How Have SEO Practices Changed in Recent Years?

If you’ve been in the game a while, there was probably a time when you felt pretty competent and up-to-date with your search engine optimization (SEO) skills. At first, this was a new and exciting realm of possibility for marketers; then, for a while, there was somewhat of a plateau, where most digital marketers and web marketers possessed baseline skills and had a foundational understanding of SEO. Those baseline skills were relatively sufficient for a long time, as they didn’t change remarkably. A majority of digital marketing professionals were merely getting a sense of what SEO was, how it could be used, and how to be strategic with it. 

Then, as if all at once, SEO practices began shifting quite rapidly and regularly. They adapted in order to address changes in online algorithms and how competitive the field had become. “Baseline” simply wasn’t cutting it anymore. Since then, over the past decade, and certainly in recent years, it became important to work with SEO specialists who knew the very latest trends and changes and could implement them swiftly and strategically.

But, though minor changes can deliver big impacts when used correctly, you don’t need to know every tiny shift in SEO 

best practices to ensure you’re at least being thoughtful with your SEO. You only need to follow the biggest changes and ensure that you don’t actually fall behind and fail to do what needs to be done in order to maximize your web presence and make the most of the hard work that you’re putting out into the world.

So can you do that—without relying on a full-time SEO specialist?

Here a few major trends from the past few years that can be helpful to know and apply for every business, no matter the specific level of SEO training or skill within your marketing team:

1- Passage Indexing / User Intent – These two trends are different, but ultimately related. Passage Indexing means that Google has gotten smarter about processing your entire article to determine what your content is actually about and who your audience is. On the flip side, search results have gotten a lot smarter about understanding user intent. Long ago, if someone were to enter a query that were full of typos or slang/idioms, Google would try to find an exact match for what they had typed—rather than considering what they might actually be looking for based on related searches and the results that had ultimately best satisfied them. By getting smarter about processing what people really want, and what is really available to them on the page, better results are delivered, higher in rankings. Understanding Google’s ability to “think about” content in this way can shift your own thinking about SEO. You don’t need to match, word for word, strange typos and somewhat unrelated phrases in order to help people find your content.

2- Structured Content – Perhaps the most important, relevant practice that can help you worry less about the details with SEO research and placement, but still maximize the effectiveness of the effort you do put in, is structuring content. In short, this means breaking up your content into lots of subheaders and sections, making it as easy as possible for search engines to parse. It can help deliver blurbs as partial responses to searchers. And it can also improve the user experience (UX) on the page itself, because specific answers are faster to find and all information is easier to parse and digest.

3- Behavioral Analytics – Another important factor when it comes to maximizing your existing SEO efforts, rather than trying to build up extensive additional efforts on top of what you’re already doing, is the fact that search engines now routinely consider behavioral analytics. This means that search results aren’t just generically looking at search queries and content in a flat, objective way. The results are returned based on who the searcher is. For example, someone searching for “lotion” who recently bought diapers might actually be looking for a diaper rash lotion for sensitive skin cream, rather than a generic type of lotion—whereas someone who has been booking a vacation might need results about suntan lotion; the search results might also simply bump up a type of lotion that the person has searched for, or perhaps even bought, in the past. Of course, some of this depends on their own browser/data settings, but for the most part, smarter results are possible based on observing user behavior, so you don’t have to go out of your way to help results find the right people, trying to compete for traffic for every variation on “lotion”—just compete against other diaper cream or sunscreen companies, knowing the search engine can help lighten the lift on connecting you to them otherwise.

These are some overarching trends from recent years that can help you make the most of the SEO knowledge you already have. However, if you’d like to step up your game and really get in on those competitive SEO practices, but simply don’t have the bandwidth to handle this in-house, feel free to reach out to Mad 4 Marketing. Our SEO/SEM specialists can help you get greater exposure for your business online with the very latest practices—customized to your specific budget and brand.

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