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The world of search engine optimization (SEO) has changed drastically in just the last few years. Keeping up with the changes is a challenge even for an agency like ours. For the average business owner it is almost impossible.


The history of SEO has gotten a lot of bad rap. The old ways were fraught with companies making huge profits adopting a strategy to beat the game and boost search engine rankings. These techniques worked well and a lot of businesses profited from it.


In 2012 Google unleashed the Kraken! or as they called them: Penguin and Panda. It sounds so cute but they were a complex update to how search calculates rankings. In other words, Google launched a war against the SEO tactics that had been influencing search engine results. The two algorithms were capable of figuring out who should be displayed for search terms. So if you hired an SEO company to get your website on top of Google for "women's shoes" but they used the old, spammy way of doing things like artificial link building through black hat SEO; your website would be punished in the search rankings.

A business owner who used black hat SEO would disappear from Google search as punishment. Companies who relied on free traffic from search engines got hit pretty hard. It is estimated that over 10 percent of all search results were affected. Companies lost millions and the SEO world scrambled to figure out how to recover.

Recovering from a Google penalty is a long, hard and expensive task. Never mind that Google warned everyone and was completely transparent about what was coming. There was an uproar and some things had to be walked back. Google decided to make it somewhat easier to recover from a penalty but there's evidence that domains never fully recover.



This is really the important factor because we are finally able to see the results of getting away from old school tactics. Here's a helpful infographic that is relatively easy to understand.

What SEO Used To Be Versus What SEO Is Now


Keywords: Before we used to focus on single search phrases (keywords). Now we focus on searchers intent because that's how Google understands it. This changes how we optimize your content.

Content: The old way would be to create content targeted for a specific keyword. Now we actually create content that answers searchers questions and relieves their pain points. We aren't optimizing for search engines; we are optimizing for customers.

Link Building: The old way would be to buy or build spammy links back to your website. The more the better. That method is long gone and the best way to get your website penalized. Now we build links like we build relationships. We look for high quality relationships that are relevant and add value.

If you look at the overall picture of how the strategy of internet marketing is best applied, it starts with content, paid search and social media. Since this graph is two years old I would say that today there's even more focus on social media but paid search is still a strong factor.

Check out Rand from MOZ for another great overview on OLD SCHOOL vs NEW SCHOOL SEO

Since we started doing search engine optimization back in 2000 I never really liked those old school techniques. For me, manipulating anything always felt a little dirty. It seemed like we were fooling people or tricking people into doing things. When 2012 hit we immediately stopped doing anything even remotely old school and focused on Inbound Marketing. This was a term invented by Hubspot which uses white hat ways to get customers from your website. 

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Topics: SEO

Tony Sova

Written by Tony Sova

Owner of Softwired, a web design, SEO, and Inbound Marketing firm.