SEO, or search engine optimization, is the new(er) buzzword of digital marketing. In fact, I can hardly imagine my life without it, despite the fact that it's only two decades old. Search engines have given us normal folk superpowers--they've given us access to nearly unimaginable amounts of knowledge and information. Despite it's relative infancy, SEO already has an interesting and colorful history.
In part 3 of this series, we're going to delve into some of the major milestones spanning 2011 to present day. If you missed part 1, pause here, and read. And part two is a can't miss, too! There was a lot of excitement over the past two decades...
“The three essential elements of an effective SEO are effective communication, useful information and high quality backlinks.” – SEO Refugee
If our previous lessons about SEO has taught us anything, it's that SEO isn't going away. And it's not just about the right keywords. It's about building a brand! But, let's finish our history lesson before we jump into the must-have strategies in more detail in Part 4.
Major updates from Google enforced stricter regulations on keywords, content quality and over-optimization. And some brands had their names dragged through the mud to set an example. In 2011, The New York Times printed a story outing JCPenney's link building tactics, and for the first time, used the term "black hat SEO tactics".
And with new regulations, came new search features like Google' Knowledge Graph, which helped target the growing expansion of curiosity, accessibility and social connections among users. Panels were included in search result pages that offered immediate answers without users having to dig through pages of content.
Between 2011 and 2013, Google launched Panda and Penguin. The first was to prevent sites with low quality content from acquiring top-tier rankings. The second was to punish websites that were building low quality links, which put article spinning, blog networks and directories on the firing line.
To successfully optimize a website, marketers developed valuable and shareable content focused toward users. And social media (this was after all the time period in which Google+ was introduced to the masses) created valuable backlinks and engagement that built authority.
Today in 2015, we're at a crossroads between personalization and privacy. Brands like Google leverage user data to develop their own digital presence by personalizing results based on history, location and device, but that data is often hidden from marketers (which requires a more creative approach to generation engagement through content optimization).
Also, websites lacking in mobile optimization or responsive design have lost visibility in Google. (So yes, you should care about Google's Mobilegeddon!) This era of SEO is about relevant content (this theme is for the long haul) and accessibility.
But what about the future?
As we close our final history lesson, one thing is certain. SEO will continue to evolve and will likely be fully integrated into all assets. Marketers will need to develop a consistent and strong brand presence across all digital channels. I predict that the biggest changes will be impacting visual content media next since it's trending as the preferred medium among users.
Take some educated risks; and I bet your creativity and curiosity will be rewarded!