SEO Practices: Then vs Now

The goal of search engine optimization is to land your website in the first page of search results for a given topic. In the past, the first question a webmaster would ask was, “How can I get my site on page one?” Today, the first question should be, “Why does my page deserve to be on page one?”

A search engine’s primary purpose is to connect users with the best response to a searcher’s inquiries. If you want to find information about boats, for example, you might go to Google and type “boat” in the search bar. Google would then look for all of the webpages that had the word “boat” in them and return them, ranked in order so that those that seemed most relevant or valuable would come up first.

In the past, the relevance of a page was determined by its keyword density. In other words, a site that had “boat” written in it frequently must be a good source of information about boats. For years, this is how search engines worked, but it was a system that could be easily abused.

In the past, building a successful website was a matter of optimizing that site for search engines. In a way, the search engine was your primary audience, and webmasters designed their pages accordingly. Today, writing for the search engine is a recipe for disaster. You must write content with the user in mind. When you write content that is useful, interesting and share-worthy, it will also be valuable from an SEO perspective.

When search engines found and ranked sites based entirely on keywords, obtaining a highly ranking site was simple. A webmaster simply needed to identify a keyword that was popular and build a site around that keyword. The word or phrase would be placed in several vital places, like page headings the opening paragraph, and the text surrounding that phrase would be largely irrelevant.

Now, thanks to updates in Google’s search technology, searches look at more than keywords. In fact, the search algorithm is designed to identify a searcher’s intent rather than the exact words typed into the search bar. The exact phrase used matters less than the general topic surrounding that phrase.

Today’s search engine optimization is based on building up a site’s authority. Authoritative websites are judged on several factors:

  • The links back to a website. If a site is linked frequently by other trusted sites, it stands to reason that it must be a reputable, authoritative source of information.
  • The sites it links to. If a website links out to high-value, authoritative sites, it’s reasonable to expect that its content will also be well-researched and of high quality.
  • The exact vocabulary used. Experts writing about a particular topic will by necessity use specific vocabulary related to that topic. The presence of these niche words is what Google uses to identify the content of a website.

While all of these issues are important, the final point is what we’ll focus on in this guide. Learning how to use niche vocabulary is an important skill for webmasters, and it’s one element of your site that you have total control over. In the next section, we’ll look at what exactly niche vocabulary is and how you can use it to lend an air of authority to your website.

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