Google’s SEO content best practices are constantly changing, so it’s important that you stay up-to-date. Read more about past changes as you work to anticipate future ones.
Content: A Brief History
Content writing has evolved dramatically since SEO strategy entered the digital marketing scene. Together, the two progress as new requirements from Google (the most used search engine worldwide) emerge, and as users consistently change their interests. The information from the past may help us improve our content strategy in the present and anticipate possible changes in the future.
Google launched in September 1998, and the era of early SEO began. This era was marked by very simple ranking requirements—search engines were mainly capable of identifying exact match keywords and URLs based on the product that was being marketed (i.e. www.best-shoes-online-for-women.com). The Internet and its SEO content were spammy. Pages contained a slew of keywords that weren’t contextual and that were stuffed all over a page—in the main content, at the bottom of the page, or even colored to match a background so that they were hidden. In short: Practices that would not fly today.
In 2003, Google launched its first big algorithm, Florida, which penalized sites that keyword stuffed. The search engine results pages, or SERPs, changed overnight. Companies that had been relying on affiliate links and low-effort content were suddenly wiped from the results. There was a general outcry from smaller retailers, as they had taken a sizeable hit in conversions (some retailers even had to close their doors.) Florida was especially damaging because it was launched during the holiday season. While the algorithm shocked and negatively affected a lot of retailers, it turned the tide of SEO completely. Shortly after the rollout of Florida, businesses began to adapt to the changes. Retailers and website owners needed to step up their content game to survive in Google’s new world of SEO, and many of them did.
Past Content Algorithms
You’ve likely heard the phrase “content is king”— this has remained consistent since web pages could have content, and Google wants you to remember that. Google has released, and will continue to release, algorithms that will shake up your SEO and content strategies. Here are a few past examples that may give you insight into the ways that Google has changed their content requirements:
Panda: It was initially rolled out in 2011 as a content filter, and now it serves as a core aspect of the ranking algorithm. Panda penalizes duplicate content, plagiarism, spam, and keyword stuffing. It rewards quality, informative, and relevant content.
Hummingbird: Google indicated in 2013 that search queries are more complex than just a few words, as users were beginning to utilize voice search. So, web pages that don’t have the exact keyword from the search query in the exact same order can still rank. Hummingbird provided, and still provides, incentives for higher quality web page content and more focus on concepts and messaging rather than keyword implementation.
Fred: 2017’s algorithm, Fred, focused on content that violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which generally expects the following from SEO content: high effort and high-quality content, pages that are not just for ad revenue, and content that is informative.
Google cares most about its users’ experiences. Given the progress of requirements for content, it may be best to consider how you can keep up with, or even anticipate, Google’s content standards. Google wants you to provide relevant, informative, and helpful content that satisfies users’ search queries. If you haven’t already, consider analyzing your content strategy and identifying opportunities to optimize your content — this may mean taking a step away from building your content around keywords, and instead identifying how you can provide information about the keywords and search phrases.
These are just a few of the many algorithms that Google springs on us, announces, and may run continually. Always stay on your feet, and let the changes of the past help you plan for future SEO content campaigns. For helping staying up-to-date on SEO and content best practices, contact Axis41, A Merkle Company, today.