SEO Then: We used to focus on keywords and all their variations and permutations. We would end up creating content that didn’t flow well because of the unnatural keyword usage.
SEO Now: Today we focus on establishing a theme. Google needs to understand the overriding theme of your site, so you can rank for a multitude of keywords that are relevant to the theme. We use natural language in our writing and don’t worry so much about fitting in every variation of words and phrases. If we have done a good job communicating our theme, Google will do a good job of delivering traffic relevant to that theme.
Reporting Now: Now we focus on traffic and the quality of that traffic (looking at bounce rate, length of session and pages per session). With personalization, geo-targeting and more, no one really “owns” a specific ranking anymore, so rankings are dated and not effective indicators of success.
KPIs Then: We used to look at rankings and conversions into sales.
KPIs Now: Now we look at engagement and interaction with pages and content, we look at traffic, we look at quality of traffic, conversions to leads and sales, brand recognition and trust and relationship building.
Technical v Marketing Then: SEO used to be seen as more of a science than an art. The focus was on the technical manipulation of code and content on the page.
Technical v Marketing Now: Marketing now plays a very large role in SEO. It’s all about optimizing for the visitor. We use keywords that echo the tone and language they use, we create content that compels them and not the engines, we try harder to capture the eye. SEO is an art and it requires a firm grasp of marketing fundamentals.
Links Then: Links were a crazy free for all. There were exchanges and link triangles and paid links and tedious link building.
Links Now: Links occur naturally via sharing high quality, interesting content.
Optimization Then: Sites were often assaulted with optimization strategies – links and bolding and keywords everywhere.
Optimization Now: Sites are optimized to deliver the best content, in the easiest to read format to users. Content is optimized to illicit a response or reaction from the visitor. Gone are the over-the-top techniques that made pages ugly and hard to read.
Exact Match Then: There was a lot of focus on exact match keyword phrases and it resulted in that ugly, hard to read and entirely ineffective content that I’ve been referring to.
Exact Match Now: Now we have a lot more diversity and natural language content that doesn’t require us to focus on exact match.
Branding Then: The focus was on keywords, not on creating an identity that users would remember and relate to. The vision was more short sighted and focused on immediate client acquisition.
Branding Now: There is a strong awareness that your brand has to be compelling and memorable and there needs to be a focus on consistency in images and messaging so users develop familiarity and trust with the brand.
Strategy Then: Strategy was a little short sighted in general. The focus was on what keywords has the most traffic and how many links you could build.
Strategy Now: The focus now is on connecting with the users via content, so a strategic plan to ensure the content on the site, Blog and social all works together and offers real value to readers. There are so many more components that are part of “SEO” now, so more planning is required to ensure maximum results.
User Experience Then: There was very little thought to the user experience, when pages were cluttered with keywords and header tags and bolding etc.
User Experience Now: We now understand the importance of the user experience and are constantly optimizing to improve it.
These are obviously generalities and many firms and agencies did higher quality work than I’ve mentioned here, but in general it’s a pretty fair assessment of the days gone by in SEO.
The key take away here? Stay current on what matters and what works or your efforts will be wasted. Old school SEO just isn’t going to cut it.