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You Say You Want Some Evolution? Well, You Know…SEO Is A-Changin’

If you’re into digital marketing, you can basically count on the idea that some aspect of what you’re doing is going to be phased out in the next year. Just like those bell-bottoms that were out, than in, then out again, SEO trends come and go like the flickering of a candle in a windstorm. Here are just a few ways that SEO has evolved in the past few years:

Instant Results
Oh, man. As recently as last year, I had prospective clients turn me down because I couldn’t offer ‘instant results.’ No matter how detailed of an explanation I offered about how there was an inverse relationship between speed and quality, they genuinely believed that there was a magical something out there that could get them ranked overnight and getting respectable traffic from Google within days. The only people peddling this idea with any seriousness these days are snake-oil salesmen.

When Google turned off keyword reporting from Analytics, the SEO world — excuse the term — shat a collective brick. SEO has always been a heavily Excel-driven field, with massive spreadsheets displaying column after column of interesting, study-worthy numbers…all of them tied to keywords. And being able to look at your Analytics and see how each keyword was performing was considered an absolutely vital part of the science. When that went away, many gurus rang a death knell for SEO…which was, of course, absurd. Modern SEO continues on its merry way with a huge — possibly even greater — number of tools at its disposal. And yes, Excel is still a prominent part of the equation.

Web Design
A decade ago, web design and SEO were considered independent fields. You had a designer create your site, a content creator fill it, and then the SEO guy came and made some magical changes that made Google like it. Today, we understand that SEO factors include basically everything that a visitor does on your site. If they hang out and read for a while, that’s good. If they skim once and click ‘back’, that’s bad. If they have to close a pop-up window in order to reach the content, that’s bad. All of those things and more are behaviors that are directly affected by the quality of a website’s design — so modern SEO and web design are more like trident and net: two paired tools of the modern digital marketing gladiator.

Purposeless Content
Ha, ha…I still have a few of these old Adwords websites on some DVD-R somewhere. Basically, they were collections of hundreds of thousands of public-label articles designed to rank passably well for millions of keywords, and offer content that would convince people to read. The hope was that people would read, and then some of them would click on the Adwords banners that came with the text, and you’d make a few cents. For about six months, they were a huge fad in snake-oil factories. Today, you don’t produce content unless you have something to say — something interesting.

Which is why it’s a blessing, as well as a curse, to work and live in a field that is so constantly evolving as SEO and web design. On the one hand, I do every project knowing that, as Weird Al says, will be “obsolete before I open the box.” On the other hand, I’ll never run out of things — hopefully interesting things — to say about it. ” 🙂

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