Lessons From 2012: The Year SEO Changed Forever


I started doing SEO in the mid 90’s when ranking well meant just repeating the same word more than your competitor. Yes, at the age of 14 I was busy writing HTML on the weekends and trying to convince companies that they needed a website. Yes, back then big companies didn’t think the web was going to “take off” but even still myself and a business partner convinced giants like Coldwell Banker that a web presence made sense.

Back then Netscape was the browser of choice and modem speeds were doubling every year, life was good. Doing SEO in the 90’s wasn’t very involved, the bare basics worked and without tons of competition a little work could go a long way.

Despite building websites in the 90’s I didn’t have the foresight to buy any domains. If I ever build a time machine this is what I would probably go back and change. However without a time machine I’ll just continue down the road I’m going, how SEO has changed forever.

As Google came-onto the scene and SEO became more mainstream the name of the game was backlinks, and lots of them. Quality didn’t matter as much, just lots of links with the right anchor text. Forums and link directories because incredibly popular as backlink sources, link farms were born, and early Internet gold miners enjoyed a new fortune.

Then in 2011 Google decided to started to really turn the SEO crank and in 2012 it went all the way to what is now a new world of SEO. For anyone that hasn’t come to terms with it yet, all those zillions of backlinks you’ve collected or paid for over the year could actually hurt you more than they’re helping you. The link directory that used to propel you above-the-fold on Google isn’t working any more. Heck, maybe even a couple of your sites have been de-listed.

The world changed for many people in 2012, however those that emerged strong in 2013 shared a common thread – quality content. The old Internet adage “Content is King” has been changed, now it is only “Quality Content” that is king. Content in general could be a bad thing if it’s low quality.

In the end this also means that thinking of SEO as a series of steps no longer makes sense. SEO is no longer the practice of techniques that when combined together allow you to rank better. Instead SEO now really means creating cool things online that other people recognize as cool and talk about. It’s not just backlinks, it’s Twitter mentions, Facebook buzz, and everything else from the social media universe.

It really is a lot more like the world we all want to live in. Rather than doing a Google search and finding a bunch of thin made-for-AdSense sites, now reliable sources are showing up more and more. Let’s face it, this has been a long time coming. So throw out all the old SEO books you’ve read and get ready to ignore 95% of what you read online, many SEO articles are incredibly out-of-date.

The web of 2013 has new rules. Ranking well isn’t about creating a tome of content, it’s about making a connection with people and creating something that people come back to again and again. No, you don’t have to launch the next Twitter, but you do have to think outside of the box and do something meaningful. Content may have been king but now I think we can all see that creative engaging content and innovation reign supreme.

I find people deal with change in two different ways, they either resist or accept it. For those who accept it they then have to go a step further and adapt to the change, these are the people who end up ahead in the end. Those who resist change keep doing things the same way, wondering every year why things aren’t working out.

(Photo Credit)

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton