In Google's earlier days, many website owners became rich overnight with smart SEO. These microsite millionaires used a simple formula to generate a fortune in a very short amount of time. First, they would find a niche that was being neglected by doing some keyword research.
Next, they created a website crammed full of keywords catering to the niche they found. This site would then drive traffic to some form of download, through which they earned. The sites' high keyword density floated them to the top of SERPs in no time and gave them the flood of clicks they needed to make millions very fast.
Google, however, does not like keyword stuffing. Their clamp down on such behaviour in 2011 with the Panda update changed everything. Aa a result, SEO will never be the hot commodity that raked in millions overnight again, even though it is really important.
As Google has continued to roll out updates over the years, keyword stuffing and other forms of keyword gaming have become less advantageous. Sites trying to fool the algorithm often find themselves holding the short straw. Your own attempts at SEO are less important now because Google is doing a lot of the SEO for you.
The Google search engine has evolved so much from its early days that it can now figure out the meaning behind your words. The BERT update is a great example of the higher level of intuition displayed by the algorithm. It can read into the meaning behind the queries your customers type into the search bar. This intel leads to your site showing up on searches where you might not even have any target keywords.
We can't do away with SEO altogether, because right now professional search engine optimisation can still give businesses and organisations a clear upper hand. We do, however, need to approach it in different ways than we have in the past. To make the most of our SEO in 2021, it's vital that we understand how SEO has evolved.
We can then choose tactics that will be effective and do away with older ways of SEO. Many SEO strategies from only a few years ago are now a waste of money and time. Because they have become so ineffective, some techniques can give you more problems than results.
When the Hummingbird update hit in 2013, the way Google determined keyword rankings changed drastically. Where before, PageRank had been king, now it was just one of over 200 other factors in determining your rank.
What is PageRank?PageRank is a Google algorithm that counts how many quality links there are to a page to determine how important that website is. It can then inform the system on where to rank the site solely based on the number and quality of links it finds.
Instead of link stuffing and keyword stuffing, sites now need to look at outbound and inbound links, social media shares, the quality of their content, how easy the site is to use, the website's design, and a list of other factors. That's not to say links no longer matter, but quality links now form just one building block in a host of other details.
Google looks at these metrics to decide where you stand on SERPs. Other websites that are ranking well will have optimised their SEO. If your business wants to compete, you will need effective SEO too.
The power of keywords has diminished, although it isn't altogether absent. Keyword research and optimisation is still important. That said, we shouldn't be basing our content strategy on keywords.
That's because Google will scan your blog or content to see if it suits the search query someone has entered. Because Google is so good at understanding what people are looking for, it can tell whether your content is shallow or authoritative. To rank, your content quality needs to be above par.
What Google looks for is authoritative content from a site with proven authority in its field. The search engine wants to cough up the best content out there on the topic for users. Writing for keywords often means producing content that focuses on including keywords rather than on producing the best content possible.
You may also find that any keyword worth ranking for is nearly impossible to rank for. And even long-tail keywords are saturated or don't offer enough results. Without a strong site, ranking for content won't be easy. That's why some SEOs think keyword research no longer plays a pivotal role in producing content.
Instead, searcher intent is key. Aim to answer the questions people are asking. Aim to give the user valuable information that they want and need. Writing for user intent instead of keyword ranking could end up giving your site the SEO boost it needs.
In the past, SEOs learned that targeting long-tail keywords was better than targeting short-tail keywords. The thinking was that one could better target your niche with long-tail keywords, while short-tail keywords were being targeted by too many people. The chances of ranking for short-term keywords were thus low.
Today, the above is less relevant than it used to be. Yes, keyword research is still important, but semantic search trumps it every time. Google uses semantic search to figure out the meaning behind your words and how it applies to search queries. Semantic search is what helps you appear in searches where you have no target keywords.
For example, you may not mention anywhere on your website that your product (let's say bananas) is cheap or affordable. Yet, Google can figure out that your product is actually cheap and affordable and rank you well for "affordable local bananas".
Search engine optimisation as we know it is bound to evolve so much that it becomes unrecognisable. The longer we cling to the older ways of optimising, the further behind we will fall. It's time to lay to rest the idea that keywords form the backbone of our content strategy and embrace the future. A future where we aim to produce content that speaks to our audience instead of writing for keywords.
Think your SEO is falling behind? Our search experts know the tricks of the trade and can help your site rank. Talk to us today to get your site noticed on Google.
Sources: Neil Patel;