Has Search Engine Marketing Fundamentally Changed Over the Years?

A client pointed out recently that we seem to be using many of the same techniques for SEO that we were using 7-8 years ago.  After the initial indignation I got to thinking about this. Those of us in the technology business tend to consider a change in technology as a given. So shouldn’t it be the same with SEO as well?

1. The basic structure of the HTML page and tags hasn’t changed

The basic structure of an HTML page has not changed much. Even with the introduction of CSS – Tableless pages and XML content the basic structure of the page remains pretty much the same with the header, content and footer combo. Meta tags such as Title, Keywords and Description still remain in use although with varying importance in search engines.

One thing that has improved due to new coding techniques is the ratio of markup code to content text.  Also thanks to the wonder of advanced CSS the use of images in menus and other parts of the sites has also reduced.

So although web pages have become more efficient overall the impact on SEO pretty much remains the same.

2. Gentle SEO no longer works. SEO agencies have to be much more aggressive

There used to be a time where you created a decent website, populated it with good content and submitted to a few select directories and search engines and watched as the website floated gently up the search engine rankings. No more is this possible. Today, an SEO agency has to be aggressive in every aspect of the work, from link building, link exchange to ppc marketing. Every advantage possible has to be squeezed and every trick in the book must be tried.

The competition is also forcing many SEO agencies to go in for dirty tricks to fool the search engines, what we call Black Hat SEO. Customers are demanding quicker results and there is always another agency standing by promissing even faster results.

SEO agents have pretty much changed from online nerdy type individuals to aggressive digital pirates trying every trick in the book to stay ahead.

 And as the competitive landscape gets more demanding, SEO agents will only be under more pressure.

3. Inbound Links still play a major role and remains a vital part of the SEO process.

As my SEO in-charge Shashank keeps reminding me, good content, good design all is well and good but the SEO project succeeds or fails on the link building. There is no substitute for good quality inbound links. Eight years ago we had to do link building and even now we have to do link building. Google’s search engine algorithm still weighs heavily in favour of inbound links inspite of the recent modifications they made to cull out link farms.

 Another aspect of this is that even the quality of the link might not matter as much as the anchor text of the link. There is constant debate in the SEO community on the value of so called ‘Authority’ sites. We see sites with rubbish links get good rankings.

On this front not much has changed in the last eight years.

4. Thanks to Social Media the people on the net have an increasing say in the success or failure of a website.

Another valid difference pointed out by Shashank is how much say do visitors have in the success or failure of a site. Years ago it only used to be SEO that made a difference. You created a site, you did SEO and that brought visitors which determined the success or failure of the site.

Now at many places SEO is completely being  by-passed through the viral network effect of social media.

Does this mean that SEO is obsolete? Nope, it only means that SEO is not the only path to getting your site noticed. For a site to have a long term meaningful marketing strategy SEO is a must.

5. Google was and still remains the market leader.

We have seen a lot of search engines come and go. First there was Inktomi which provided search results to such sites as Yahoo and Rediff.com and there were search engines fighting for position like ‘Ask Jeeves’. But with the coming of Google they were wiped out and to this day Google dominates. We would have expected a rival to emerge over all these years but Google remains on top. Although the Yahoo-Bing combo looks promising they still are not much of a threat to Google.

Any SEO strategy must give Google priority now as it was back then.

6. Analytics and Tools have improved considerably

Many years ago as SEO was just starting out as an important aspect of the web, the SEO process was relatively simple. The reports were simple and what we measured was simple. Now the amount of things that can be measured is enormous. Thanks to freely available and feature rich sites like Google Analytics we can measure even minute details of the sites performance.

Earlier we used to measure visits, click-throughs, impressions; now we measure goals, paths, A-B analysis, bounce rates, time on site, visitor loyalty and much much more.

7. Geo targeting and Localized SEO has evolved.

One size fits all SEO has now evolved into a process which can target a geographic area quite accurately. Factors such as in which country the domain is registered, targeting local search engines and directories, tailoring content for localized use, handling languages and more all contribute to give a very very targeted result to the SEO process. IP tracking software can now accurately measure from which city and which area the visitors coming from and accordingly change tactics and strategy for it.

Conclusion – the fundamentals have not changed.

Sites still need to be beautifully designed and full of relevant information to the visitors. The site still needs to be linked from multiple sources whether its search engines or social sites. Everything still must be measured to determine effectiveness of the campaign. Common sense and some artful thinking are still needed for success. Google still needs to be pampered. SEO is still important.

Cheers,
Ron

Visit our SEO site at http://www.seogoblin.com

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