If you were an Internet user in the 1990’s, you probably remember that things used to look pretty different back then (see the glorious Space Jam Website for details). The Internet has grown tenfold since the ‘90s, and SEO practices have changed along with aesthetic and architectural trends in web development.
Most of the SEO changes result from natural adaptations to changes in search-engine algorithms. Google, for example, changes its algorithms 500-600 times each calendar year. While many of these changes don’t make much of a splash, some of them are much more important and even have their own names, like “Google Penguin,” and “Google Panda.” But to those of you small business owners, amateur SEO’ers, and time-travelers from 2004 clutching tightly to your first edition copy of “SEO For Dummies (2004)”—you may not have to relearn everything.
With Google in mind, let’s take a look at some of the changes to relevant SEO practices throughout the last decade or so.
Keywords In Meta Tags Don’t Influence Page Rank
Keywords nested in meta tags used to be extremely important in the days when search engines judged pages solely on their content and not on any off-page factors like backlinks. As of September 2009, Google has no longer been using keywords inside meta tags in determining a site’s search ranking. Having keywords in your meta tags isn’t completely pointless, though, because the search words will continue to appear bolded in the results.
Exact Match Domains Are Less Effective for SEO
Exact Match Domains used to almost guarantee you a high rank in search engine listings, no matter what the rest of your site looked like. But in recent years, Google has been updating their algorithm to diminish the effectiveness of low-quality Exact Match Domains. It isn’t known whether you can actually be penalized for having too many low quality EMD’s pointing to your site, but given that Google has been issuing penalties for sites that are too Search Engine Optimized, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this happening more in the future.
Relevant SEO Keyword Data Isn’t Passed Through To Websites
As Google has been moving increasingly to secure search, there has been a steady rise in the number of “(not provided)” data points in Google Analytics and other search tracking services. While user keyword data has definitely not completely dried up, it’s becoming clear that we may be heading to an SEO landscape which doesn’t involve receiving keyword info directly from Google. But given that we’ve still got full keyword info from other engines like Bing, this may just mean that SEO’ers will increasingly rely on obtaining keyword info from sources other than Google.
Through all of the SEO changes we’ve seen over the years, the core principles of Search Engine Optimization have remained the same. The most important strategy by far has always been simply having a great website with great content. If anything, this is only becoming more important in the watchful eyes of Google’s page-crawling algorithm. After that basic foundation, SEO has always been about researching and targeting keywords to your audience and building links that follow from having high quality content. Keep on top of tracking your performance, adapt, and adjust based on your results.