building efforts that produce results. In recent years, there have been more creative ways to acquire these types of links, including the following:

  • Location-specific link building – As part of your local SEO strategy, you should be building links in your area to increase area-specific equity for your business. You can do so by searching for blogs or directories in your area that also pertain to your industry and either ask for them to link your business, or offer to write a guest post for their website’s blog.
  • Content-focused link building – With nearly 89% of marketers producing content with the goal of building links on their site, our team highly recommends using this strategy to gain outside links, as well as internal links on your website. The best way to produce industry-related content is through hosting a blog on your company’s website. A blog will help your company share its expertise in the field and serve as a reference to websites that want to link to your helpful content.

Gradual Search Engine Update Rollouts

Over the years, search engines have continued to grow and expand their services to accommodate the needs of consumers and their general inquiries. As of 2023, though, search engines have reached a strong foundation, which means the rollouts and system updates have become smaller and less frequent.

Though major updates are less frequent, it does not mean they are nonexistent. For example, Google just released its most recent Helpful Content Update, which is said to be the search engine’s biggest change to SERPs in years. With a rollout this substantial, our team advises that your company does its part in staying up to date with updates (large or small!) that could be greatly impacting your business’s presence online.

What Do These Changes Mean for You and Your Business?

Though there are various changes in effect for the SEO industry, they are not meant to take away from the ultimate goal of search engine optimization itself and how it should be affecting your business if applied accordingly. These changes just made it a little bit harder than in the past to rank for keywords.

Because of this, we encourage you and your company to continue striving for high-quality and original work, as well as practicing patience when it comes to ranking for your optimized content and seeing the results of your link-building efforts. These changes might take a while, but the impact they have will last for several years to come!

Ready to Learn More About Marketing?

Want to discover more about digital marketing and how you can incorporate it into your 2024 strategy? Check out our compilation of statistics posts to help convince you what tactics to invest in:

Maureen Darrah

About the Author

Maureen Darrah

Maureen Darrah is our Senior SEO Operations Manager and leads our ecommerce and local SEO efforts for our clients in retail, dentistry, and roofing, and more.

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