In the not too distant past, the practice of search engine optimization could be summed up as an endeavor to generate as many backlinks as possible combined with the creation of content crammed with selected keywords. In this relatively simple environment, thousands of spammy backlinks could be purchased for a few dollars, a single piece of low quality but keyword-loaded content could be posted on a plurality of sites, and listings at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) could be realized post-haste.
From the searchers’ side of the equation, the listings that appeared at the top of the SERPs sometimes delivered information that was relevant to the search term being used while other listings linked to sites that were confusing, poorly designed, and/or had nothing to do with the intent of the search. For a search engine like Google with a stated mission to deliver the best user experience possible, listings that had achieved their rankings through manipulative practices and then delivered nothing were a complete anathema that had to be fixed.
Thousands of algorithm changes later, Google has now essentially eliminated the most popular black hat techniques and a new world of SEO exists. Here are the 4 aspects of SEO that are now required to achieve high rankings on the search engines.
$ On-site content that was created with the sole objective of high keyword ratios must be replaced – In August of 2013, Google replaced its long-standing keyword-based algorithm with a new formula that assesses the context of on-page content. As part of this change, the search engine started devaluing content with unnaturally high keyword counts and began surfacing quality content that delivers answers to search inquiries.
Consistent creation of solution-based content as the backbone of the campaign – Google’s improved capability to define and surface web pages that deliver solutions now mandates that the content that is generated as part of an SEO campaign provides answers to questions that are commonly posed regarding a business’ products and/or services. The companies that achieve the highest level of success in the new search paradigm will first understand the questions that potential customers are asking and secondly create on and off-site content that answers those questions.
Backlinks that matter – In addition to its improved capabilities in assessing content, Google’s ability to detect spammy backlinks has diminished the benefits of that practice as well. Now, the only links that matter originate from relevant sources such as authority sites and signals/actions from social networks.
A mobile-friendly website – This is another component of Google’s quest for an optimal user experience, in which the information that is presented to the viewer must be optimized for the size of the viewport. This website architecture is referred to as “responsive design”, in which on-page content is configured for easy viewing and navigation for screens ranging in size from large desktops to the smallest mobile devices.
The recent changes at Google have eliminated the instant gratification that used to be delivered via black hat techniques. SEO success is now predicated on delivering an optimal user experience, which has been the search engine’s objective all along.