The first website was published in 1991, but search engine optimization (SEO) didn’t come into existence for several more years. Most marketers agree that it got its start around 1997. In the early years, SEO was like the Wild West. Marketers used black hat tactics to drive traffic to their websites and didn’t always deliver on their promises. Google and other search engines have tightened the rules over the years and continue to make changes to provide a better experience to users. The last three years have been huge for the SEO world as search engines continue to evolve. Check out some of the biggest changes that have occurred in the last three years.
Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2018. This means that Google crawls your mobile site first and uses it to determine search engine rankings. The change was made to address the new way people search the web. More people use mobile devices, so it makes sense to reward websites that are optimized for mobile.
Natural Language Gives Sites a Boost
If you think back to the beginning of SEO, you can remember how unnatural key phrases used to be. You had to come up with exact strings that people would type into search engines, and your content often sounded like a computer wrote it. Now, though, people use voice search on mobile devices to conduct lots of searches. Websites that use natural language are enjoying a boost in traffic.
Google has placed answer boxes at the top of the search results for years, but it didn’t officially unveil “Featured Snippets” until 2016. This replaced the “Quick Answer” boxes of the past and changed the way people think about SEO. Now, if you can get your site listed on the front page of Google and provide answers to common questions, you might get featured in the box.
Security Becomes Increasingly Important
Google has recommended that webmasters secure websites for years, and finally, the search engine giant decided to force the issue. Starting in 2018, sites that don’t use the HTTPS protocol are marked as “not secure.” If you’re not using the HTTP protocol, you’re likely losing lots of traffic. People get scared when they see “not secure” and typically back out and find another website.
Related Questions on the Rise
Google’s “People Also Ask” feature has been around for years, but it hit the big time in 2017, largely due to the emergence of voice and mobile searches. Google realizes that people don’t want to type one search query after the next, so it beefed up the “People Also Ask” section. This section contains questions that are related to the initial search. The idea is that people can find all the information they need without having to do any additional work.
Just like Google Snippets, you’ll be rewarded if you create content that answers specific questions. This might take some extra work, but can significantly increase your site traffic once it’s accomplished.
What’s Coming Next?
If there is one thing that’s certain about SEO, it’s that it will continue to evolve. These changes shaped SEO for the last three years, but what will the future bring? As voice search and AI continue to grow, SEO will have to continue to adapt. The last three years have been exciting, and the next three might be even better. Stay on top of the changes, so you can continue to have a solid online presence.