How has SEO changed?

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how has seo changed


How has SEO changed?


In this series of posts offering a Fast track SEO course we have covered a lot of ground.

But unfortunately the ground is moving under our feet.


In the last two posts we discussed how the SERPs and the ranking factor algorithm continually changes.

Before we show you how you can stay on top of the SEO game we’re going to quickly describe some of the major changes that have hit search in the past few years.

It’s safe to say that you know the days where using a keyword as many times as you can (known as keyword stuffing) are long gone.

But do you know what stuff has replaced the stuffing?


Pandas, penguins, semantics and mobilegeddon


For a blow-by-blow account of all the changes, and a look at how each operates, you can refer to the additional material I include in ‘Find out more’ below.

Because here we are trying to understand the thrust of the changes – and to realise that some of them have come about because of changes in user expectations.

Here are the five most important forces that are reshaping SEO today.


1. Searchers – and search engines – are much more intelligent and demanding.


Searchers want things faster: at least half of American internet users expect a page to load in under 2 seconds.

Searchers expect more: particularly concerning the quality of the content that is viewed but also the functionality of the sites themselves.

And, what’s more, Google is getting better at tracking exactly how users ‘feel’ about a site.


The Panda and Penguin algorithm updates have helped Google identify and fight spam and downplay or remove thin (poor) content.

But, it’s more than this.


Search engines are also moving beyond just matching keywords to search queries.

This change is known as semantic search.

Google wants to now match search intent rather than just base its assessment of a web page on keywords alone. It will match pages to queries based on its understanding of whether they are topically related rather than happen to use a keyword.


2. Brands are beginning to dominate.


Analysts are noticing that domains that perform well on one keyword are starting to perform well on topically related keywords, even if there seem to be stronger contenders in terms of SEO and content.

This is a trend that is related to the move to semantics and the Hummingbird update to Google’s algorithm.

It is also related to Google’s newfound love of brands – it now can understand that brands are trusted for certain areas and will favourably rank their sites as a result.

This is why it is important that your site establishes itself as an authority and expert in one area rather than spreads itself thinly over many.

Here’s how Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, put it (rather bluntly):

“Brands are the solution not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”


3. Link building has become link earning


With penalties freely applied for irrelevant or paid links – and a net of suspicion cast around any link you are ‘too much’ in control of – the days of manual link building are over.

To get links to your site don’t request them (or at least don’t rely on this as your main tactic).

Instead build relationships, using social media or good-old fashioned offline networking, and produce great web pages, interesting stories or unmissable competitions and events.

You need to ‘earn’ those links.


4. The rise of mobile, the turn to local and the growth of personalisation


More searches are now made on a mobile device than on a desktop.

Search engines now actively downplay results that are not mobile-friendly for these searches.


Linked to the increasing use of mobiles for search is the growth of local results appearing in the SERPs.

We have already explored, in the post about Understanding SERPs, how Google quickly gets to know more and more about you and it makes every search result it returns a unique gift: just for you!


5. Will traffic stop at a search dead-end?


In the same post we also looked at how SERPs are increasingly returning results in the pages themselves.

Having ‘answers’ appear on the search page itself is a true sea-change in how we need to approach SEO.


As a rather aggrieved leading SEO (Barry Adams) put it:

“Google has broken the unwritten rule of web search: websites provide content to search engines, and in return search engines provide traffic to websites.”


It’s a brave new world out there and we’re going to make sure you claim your slice of turf.

Next we turn to look at the tips and tactics that will help you do this.

Keep your dial locked to this station for the next post.


Find out more


  • Don’t know your Panda from your Penguin? Unruffle your feathers here to find out about all the algorithm changes.
  • Get the buzz about Hummingbird here.
  • Call up for mobile search info here.
  • Semantic search is explored here.
  • Watch a short video examining how brand can affect rankings here.
  • A quick video explaining why link earning is the new link building here.


All the posts in this series can be found here.


For the complete version of this Fast track SEO course head over to Amazon.

It’s yours for less than a fiver!


seo course