Organic SEO Ain’t What It Used To Be, Part I

Let’s go over the last few years in organic SEO.

  • 2010: Google reveals that it’s using social media signals as part of its ranking algorithm. The entire SEO world’s head explodes.
  • 2011: Panda happens. Thin content, high advertising-to-content ratio, and a number of other on-site factors suddenly cause rankings plunges. The entire SEO world’s head explodes.
  • Also 2011: Google reveals that it now includes ‘freshness’ as a factor for new content only. The entire SEO world’s head explodes.
  • Also 2011: Google introduces the SEO world to ‘metadata’ via Schema.Org, and begins to encourage highly-structured data elements within webpages. Oddly, the SEO world doesn’t really seem to care that much.
  • 2012: Penguin happens. A large number of ‘spam signals’ from keyword stuffing to ‘bad neighborhood’ links cause rankings plunges. Heads explode everywhere.
  • 2013: Hummingbird happens. Semantic search results become much more reliable. Surprisingly, although almost nothing actually changes in terms of SERP results for specific keywords, the entire SEO world’s head explodes anyway.
  • 2014: Pigeon happens. Local search results are adjusted to be handled more like core-engine search results. A second time, almost nothing happens, but SEO people go berserk focusing their efforts on local search.
  • Also 2014: Google drops Authorship from the list of metadata schema that it’s using for ranking purposes. After years of only very slowly adopting metadata at all, the SEO world finally latched on to exactly one kind of metadata — Authorship — as being worth pursuing, so of course when Google makes this announcement, SEO brain matter hits walls and ceilings all over the world.

Now, let’s talk a bit about what that all means for organic SEO. Before that social-media reveal in 2010, SEO was about two things: making sure your webpage was structured in a way that put your targeted keyword directly in the eyes of Google spiders as many times as possible, and building as many backlinks from as many powerful domains to your site as possible while making them look as organic as possible. It didn’t matter what your site was, because any site could hit #1 as long as you had keywords and organic (looking) backlinks on your side.

But that’s all changed today. Come back next week for Part II to see exactly how.