“How will I keep up with SEO when it is always changing?” is a frequently asked question at Pathfinder SEO. In our ten years of experience in search engine optimization, we have seen SEO evolve more than it changes.
The definition of change is to become different, whereas “evolve” means to develop gradually. Often, with any changes in SEO, when you look back in time, there was more of an evolution than any drastic change.
There are several aspects of SEO that are ever-evolving:
- The search engine algorithms
- The search engine results page
- Your business
- User expectations
Let’s take a look at each.
Evolution of Search Engine Algorithms
The search engines use algorithms to calculate a rank for search queries. The algorithms are secret, unique, and proprietary. This can make the algorithms feel mysterious. However, if you start by looking at Google’s mission, its algorithm becomes much more approachable:
“Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Google is ever-evolving to better meet its mission. It does so in part by updating its algorithm. Moz provides an outstanding overview of the big algorithm updates over the years.
Look at the most recent update called Medic on August 1, 2018, and what you see is an update to Google’s algorithm that places more emphasis on EAT (expertise, authority, and trust). EAT didn’t get invented overnight. EAT came into play in 2015 and gradually gained importance within Google’s algorithm.
Another example was the Mobile Speed Update on July 9, 2018. Google started talking about this update six months in advance and Google emphasized the importance of site speed all of the way back in 2010. Again, the world’s largest search engine, Google, evolved more than it changed with this update.
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Landscape of the Search Engine Results Page
The rank of each result is a big component of the search engines. Another is the layout of the results on www.google.com, www.bing.com, and www.yahoo.com. The layout of these pages (called the search engine results pages or SERPs) has also evolved over time.
In the not-so-distant past, Google featured 3 paid results at the top and several at the bottom of the page or on the right. Then, in 2016, Google started experimenting with 4 paid ads at the top of the search results. The experiment has become a standard now for competitive keyword spaces with 4 paid ads at the top of the search results.
There has also been variation in how local search results are displayed in the SERPS. There was the 7 pack and now the more common 3 pack.
With each of these updates, we see it as an evolution more than a change. Local search still matters for local businesses. Paid ads still compete with the free space in the search results. Where and how you position your business needs to evolve within this framework.
We often see businesses react to a change in their results from SEO by looking to the algorithms or the SERP layout. Often, there is an evolution to one’s own business which is also at play.
Like SEO, your business is ever-evolving. Take for example a business that advertises a new service or product; it represents a new market and sales opportunity that can be leveraged in the search results. Alternatively, if you change your business phone number or open a new location, that too impacts your SEO strategy.
Be sure to communicate these changes with whoever is responsible for your SEO strategy and tactics, making sure that your website and its presence in the search engines evolve in this broader context.
61% of users are unlikely to return to a website on mobile if they had trouble accessing it and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead, according to Google. Over time, user expectations of websites evolve and this evolution impacts SEO.
Today, users expect:
- A responsive, mobile-friendly website
- Fast page load times
- Ease of navigation
- Transparency (easy to access contact and about content)
- Fresh, recent, well-written content
- And more
Fortunately, it’s easy to satisfy user expectations as they continue to evolve. Try to stay current with web design best practices and use a good content management system to build your website. We recommend WordPress because it is user and search engine friendly. You can learn more about it with this great WordPress starter guide from our friends Maddy Osman and WP Buffs.
How to Approach Evolution within SEO?
SEO evolves and thus it isn’t a “set it and forget it” marketing initiative. You can future-proof your efforts by taking a holistic approach that focuses on real-world marketing initiatives that make logical sense. We share our holistic strategy and break it down into actionable steps at Pathfinder SEO. We call this approach guided SEO.
It also helps to collaborate with tools that evolve alongside the search engines. For example, our favorite WordPress SEO plugin is Yoast SEO. It is constantly evolving alongside the search engines and helps you stay up to date.
And lastly, we love to read. A few of our favorite SEO blogs include:
You can also stay up to date with SEO by signing up for the monthly Pathfinder SEO e-newsletter.
Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching business owners and freelancers how to get found in Google, Yahoo, and Bing via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.