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The Evolution of SEO

The golden days of immediate search engine domination are over.


Digital marketing technology is rather like high fashion — trends that were acceptable and even widely emulated suddenly find themselves hopelessly passé without even a hint of warning.

For the digital marketing community, innovations can fade into irrelevance as quickly as a pair of flared jeans, only the transition to the latest craze can be far more painful. Just got your Adobe Flash-based site developed? Here comes HTML5. Now you need responsive design — oh, and your obvious stock images are duplicated across the Web a thousandfold!

In the case of search engine optimization, strategies that were once successful in the early years have become hopelessly obsolete. Finally got to the top of search engine rankings? Hello, Panda update! SEO strategists have had to develop new solutions and techniques to better serve their clients, and we’ve had to develop them fast. Unlike high fashion, where even parachute pants can ominously resurface, in the world of information technology and digital marketing, outmoded trends and techniques will never return to nostalgic glory.

Here are five ways SEO has evolved over the past decade:

Instant results are so 2004. As the CEO of, I have endured countless evolutionary shifts in SEO protocol. The major problem, as I see it, is the desire to tweak the system in order to see immediate results, regardless of long-term yield. However, the way SEO is evolving, it is necessitating an overarching approach that embraces solid content and quality, which might not generate instant Web traffic. For both SEO consultants and clients, this means giving up the notion that there are secret, platinum-level strategies that will miraculously catapult a website to the top overnight.

Site rankings reports do not trump all. Pages upon pages of full-site rankings reports delineating obscure keyword configurations irrespective of individual page rankings were never great SEO practice, but now they are an even bigger waste of time, since page views, not entire website rankings, are critically important; and Google is finally eliminating keyword data for all — even paid — searches. Diverse analytics tools are the key, and a good SEO consultant will know how each page is doing, as well as the level of social media engagement.

Website design matters. When it comes to SEO, the length of time people stay on your page is essential, and if your website is horribly configured and inhospitable to the users, they just won’t stay on your page. Great big introductory Flash videos, unsolicited music, seizure-inducing graphics and rapidly scrolling text will only make a site visitor click off faster than from an unsolicited male-enhancement ad.

No more content for content’s sake. Flooding a website with useless, keyword-heavy content just to have new material to post will only bore your viewers and, ultimately, you. Why struggle to find alternate ways to say the same thing again and again? You want a site that people are eager to view and, importantly, eager to link to. How many times must Matt Cutts beg for user-friendly, informative and interesting content?

Exchanging links = bad. Links are meant to indicate the worthiness of another Web page and its information. They had to be important; why encourage people to navigate away from your page otherwise? Link exchanges with random sites won’t help build your profile, and if the site to which you link is exceptionally unworthy, you can count on it turning into a dead link in no time. Furthermore, Google is becoming exceptionally draconian when it comes to linking with article directories. Even though EzineArticles does, from time to time, feature useful content, using it and other article directories for the purpose of linking back to your site could be viewed by Google as a violation of their guidelines.

The golden days of immediate search engine domination are over. If you are under the impression that old techniques can produce favorable results, then I’ve got some pagers to sell you.

Eric Schiffer is CEO of, providing his insights to Fortune 500 CEOs, foreign leaders, Forbes 400 billionaires and celebrities. He is the chairman of and is the author of “Emotionally Charged Learning.” Reach him @ericschiffer.

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