The Evolution of SEO/SEM and What It Means For Your Website

Lisa Cook on SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the use of strategies and tactics to improve page rankings in unpaid or organic search engine results with the goal of increasing traffic to a website.

SEO is actually part of search engine marketing (SEM), but SEM also includes paid advertising like PPC (pay per click) or sponsored links, social media optimization (SMO) and search-engine related services that will increase exposure and website traffic.

To get the most traffic to your site you may need a combination of both organic and paid tactics, which means using both SEO and SEM in marketing efforts. Although SEO tactics can create great search credibility and may be less costly, it may take a bit longer to build up traffic; paid SEM efforts may be needed depending on your situation.

Following are a few strategies to work effectively:

Content Optimization for SEO


Initially when search engines began, websites did work to provide relevant content for their current and desired audience. But as organizations began to work to improve their search rankings content began to change.

Content spam tactics like keyword stuffing, hidden text, machine translations, scraper sites and others began to be used. Search engines then had to evolve to continue their attempts to display the most relevant content in searches.

Changes to search engine algorithms will continue and companies will continue to react to the changes to optimize for SEO. The most recent updates really bring us back to the beginning, where relevant content will bring you the best SEO results.

Current Situation

Due to the changes in search algorithms by the search engines (primarily Google) to continue to provide good search results, it has become much more important to have readable relevant content for your audience.

Make sure your content speaks to your target markets and the personas of your target customers.

Recommendations for Optimization of Content for SEO

  • Consistently provide fresh new content that is helpful to your audience and share it everywhere that is appropriate to your market.
  • Make sure your content speaks to your target markets and the personas of your target customers
  • Make it easy for readers to like and share that content
  • Ask for feedback on your content
  • Share your content through social media

Linking To and From Your Site & Effects on Rankings


Prior to the Google Penguin release, link volume had more value than quality content. Links could be set up through link-building software, online communities, freelancer websites or crowdsourcing.

Basically the more links the better, even if they were in spam blogs, hidden on a site, or created through the use of any other tactic that could be found to set up links between pages whether they were relevant or not.

Current Situation

Penguin penalizes bad links, so you’ll need to earn quality links through content-driven SEO, organically shared content, and legitimate guest hosting.

Bad links may include links from low quality or spam websites/article directories, paid links, links from blog networks, links from irrelevant sites or content, bad anchor text comments, links from automated link building services, hidden links or anything else that violates Google’s link guidelines.

In some cases negative SEO is being seen, where someone creates a junk link to your site, which then negatively affects your ranking.

Recommendations for Optimization of Links

  • Analyze your link profile and establish a monthly process to inspect link quality and relevance.
  • If your audit uncovers links on other sites that are not beneficial, reach out to them and request that they be removed as soon as possible.
  • If, after follow up, they are not removed you can disavow them through your Google account.

Optimizing Keyword Use


Keywords or keyword phrases are those words that describe your website and help search engines find your page when a search is done. In the initial years of search, stuffing keywords into content, meta-tags, and in hidden text allowed sites to be ranked much higher.

Current Situation

While keywords continue to be very important for search results, it is no longer just a numbers game. You cannot just repeat keywords anywhere and everywhere and expect the page to rank well.

Keywords and key phrases do need to be there in order for pages to be found, but there is more of a focus on them appearing naturally in the writing.

Recommendations for Optimization of Keyword Use

  • Develop a list of keywords and key phrases that people might use to find your site or products and services. The Google Adwords Keyword tool can be used to see keywords that might be relevant and the search volume for those keywords.
  • Do a periodic review of your keywords, at least quarterly.
  • Make sure you are writing good relevant articles that include your keywords in the content, title and meta tags and url, but don’t focus so much on making sure they appear a large number of times in your content.

Site Optimization for Mobile: The Next Frontier of SEO


When search engines were originally started smartphones were not as prevalent as they are now, and certainly no one was talking to their phone. Web sites were optimized for being exclusively viewed from a desktop or laptop computer.

Current Situation

Smartphone use has grown very quickly over the last few years, and we’ve become very accustomed to having our questions answered very quickly no matter where we are.

Optimizing for searches from mobile devices has become increasingly important as sites that are not optimized for mobile become less visible in searches. In addition if people do reach your site and have a bad experience on their mobile device they may not come back.

Recommendations for Optimization for Mobile

  • Make sure your pages are optimized for mobile users or have an alternative page for mobile users
  • Speed up the load time of your pages
  • Be as concise as possible when creating titles, urls and meta descriptions
  • Optimize for local search if you have a local storefront

Conclusion: Roll With Changes to SEO/SEM

SEO and SEM and the various strategies to optimize have changed and continue to evolve to adapt to search engine changes. You’ll be rewarded for being clear in who you want to attract to your site, and giving them a great experience once they get there.

Create value for your leads and customers by providing great content that provides information of value to them and getting it out in the right place at the right time.

Over time that will attract more visitors and keep them coming back.