Traditional search engine positioning, as we know it, is dead.
Before we discuss why, lets take a simplified look at some of the major changes in search engine positioning over the years.
The Rise Of The Keyword
Search engines, such as Yahoo and Google, started out rather simply. They would scan the entire web and index every webpage address, along with the content from the page. Then when a user searched for a topic the engine would review its vast catalogue of knowledge and return appropriate results. Since this process primarily focused on the presence of particular keywords on a page, SEP/SEO professionals attempted to raise the ranks of a particular site in Google by ensuring that the keywords they assumed people were searching for were located on the site itself.
There were a few different ways these professionals could do this. They could put the keywords in the actual text of the webpage, they could put them in the “meta-keywords” attribute that every webpage has, or they could simply just title the page with the keywords.
This was not a difficult task to do. In fact, it was so simple that it led to a lot of abuse. Due to the high incentives of getting to the top of Google, SEO/SEP professionals were often cramming in keywords that were of no relation to the content on the page. There was no way for search engines to know whether or not the subject matter of the page was appropriate or related to the keywords that were being placed on the page. In addition to this, just because the page has high occurrences of specific keywords, does not necessarily mean it is a good resource for that subject matter. Which leads us to the link...
The Rise Of The Link
To combat this abuse, a new metric was introduced that helped search engines determine if a site was a reputable source of information. As mentioned above, search engines scan every accessible webpage on the Internet, storing its contents. One of the very important things that it started looking for on those webpages was where they were linking to. Most sites link to other pages, and other sites, across the web. Now, when you do a search, in addition to trying to retrieve information based on keyword content of a site, it also factored in how many sites link to that content.
For example, imagine two real estate sites. Lets pretend for argument's sake that the content and the keyword density are identical on both sites. The site that has more websites linking to it will come up first in search engine results. This is because search engines felt that “if other people are linking to this site, it must be more reputable than other sites on the subject matter”.
As with keyword-cramming, this practice was quickly abused. Lets say in the above example, we want to position one of the websites. What is stopping an SEO/SEP professional from creating 100 small shell websites that all have a bit of real estate content on them, and adding links to the site that they are trying to position. Nothing. Thus creating a bit of a cat and mouse game where search engines started trying to determine the reputation of every site and calculating that into the value of the links from one site to the next. So having a link from MLS.ca to a real estate site carried more value than having a link from a car dealership. The thought process went from “if other sites are linking to this site, it must be more reputable than other sites on the subject matter”, to “if other reputable sites are linking to this site, it must be more reputable than other sites on the subject matter”.
The Death Of Traditional SEO
Up to this point, the ability to move up the ranks in search engines could be gamed. A SEO/SEP professional could simply stuff keywords on a website, and have 1000’s of other sites link to it relatively easily. There are companies overseas that will, for a very affordable rate, submit a site address to countless directory sites just to build the link profile for the site being positioned.
The Rise Of Content Marketing
Now Google is punishing those techniques, and focusing on quality links and quality content, along with countless other metrics.
Getting links to your site is still important, but only if it comes from the correct websites. You want your website to be linked to by other reputable sites. How do you accomplish this? Simply generate original, high-quality content on your website that people will want to share and link to.
An Active Website
A site that is constantly being updated will fare better in the eyes of Google and other search engines. How do you accomplish this? Generate original, high-quality content on your website and post it on a regular basis.
High Quality Content
Google now recognizes instances of keyword-stuffing. If your site is clearly trying to reuse the same specific keywords in its content – to the point where it would appear awkward to a human reading it – the site will be penalized. Google can now also recognize poor grammar and spelling mistakes, so ensuring that you have high-quality, edited content is more important than ever.
Google also keeps its eyes on social media networks. If Google notices that your content or site is being talked about, or linked to, it will help your site be retrieved in more search results. How do you accomplish this? Create high-quality, original, and shareable content on your website that people will link to, like, and share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
The list goes on. In fact, Google has openly stated that they track more than 300 different metrics for every page that gets returned in its search results.
No Two Search Results Are The Same
The last, and most important, change to how Google returns results is actually based on the individual performing the search itself. Google now has a ‘profile’ for every user on their search engine. This profile includes previous search queries, what sites the user clicked on, where the user lives; it even knows the general interests of the user. All of these things are taken into consideration when Google returns search results for keywords. This means that two people 10 feet from each other can enter the exact same keywords into Google and get different results.
This is why it is more important than ever to make sure the content on your site targets a specific customer profile, instead of just containing search keyword terms. Your content helps define your site to Google, and to whom it should be presented to.