To truly understand how SEO works today you need to have an understanding of the history of SEO as a marketing strategy. Search engine optimization did not develop in a vacuum and it won’t evolve into what it will be tomorrow without the developments that are occurring today. There is a continuum and it can be traced.
To begin with, SEO did not really get its name until after Google came on the scene. Before Google, Internet marketers were optimizing their websites but they didn’t really call it that. However, that “optimization” was very primitive compared to how it’s done today.
Meta Tags, Backlinks And The Rise Of Google
At one time, pre-Google, all you had to do was add a bunch of keywords to your meta tag list and you’d rank well for those keywords. It didn’t even matter if those keywords appeared in your page content or not. You’d still rank. Hardly seems fair, does it? That’s why Google rose to such prominence as quickly as it did. The company introduced a whole new paradigm.
When Google came along, no one was interested in analyzing back links. Today, that seems intuitive, but at one time no thought it was important except for two guys with the software to make it happen.
Those two guys started Google, whose search ranking algorithm was based largely on the number of inbound links pointing to a particular web page. Soon, Internet marketers started dropping their meta tag strategy in lieu of a backlink strategy. Back links became the new currency.
From Backlinks To Semantic Natural Language
Over the years, Google has tweaked its ranking factors to include more than just an analysis of the number of inbound links to your site’s pages. Quality of links, relevancy of links and link diversity are important too. And there are more than 100 other factors Google considers as well. And then there are Bing, Yahoo!, AOL, Ask and many other search engines. Each one has their own ranking criteria.
One consideration that the major search engines look for today is natural language, or semantic language, syntax. While keywords are still important, successful web page do not need X number of one keyword phrase per Y number of words on the page, what marketers call “keyword density”. Instead, it’s important to put your keyword phrase in the right places on your page and in proximity to other important elements on the page. And to write naturally for your site visitors just as you would if keywords were not important.
In essence, the search engines are looking for the best content for every keyword phrase they rank pages for. If you stuff your pages with keywords just for a ranking then you are doing yourself and your site visitors a disservice. It’s basically shooting yourself in the foot. Trust me, that hurts.