How SEO has changed in the Last 20 Years

We are influencers and brand affiliates.  This post contains affiliate links, most which go to Amazon and are Geo-Affiliate links to nearest Amazon store.

In the last 20 years, SEO has changed tremendously. Most of the changes took place after the birth of Google in 1998. Google is today one of the leading search engines and the one people focus on when researching the trends in ranking. There are other changes that have been seen in the realm of search engine optimization. It is your duty to keep up with these changes else you risk being penalized for using black hat optimization strategies that were once considered white hat.

The evolution of SEO has mostly been compelled by the desire to curb spam techniques, the rise of mobile, as well as the changes in SERPs. The playfield is now fair for both large and small businesses that want to make it online. But how exactly has SEO changed?

On-page optimization

A decade or more ago, when it came to on-page optimization, search engines usually mapped about 2 to 5 keywords per URL. It also optimized such elements as Meta description, title, and body content for the selected keywords. This is no longer the case today.

Thanks to great advances in semantic search and machine learning, pages can be ranked for related keywords and not necessarily for the keywords that the page has been optimized for. This is done by providing users with the content that is most relevant to their search rather than the one that matches the searched keyword strings alone. This has led to improved user experience.

As an online marketer, it is your duty to understand the essentials of content creation as well as content promotion. When in the past it was all about optimizing the existing pages based on the search volume, today, it is all about a mixture of optimizing the existing content as well as creating new content. The content you publish has to meet the end-users’ needs if you want it to capture the desired social signals and to enforce your brand.


Ten years ago, more focus was put on optimizing web pages for desktops. This is because desktops were the only way of accessing the Internet. This was before the birth of smartphones and smart devices.

Today, almost everyone owns a smart device. This is all thanks to advancements in technology, which have made it possible for people to acquire smart devices and at a lower price. Mobile devices are now the main way in which people consume online content. A study by comScore found that mobile now makes up for up to 65% of digital media time. This simply means that most of your consumers use mobile devices to access your content.

As result of this new trend, search engines, with Google leading the way, are favoring websites with mobile friendly designs in their ranking. This is due to the fact that in 2015, mobile surpassed desktop in terms of searches.

Search engine optimization experts must account for mobile experiences when optimizing a website. The good news is that you no longer need to run two versions of your website; mobile and desktop versions. It is now possible to use responsive web designs. This is a style in web development that causes the web page to adjust itself accordingly to fit the screen size it is being accessed on. Developers also have to spend time in apps and making sure that their web pages load at lightening speeds. A mobile friendly web page should be able to load up in just 2 seconds.


Over the years, Google has constantly changed its local results. It started from the 10 packs to the 7 packs and now it is using the 3 pack. The changes have been done to curb spamming. A decade ago, it was much easier for SEOs to spam the local listings by just using keywords in their business name, dodging exact location of their company, getting low quality links from spammy directories and so on. This is no longer possible.

The new changes that have been made by Google make local results all about positive reviews rather than the number of links or keywords a page has. This started after the Pigeon update. Ranking is now based on the quality of page content as well as its relevance to a search.


Before social media was born, social sharing usually took place through instant messaging and email. However, thanks to the birth of such social networks as Twitter and Facebook, the spot of email and instant message has fallen outside the SEO campaigns’ scope.

Today, social media is one of the best tools you can use to promote your business. It is ubiquitous. Marketers who neglect social media end up lagging behind regardless of how unique their marketing strategies are. Today, to achieve success in online marketing, SEO and social media has to work hand-in-hand in order to boost brand exposure, connect the brand with the relevant audience and also to boost consumer engagement. SEOs must now use social networks to boost their content by earning more links and shares. All this leads to more exposure.


Link building or niche edits has always been essential in search engine optimization. It has always been the significant factor that determines search engine ranking. However, link building has changed significantly over the last couple of years.

In the past, link building was all about the numbers. The more links your pages had the better your ranking was. Keyword rich anchor texts were also heavily weighted. The reputation of the site you got your links from did not matter as much.

The discipline of link building has changed completely today. Today, when it comes to link building, it is no longer about the quantity but all about the quality. You need links from authoritative websites and ones that are relevant to your business if you wish to succeed. Search engines also call for natural link profiles with a combination of follow and no-follow, branded anchor texts, keyword rich anchor texts and more.

The trends in SEO keep on changing. You have to keep up with these changes if you want to stay ahead of the herd. Always remember that new changes are being made even now.

Author Bio

Sam Michaels is a digital marketer working with Way2Web. He has been in the business for over 20 years. He recommends the use of bulk domain authority checker for marketers who wish to buy expired domains for their online marketing efforts.

We are influencers and brand affiliates.  This post contains affiliate links, most which go to Amazon and are Geo-Affiliate links to nearest Amazon store.