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Many business owners are familiar with the term “search engine optimization” (or SEO) from their acquaintances or from their competition. They may see it as a way to boost sales. What is SEO? A business owner might have tried SEO services in the past but it didn't work out exactly as planned.

Since before SEO was created I've been involved in search engine optimization, and the process of ranking websites. The following are the latest changes to SEO from the beginning of the millennium. Also, what you should look for in the SEO services your SEO Agency is offering or providing.

We take a look back to SEO over the years and explain what SEO is now and the best way to use it to enhance our website.

SEO in 2000

At the beginning of the Millennium the ‘big' search engines that the majority of users used included Lycos and Excite. But, only a tiny percentage of the UK population had internet access back then and dial-up was slow for those with access.

Websites were typically one or two pages that contained basic information in order to load fast (within 20 seconds). The most effective SEO techniques was to “hide” as many keywords as they could on a webpage to ensure that the page was easily found for those keywords without appearing to be spammy to visitors.

Google introduced AdWords in 2002. It was widely seen as the demise of SEO. It was now possible to pay for prominence on the website that is the most popular for online searches.

Yahoo bought Inktomi as well as AltaVista in 2003. It was the final day for smaller search engines. Google began to take action against spammy websites and practices. Google realized that AdWords weren't going to end SEO as such, and the ‘natural listing is a way to encourage users to return to their search engine platform. Google began to recognize “professional SEO specialists' and urged good SEO over the practice of spamming.

The first website banned from the web was in 2004, when Google took action against spamming websites. They also took legal action against the “SEO Company” accountable.

To rank websites in 2006 you simply needed links back to your site. So buying links or exchange of links was all the rage . many websites had a website page that listed the companies they were promoting and provide links to their website (I am still amazed how many websites still use this method).

Between 2004 to between 2004 and Google was now the only real “player” in the search engine world, started taking action against poor linking practices, and also against companies. They began to tighten up on the use of spam and buying links. The ‘noughties” concluded with the entire range of “naughty” SEO practices being effectively wiped out. Google concentrated on ranking websites based on their content and its relevance to the type of search that was being conducted.

SEO in 2010

Between 2010 and 2015 we saw the search engines start to notice ‘Social Media' sites and the search results soon became filled with Twitter “tweets” within the search results. (I am still able to see the expression of one of my customers when searching Google for his company, and the first page of search results were compiled of tweets from a Twitter discussion that two members of staff were having on how terrible the company was!)

With the Google ‘Caffeine” update videos as well as images were added to the search results.

Google launched “personal results for searches” with the websites shown in the search results are based on previous searches and sites you have previously visited. The SEO world was shocked when customers claimed that their websites had been “top-of-Google” for any industry-related search. It was because they'd visited their site numerous times before Google provided the website for all the relevant searches. This could be difficult until they are presented with the latest Google Incognito search.

Ranking websites was about being found for big keywords. A ‘Plumber' in Bristol might want to be ranked in that particular search, so that was the focus.

Google's ‘Panda' and ‘Penguinupdates literally killed off “link exchanges” with severe penalties for websites with no relevant links to them. Google added “nofollow hyperlinks” that allowed websites to provide links and information that are relevant to other websites without penalizing any one of them. It was the start of “safe linking”. The position in search engines was determined by the relevance and quality of the information.

A report from the Office For National Statistics' in 2014 stated:

  • 38 million adults (76%) in Great Britain accessed the Internet each day, which is 21 million more than in 2006, the year that directly comparable records were first made.
  • Access to the Internet using a mobile phone increased by more than a third between 2010 and 2014 between 24% and 58%.
  • 74% of people bought items and services on the internet in 2014, compared to 53% in 2008. Clothes (49%) were the most-loved online purchase of 2014.
  • Sixty-seven percent of the adults of Great Britain are aware of Internet storage, however 35% use these services to store their data.
  • In Great Britain, 22 million households (84 percent) had Internet connectivity in 2014, up from 57% in.
  • Fixed broadband Internet connections were used by 91% of households.

The UK was nearly internet-savvy and the UK made use of mobile phones to visit sites.

SEO 2015 and Onwards

The biggest change in the search engine in 2015 was the ‘penalisation of websites that were not “mobile friendly” A mobile friendly website has different information for smaller screens to make it easier for users to read and understand. In ensuring that users got the best experience, Google started ranking mobile friendly or responsive sites (where the website automatically alters its size and format to fit the screen) higher in its rankings.

The UK majority of people used their mobile phones for local searches, and local businesses could finally gain an advantage over the large corporations or “national” companies on the internet.

Google's introduction of semantic search that permits Google to bring back websites that are not solely based on keyword searches but instead on the content of a page and has altered the way SEO agencies look at websites. As users of the internet become more knowledgeable about their searches and their search results, ranking for “Big” keywords like ‘Plumber Bristol, became less important. The number of visitors to websites increased due to long tail keywords and they also helped to increase conversions.

What is the SEO Process Today?

It's probably true to say that the procedures or practices associated with search engine optimization have now out grown the term ‘SEO'

In the past, structure and content of a website were enough to make a website work. There's a lot more that can be performed to rank websites in search engines and also to interact with customers. An appropriate description for the service is “digital marketing'.

As previously mentioned, ranking was based on traditional practices. The focus on a single keyword on a page or for a whole website could rank the company and back then it was all about ranking'.

Old way of doing SEO

There are many aspects you need to take into consideration when you are thinking about SEO. “Semantic Search” is the key driver and conversion the main goal and not ranking.

Semantic Search refers to the time the time when Google provides details about the website but not the description the website creator entered back to the searcher. This can be seen in the example of “Plumber Bristol”. Some time ago, you'd be listing the business on the search engine with “Plumber Bristol”, “Plumber in Bristol” and maybe “Emergency Plumber Bristol” – but this isn't the only way to go for companies that provide a solution for ‘distress purchase' (where time and a solution is more important than information and advice) better practice throughout the website is to incorporate content that gives advice and guidance and includes ‘long tail keywords' (3 or 4 word searches) for example “Emergency plumber with free callout in Bristol” or “Reviews for an emergency Plumber near me”. Google is keen to ensure that its customers have the best possible experience and to quickly locate relevant information. Semantic searches do this. This is also sensible for a business owner. Do you prefer your website to be discovered by someone who is searching for “Plumber in Bristol”, where they might be searching for information, a job, a service they don't offer or even a specific search such as “best emergency plumber in BS7”? You'll be found in “best-emergency plumber near BS7” and you will get a visitor to your website.

In terms of the number of keywords, this is the largest change Google have made and it will not be going away. SEO, or digital marketing, does not concern focused on ranking highly in search engines but rather the amount of search terms you are able to find and convert into paying customers.

Website Content

Google suggested to professional SEO Agencies, only 2 or 3, that 300 words per page was sufficient content just a few years ago. The last time they made this suggestion, they said the MINIMUM should be at minimum 500 words.

Everyday I get asked to evaluate a site by a prospective customer and most of them contain between 150-250 words on a page. This is a standard method. This can be looked at as two different ways. Google has to adjust its expectations due to the fact that a lot of websites do not meet the standards they set. It is also possible to look at it as an simple method for Google to get ahead of its competitors by simply adding content. Do you believe that Google will reduce its expectations or expect websites to improve to their standard? Google launched the mobile friendly update with the knowledge that between 80% and the 80% of websites will require an upgrade and they made it happen anyway , since it helped more than 50% of there users. High-quality content affects 100% of their users.

I would suggest to our client about 800 words per page. This content is sufficient to make the website semantic search-friendly, provide relevant content and not be a wordy site.

It is a good idea to:

  1. Page Title – state what the page is about (‘Big' Keyword If you need to)
  2. Headline – asking a question
  3. The first paragraph briefly describes the problem / contents
  4. Image/Video
  5. Description of the solution in more detail

For an example, consider our emergency plumber in Bristol

    1. Page Title: Emergency Plumber Bristol
    1. Headline: Are you searching for the top emergency plumber near you in Bristol?
    1. First Paragraph: Smith Plumbing offer a 24/7 emergency plumbing service in Bristol. We don't charge any call-out fees and are able to be there in just 20 minutes. We are the top emergency plumbers in your area according to reviews from customers. Call us today for a free quote…
    1. The image of the van, or plumber looking professional
  1. Description: The most frequent problems they tackle, the problems they can fix, as well as some testimonials from their customers.

It has many advantages.

The first step for those looking for a plumber will read the first paragraph. After that, they'll look at the image of the van (build professional authority and credibility), and then call the plumber. Others will require more details, which they will discover further down the page. Is this cheating at SEO? It is not. Google will be grateful that you provide pertinent information to your users. How content is structured and written on a page is the “new” SEO.

Your site will be found for more than just the words it has such as semantic search. Potential customers and clients might search for the name of the Plumber using the above example. If you were a Plumber would you rather be found by one large keyword or multiple relevant customer conversion keywords? Google supports my position.

The previous practice was to create content for search engines. Nowadays, you need to develop content to provide value for clients. This is a much simpler process than you might think.

What were your five most recent customer queries? What was their issue? Write about the problem and your solution.

Link Building

In the past the process of building links was carried out by acquiring as many hyperlinks as you could from as many different sources. We were approached by a large company about their SEO. They were shocked by our suggestion that 1.4 MILLION links to their website be taken down. The company had invested an enormous amount of money over the years to build the hyperlinks. Google will notice the lack of relevance of your website if it have excessively many irrelevant links.

Some relevant links are far better than a million or more links to your site. Engaging relationships are the best way to establish links. If we were to take our plumber again and a backlink from the “Gas Safe register or a local plumbing centre or showroom for bathrooms, and a few local websites which share his details would be sufficient.

Social Media

Although we do see a some companies like this in the present, a few years ago when we suggested that businesses should be on Facebook I was typically informed “Facebook is intended for teenagers, isn't that? That is not our market”. If done well, Facebook can drive more traffic and paying customers to your door than your website. Facebook's largest user group is comprised of 25-34 year olds. The next in line is the 35 to 44 year olds. The 45-54 year olds use Facebook more frequently than teens, and almost as much as 18 to 24 years old.

Statista: Facebook users in the UK have reached the age of

Facebook lets businesses create a brand identity, connect with customers, receive reviews from customers and get instant feedback. Contrary to reviews on your website which potential customers may be able to see when they visit your website A review posted on Facebook will be seen immediately by all the users' friends. If a friend ‘likes' the comment – all of their friends and friends. Our customers are receiving more leads from Facebook. People are asking their friends for recommendations on companies to work with and getting hundreds of ideas back – if you are on Facebook you are more likely to get a direct link to your contact details.

What's next for “Social Media”? Live streaming! Twitter has acquired a business called ‘Periscope' which allows you to live stream videos from your mobile. “So what?” I hear our 'emergency plumber' asking. If I were plumber, I'd live stream my work while I fixed a issue. The video will be broadcast live to my TV channel, which is free-to air worldwide. Next time your business conducts a ‘brain storming session' put it on periscope and your customer will tell you the best solutions.

Video Marketing

There are no ‘old' SEO techniques for video, as it just didn't exist and when YouTube started out it was to showcase hilarious videos of cats, and such.

It's all changed now. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. It is owned by Google. YouTube is used by over 1 billion users around the world. Each minute, around 300 hours worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube. It would take approximately 2 years to watch all the videos that will be uploaded over the next hour. It would take you the rest of your life to watch every video uploaded to YouTube in the present. Google's own data show that by 2018 , 73 percent of searches made through the search engine will result in the person watching videos. Imagine it this way that in a few years, if 10 people are searching on the internet to find your service or product – 7 of them will see videos, and 2 visit an online site. That's why I create videos for our customers as part of our “digital marketing service”.

SEO Company Bristol offers a complete digital and online marketing service, including search engine optimisation or SEO.