This post is a result of my 4.5 years of experience focusing on SEO as the main source to drive traffic to my online businesses and the more recent discussions, readings and deliberations on the matter.
It’s said that the best way to predict the future is to look into the past. The history of SEO is a short one, but have been quite eventful and colorful.
In 1990’s SEO or search spam was in its infancy and all was rather simple – put all your keywords on the page and meta tags and submit your sites to search engines frequently and you’d rank well. Back then you had to go through pages of porn to find what you were looking for in the serps. Spamming the search engines was so easy that there was very little trust in them.
In the late 1990’s there came Google and introduced a new concept of pagerank algorithm and citation rankings – links mattered. The SEO’s, or search spammers (there really was no distinction between the two in the early years) turned to building lots of sites and interlinking them. Any spammy and low quality links did the trick and soon enough it became the norm.
In the early 2000’s Google realized that they had a serious problem with search spam (seo) and introduced a series of updates that made many of the wide spread seo (search spam) techniques obsolete and little effective. The main objective by Google was to be able to show the most relevant results to users and that would have been hard without them being able to decide what’s good and what’s not. So proper webmaster guidelines were introduced and webmasters were encouraged to optimize their sites for easier navigation of both visitors and bots.
In the mid 2000’s the search spam problem was still widespread and Google continues to change their algo in order to give more weight to old established and trusted sites, devalue low quality links and make it more difficult for new sites to rank well fast. They’ve also cracked down on various black hat spam networks, many of which used adsense and so large numbers of adsense accounts were banned. These changes helped Google get the upper hand and spamming the search became ineffective, so former spammers turned SEO’s and started to use more covert methods and soon many of those became a norm: directory submissions, article submissions, reciprocal links and a wide variety of similar ways.
Next in mid and late 2000’s Google gradually shut down most of the top directories by lowering their pagerank and deindexing them. Blog comments were made little effective, forum signature links, reciprocal links and all the link exchange networks lost value. New methods emerged like link baits, Social Spam Bookmarks, all sorts of “linkwheels” which are based on having lots of unique and semi unique content hosted at various sites freely allowing it in order to give links. Link buying became the method of choice for those who can afford it, and despite what you might hear from Matt Cutts it still works and will do for a while, but eventually I believe Google will find a way to deal with it as well. (A tip on that: if you do buy links make sure it’s as covered as possible, not with “Sponsored Links”, “Advertisers”, or even blogrolls and related links, but rather inside text, looking naturally like a citation on a useful resource).
What SEO methods are still effective?
- Article submissions, distributions and all ways of putting your content everywhere with links back still works to a good extent
- Buying link, as previously mentioned has become widely spread and the top companies competing in highest paying niches, like gambling and finance spend hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly on buying links and spend lavishly at that.
- LinkBaits are the new trend, have content worth to link to and spread the word around to get the ball rolling. If abused Google may look down upon them, but as long as it’s all fun and useful it’ll get you the good links and with them the serps.
- Content – have good quality content plays a major part in the equation
- Sponsored reviews, sponsored blog posts and sponsored links contribute to SEO also
- .. many other methods as well.
What SEO methods will be effective in the next few years? As Google going more towards personalized search results and using users’ behavior patterns on site to better value their quality, as well as displaying more current and live results I believe most of the current SEO ways will become less effective. Companies will focus more on improving their sites, advertising and promoting their brands, constructing elaborate linkbait campaigns and heavily using adwords to buy targeted traffic (which naturally is what Google wants the most – people paying them for the traffic and not to the SEO’s to create spammy networks of content and links). Authority in the eyes of Google will become a traded commodity and companies will still be buying their ways into the top of the serps, but much more carefully.
Will SEO as we know it today become obsolete in the next several years? Not likely, SEO companies will adapt, focus more on social media and quality as well as SEM and buying traffic. There would still be many new and low competitive niches to focus on to make a living for webmasters.
Quality content, good site navigation and naturally looking links will still do their trick. SEO the way I see it will become focused on more on the visitors and making them like and share your sites with friends. Links are still going to matter, but only the more natural looking ones and from trusted sites.
The death of SEO will merely lead to it reincarnation as being geared more towards the human visitors than the bots and focusing more on current trends and analyzing user behavior on your site.