Writing quality content in order to elicit a benefit in the search results has changed drastically over the years. SEO can be so complex at times that writing for the purpose of SEO feels like you have to follow a step-by-step guide on how you should write. Thankfully, there have been some really good shifts in the search algorithms that allow for us to focus more on the user experience, which is exactly what the search engines want from us. Over the years, there havebeen some major shifts in what exactly you do to write for SEO.
Look out for old SEO tactics (Over a decade old)
Many years ago, or maybe not that long ago for some SEO companies stuck in the past, we would use tactics like keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing involved loading up a piece of content with many instances of a keyword and finding every possible nook and cranny to place the keyword. Some may remember the days of putting all variations of keywords in the meta keyword section of the website. In addition, it was spamming the keyword in the content “x” number of times based on the length of the content so that we could have this really high keyword density number.
Viewing plurals and any slight variations of keywords as a separate keyword and writing content for each one was another big tactic in the past. Unfortunately, they were necessary because Google viewed each variation, including misspellings as being separate words. We didn’t even want to have similar keywords or slight variants on the same page as other keywords.
Putting the most important keywords in your domain and subdomain names. A tactic long held, and it worked quite well for a long time. You’ll still see many websites like this, though only with those where it looks good. As an example, seocompany.com, one of our domains still looks good but would look quite off as search-engine-optimization-company.com or even search-engine-optimization.seocompany.com.
Focusing on making sure the search engine likes your content and hiding it from visitors. A really old tactic was to create links in the footer of a website with a link to articles for all of the really bad looking content that was written because we didn’t want visitors to see it. We focused purely on what the search engine would see, so we made sure it was in the website’s sitemap.
Former SEO tactics (Around a decade old)
Important Locations for Keywords: Not too long ago, we focused on making sure that keywords were in a lot of important locations, and they were important at the time. Examples include titles, meta descriptions, and URLs (not domain or subdomain) to name a few. This was a shift from keyword stuffing, to putting keywords were it actually made sense to do so. We still use many of these locations now, but for slightly different reasons than before.
We still used Exact Matching for keywords including making sure to have separate pages for each keyword, though we stopped using misspelled keywords. Subdomain names stopped mattering, though a keyword in the domain name still had some weight. Most people realized that subdomains weren’t very relevant in general and the search engines specifically didn’t really quantify them.
External or Backlinks became the “thing” and were even more important than on-page signals. The introduction of private blog networks (PBN) to help SEO companies capitalize on easily creating backlinks for their clients began at this time. Many, many SEO companies created private blog networks until Google specifically called them out. Beware companies that still use these.
Current SEO tactics
We look back at these old tactics and realize that they were mostly at the expense of the user and most certainly an effort to “game the system” so to speak. These tactics used to work and so we continued to use them. Today, we want to know more about what the searchers are interested in so that we can solve their search query. What’s the point of writing content if we’re not considering what people are wanting from their search result? We’ve all encountered a website where we’re confused shortly after we arrive because the page doesn’t come close to understanding what we were looking for. Google is getting rid of those types of websites.
On the point of knowing what people are searching for is understanding the intent of that search so that we can match up the appropriate keywords. Multiple keywords can be related to one topic and so we don’t need to worry about synonyms and plurals being separate pieces of content because it is all related to one another. One piece of content can now target multiple keywords because we understand the intent behind the search rather than just wanting to create keyword rich content.
Not long ago we wanted to make sure that every spot that made sense to have a keyword, and even some that didn’t. Now we know that there are only a few places where keywords are extremely important to rankings and other locations that are more helpful for the overall user experience, which helps SEO through good click-through rates. The page title and content in the body of a website are certainly still important places for keywords and that’s not likely to change.
Headings, meta descriptions, URLs, and event alt attributes on images are useful from a user standpoint. Headings help identify important parts of any piece of content and so having keywords in them makes sense if the chunk of content after discusses the keywords appropriately. Meta descriptions help users see that the page is about what they’re interested in and helps drive clicks. The URL is like the meta description as they searcher can identify what they’re looking for through the URL’s name. Image tags help to identify images in Google image searches, which is extremely helpful.
We don’t want to forget that there are necessary keywords that are associated with other keywords. There are just some words that are referred to as “commonly associated” keywords and they help searchers associate your other keywords with what they are looking for. This is helpful to Google for identifying that your website or webpage is indeed about that thing. Talking about the Eiffel Tower and not mentioning Paris, for example, would be missing a commonly associated keyword. Another example is to talk about the suburbs of Orlando and not actually mentioning the names of the suburbs.
Finally, we want to look at the overall user experience on the page with the content that we’ve written. We want to make sure that we have some quality images, tagged for Google search results, that reflect the purpose of the content. We want to make sure that the appropriate calls to action are in the right locations and that they are seamlessly integrated so that the visitor isn’t put off.
There are always going to be changed to how we create content for SEO and if we’ve learned anything over these many years, it is that search engines have moved more and more toward making sure their users like what they find. The best way to accomplish this is to view the website from a visitor’s standpoint and optimize accordingly. Eventually, the algorithms will view websites just like people and while we are closer now than ever before, there are still some subtle things we have to do to help the search engines know what the websites are about.