Back in the late nineties, and even to some degree the early 2000’s, early practitioners of search engine optomisation (SEO) techniques did all kinds of crazy things to get a site to rank for particular phrases. Of course, back then, Google’s algorithm was different, far more naive and limited. Keyword stuffing was the primary method of fooling the system and the way it was accomplished was often outrageous.
What SEO Fraudsters Did
One of the so called ‘black hat’ SEO techniques was to write out a keyword dozens or even hundreds of times on a webpage and simply obscure the text so that readers could not see it but poor, vulnerable Google could. The search engine would then often reward the site with a higher relevance score for that keyword simply based on frequency.
Link farming was another popular method. Entire businesses were set up the sole purpose of which was to provide black hat SEO practitioners hundreds of low quality spam links to give to their unsuspecting clients. When Google’s algorithm caught up with the practise, as it always does in the end, the poor clients were issued punitive ranking penalties from which many never recovered.
How SEO Works Today
Google has become infinitely smarter. The Panda and Hummingbird updates gave it the ability to read content at an almost human level of comprehension. This evolution is so comprehensive that the use of punitive penalties is essentially obsolete. Today, if your site isn’t properly designed with SEO in mind, you simply won’t ever rank competitively enough for them to need to issue you with a penalty.
Keyword stuffing was replaced by organic keyword placement as ‘frequency’ was largely replaced by ‘value’ as a ranking indicator. Readability became key.
Perhaps most importantly your site architecture is what matters now. Whether it’s a category landing page or a smaller product page, where each particular URL is located and how they connect with one another is the critical element. A good URL reads much like your Windows file path when you navigate through different subfolders, in that it should tell you where you have been. Take a look at where you are now, for example, reading this blog.
Just as it’s easier for you, as the browser, to see where you are, it also tells Google’s site crawlers this – allowing for faster indexation of new content and ranking rewards for keeping a neat site architecture. Avoid messy URLs at all costs. Good SEO can also increase your site’s page load speed which is critical to your online sales.
Google still looks at things like your link profile, it’s just better at doing that now. Instead of giving your site points for any link from another site pointing back to yours, it now rates those incoming links based on the quality of the website they’re coming from. This means that site owners are encouraged to seek out solid and organic relationships with viable online partners, not just anyone willing to be paid for a link. Certainly other ranking factors are influenced by traffic from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter but also from YouTube, which is one of the reasons why video marketing is of increasing significance – and remember that your YouTube videos should also be receiving good SEO treatment.
In essence, SEO is certainly about optomising content but if your site is a technical mess, then it’s far more important to take a step back and go back to your architecture to get the foundations right. Any SEO consultant worth their salt today does the same thing they did back in the nineties, they ask themselves what Google’s future plans are to ensure that any work they do for a client is future proof. It’s better to get it right from the beginning than to spend years trying to fix legacy short cuts.