The new Search Engine Optimization – SEO 2.0
Recently I decided to brush up on my knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) to see what the current view of best practice is. I was amazed at how things have changed…
In the past SEO tended to be seen as a battle of wits in which the optimizer’s job was to reverse engineer the Google algorithm to give their pages an advantage in the race to get to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) – most obviously by packing their meta tags and copy with keywords.
This posed a real threat to Google as it meant that machine-generated pages with no real content of human interest were topping its SERPs. Google’s response was to retreat into secrecy, keeping the metrics by which it scored pages as dark a secret as it possibly could. The only advice given was to concentrate on content and leave it to Google to sort out the rankings. The strong suggestion was given that SEO was frowned upon as an attempt to game the system and that it might lead your pages to being penalized. In short SEO was a dirty secret, practiced surreptitiously and with the real fear that it might bring down the “wrath of Google.”
Things have certainly moved on. Now Google is much more open about what it doesn’t like – in particular make sure you don’t break its ten quality commandments. More importantly, it’s clear that the Google algorithm is far more sophisticated than it was in picking out content of human interest meaning that old-style “black hat” SEO has effectively been banished. This in turn has allowed Google to relax and be far more open and indeed encouraging when it comes to “white hat” optimization.
Nowadays you even get named Google engineers such as Matt Cutts writing about SEO in their blogs and posting SEO videos to YouTube- ideas which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
The biggest sign of the change, and the most useful resource by far, is Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Significantly this began life as an internal Google document, but was opened up to the public last November. The Guide is absolutely packed with tips and advice and links to other resources and I strongly recommend that anyone involved in web design takes a look at it as much for the broad principles as for the practical tips.
The fact that the Guide comes straight from the oracle itself means that it has immediately become the SEO Bible. Thankfully it’s a bible that is now based on a New Testament-style vision. The mystery, inequality and fear of punishment are largely gone as Google and web masters work together towards a shared goal where those producing high-quality, optimised content are rewarded here on earth in SERPs and in traffic.
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