Believe it or not, the term SEO—Search Engine Optimization—most likely predates Google by about a year. The term can be traced back to 1997, while Google was founded in late 1998. It should be no surprise that SEO tactics have changed drastically during the 20+ years since then.
We’ve been helping clients with SEO almost since the day we started back in 2003, and we’ve seen a lot of those changes first hand. Yet some people are still using SEO tactics that stopped working more than a decade ago.
Let’s take a look at the philosophy shift that’s happened with search engines like Google, tactics that don’t work anymore, then we’ll look at the biggest tactic that we’ve seen work for clients for the last few years.
Google’s shift toward search intent
Back in the early days of Google, the primary way you showed up in search results was to exactly match the phrases people were typing in. The closer you were to matching that phrase, the higher you would show up in search results for that phrase.
In the last decade, search intent—a.k.a. query intent or user intent—entered the scene. Search intent is what the user intended to search for, whether it’s what they actually typed in or not.
Here are a couple examples of search intent.
First, the easiest example to explain: typos. Ever typed something into Google with a typo, and Google told you it was showing you the correct spelling? Try typing in “Supermn” while leaving out the “a” on purpose. Google will say something like, “Showing results for Superman.” Then right underneath, it will have a link for “Search instead for Supermn.”
That’s a very simple example of search intent!
Second, ambiguous searches. Let’s say I want to see movies featuring the actor who plays Superman in the Supergirl series, but I don’t remember his name. Believe it or not, I can type in “movies with the guy who plays superman in supergirl,” and Google will give me a list of movies with Tyler Hoechlin in them, the actor who plays Superman in the Supergirl series.
Obviously “movies with the guy who plays superman in supergirl” didn’t actually appear anywhere in the results. Google figured out my search intent.
Google’s algorithm has gotten so smart, it doesn’t care exactly what you type in any longer. And that’s a good thing if you are worried about SEO on your website. It no longer matters if you exactly match the phrase that people are typing in. The most important thing is to have the information the people searching really need, whether it’s exactly what they typed in or not.
SEO tactics that don’t work any longer
There are a lot of SEO tactics I continue to hear about to this day that haven’t made a difference in ranking for years and years. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.
- Getting a domain with keywords in it
- Meta keywords
- Meta description (can be helpful, but doesn’t affect rank)
- Exchanging links with other websites
- Buying links
- Building a lot of landing pages
- Guest blogging (can still help in other ways)
- Commenting on other people’s blogs
- Using article directories
- Using too many H1 tags
- Automated content generation (i.e. content spinning)
- Keyword stuffing
- Hidden text
- Manually submitting your website to Google
- Tweaking your content on an ongoing basis
None of those tactics work well any longer. In fact, you’ll actually get penalized for many of them. And you don’t want to be penalized by Google! Best case, that means you’ll slip down in the rankings. Worst case, you can be blacklisted and disappear from Google altogether.
Quality content is the answer
I do have some good news for you! The tactic we’ve been using for our clients over the last decade continues to be effective despite all the tweaks Google has made to their algorithm. That tactic is ongoing, consistently published, quality content, usually in the form of blogs.
Here are a couple of examples.
Missionaries in Nicaragua
First, in the early 2000s, we worked with a missionary couple, David and Kim Romero. While we’ve worked with them on multiple projects since then, that project included a website with a blog they could update while they lived in Nicaragua.
For five years, they lived in Nicaragua and posted blogs with details about the work they were doing. After they moved back to the United States, we left their website up for another five years.
When we finally took the website down, they were still on page one of Google’s results for many phrases related to mission work in Nicaragua.
Business growth coach in Oklahoma
Second, we’ve been working for nearly a decade with Mike Crandall with Sandler Training of Oklahoma. Among other services, he coaches CEOs and sales leaders on how to grow their businesses. One of the very first things we started working on for him was a blog he could use to share with his sales leads that would also help with his SEO.
Fast forward nearly 10 years. Sandler Training has offices around the world, and I’m told that if you search for the Canada offices, Mike’s website often comes up higher than the websites that belong to the Canadian locations.
What’s the lesson there? If you’re providing quality content on a consistent basis that is something people are searching for, you don’t have to worry as much about the changes Google makes to its algorithm over time.
Of course, blogging can take up a lot of time, and not everyone enjoys the process. Blogging for SEO is one of the services we provide. If you’d like to learn more, we would love to talk!