Modern SEO Explained:
Old School Search Engines
A lot people have differing opinions about search engine optimization (SEO) these days. Most of them are out of date. When the major search engines were first developed in the late 1990’s, SEO was mostly about putting keywords on the page. Originally, it was all about keyword stuffing, putting the keywords everywhere and anywhere on the page so that you had the word there the most times. The search engine companies quickly learned that this was a bad way to rank people, because anyone, including porn companies, could put any keyword or phrase on the page and rank highly, regardless if the page actually had anything to do with the phrase or not.
The search engines changed their ranking structure by assigning quality, density, and other scores to the pages. Since, the search engines knew that they couldn’t take your word for it, they started looking for more objective metrics by which to measure. The looked at how long the domain name has been registered, the keyword density and context, and other page attributes like title tags, image names, and text size, in order to determine what the page was really about. This was a major shift in search engine optimization, because it required some attention to detail and finesse in your page planning. However, it was still largely in your control, and people still cheated the system.
The biggest shift in SEO came from Google’s invention of the Pagerank. Google was the first to include “off-page” information in their rankings. This means that Google no longer takes your word for it. They want to know what other sites say about your page. They look at what sites link to you and what descriptions they include in the links. The number and quality of people linking to you count like referrals towards your high ranking. This was another major shift in the search engine optimization landscape, and became much more harder to cheat. However, where there is a will, there is a way, and people began trading and buying links to their site, and thousands of directories and submission services popped up where you could create your own backlinks. Google was forced to adjust by adding quality of backlinks into their pagerank system.
Modern SEO & Individualized Rankings
Google has proved that they can largely stay ahead of the people trying to cheat the system. Current rankings are based on thousands of indicators and measurements. They include things like your social media activity and follower, your page traffic, backlinks and local map listings, review sites, page loading speed, and still some on page things like original copy, copy length in words, and the usefulness of the content. Google is literally watching and tracking every move you make and everyone else makes on the web. This means they can see who likes and stays on a site when they find what they are looking for and rank that page high based on the stickiness of the website. If everyone that visits your site, goes back and searches again, Google can downgrade you for that term because they know you are not providing what searcher want to find…
They also now have the power to show different users different search results based on their personal preferences. That means if they know you are a golfer, they show you golf results when you type in “handicap”, but if you are physically disabled, they can show you medical results when you type in “handicap.” This largely means that keywords are completely irrelevant, and the context in how you use the words are more important. Google has openly admitted that they don’t even factor the “keyword” HTML tag anymore. They don’t have to take your word for what your site is about. They can figure it out based on all the web activity around the world.
What does this mean for you and “SEO experts”?
Well, it means that it is impossible to game the system. There are no more magic tricks that get you high rankings for a certain keyword or phrase. You have to do the hard work of actually earning a spot in the rankings by providing searchers what they need, doing it fast, and doing it so well that they tell other people about it and they stop looking. Modern search engine optimization is about building an online reputation for your website and organization. While there still are some basic optimization techniques to showcase your website in the best possible light to the search engines. These techniques are more about NOT making mistakes, than they are about ranking you higher, and there are thousands of mistakes that amateurs could be making. However, after your site, social, and map listings are optimized, your ranking results will largely be determined by the quality of your content and your company.
Don’t hire an SEO expert without finding out what they are going to do for you. If they are still focused on keywords for search engine optimization, they may be 15 years behind the times. If they are focusing on your online reputation and quality content, then you may have found a winner!
Good luck and good content!