How Algorithm Updates Shape the Role of an SEO

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How Algorithm Updates Shape the Role of an SEO

It isn’t difficult to look back at recent algorithm updates from Google and evaluate how each one has altered the role of an SEO. In the simplest sense, Panda forced us to become better writers and researchers. Penguin made us change the way we build links. Most recently, although it was less of an algorithm update and more of an infrastructure change to Google’s core algorithm, Hummingbird asked us to consider conversational search queries in the content we produce.

Regardless of how small an algorithm update may be, the development and growth of an SEO’s responsibilities can be traced back through the history of updates. The fact that SEO is so dependent on updates creates quite a bit of uncertainty in the industry. But hey, as SEOs we know that the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes!

The only certainty is that things will be different tomorrow.

Saying an SEOs role has changed in the last five to 10 years is an understatement. SEOs are tasked with more each year and the definition of SEO has broadened significantly. It’s become nearly impossible to be a one-man (or woman) show. It requires a team with a number of different skills to perform quality SEO today.

How SEO has Changed

There used to be a time when SEO was strictly about getting traffic to a website. It didn’t matter how it was done as long as it was accomplished.

That was a long time ago.

Today the role of an SEO is much more than attracting visitors. It’s about conversions. It’s about building a brand, having a social media presence, and producing unique, high quality content better than anyone else in your industry.

Why is this happening? It’s simple – Google wants it. Aside from making money, Google wants its users to find the best search results possible. How do you weed out the good sites from the bad sites? Make it tough for the bad sites to compete. Google is accomplishing this through their algorithm updates.

In a post by Search Engine Journal’s very own John Rampton, he interviewed Kris Jones of Internet Marketing Ninjas and asked him about the evolution of SEO. Jones said, “SEO is now at a transition point where it’s not only about the traffic you’re getting to your site, but how your overall online visibility” is being managed.

He’s absolutely right and he reiterates the broadness that now encompasses SEO when he uses “online visibility” to describe SEO. Online visibility represents a number of today’s SEO elements, including brand building, reputation management, quality content production, social media promotion, and so much more.

This is well beyond the scope of early SEO that included keyword research, generic, keyword-stuffed content production, site accessibility, and link building.

Staying Proactive Against Algorithms

The difference between great SEOs and ordinary SEOs is that the great ones have a sense of what the future holds. They’re able to look into their crystal ball and plan for potential algorithms that may lie ahead. What’s their secret? It’s experience. There is a good chance that at one time or another they were penalized for their SEO practices and have a full understanding of the power of Google.

Here are a few things you can do to stay proactive:

  • Don’t have a one-dimensional backlink profile. An example would be a site that has predominantly built links through guest posting. While guest posting is a great way to link build, your backlink profile is supposed to look natural. Having a site with backlinks primarily coming from one source is an obvious sign to Google that you’re trying to manipulate rankings. Instead make an effort to switch up your link building strategy. For every guest post you write, try to get a couple of directory links and a few blog comments as well. Some consider directory links and blog commenting outdated link building tactics but they’re still beneficial as long as they’re relevant links on quality sites. Choose carefully where you build these links and if you’re going to leave a comment make sure you are contributing to the discussion.
  • It’s always a good time to clean up your backlink profile. If you really want to be proactive with link building, don’t wait for the next update to get rid of bad links. We all have a few links we’re not proud of and it’s best to remove them now before it’s too late. Do you best to have these links removed by contacting webmasters and if that doesn’t work then use Google’s disavow tool. However Google stresses to use this tool after all other attempts have failed.
  • Diversify your anchor texts. This shouldn’t be breaking news to anyone but if you haven’t already made an effort to vary your anchor texts when link building then there is no better time to start than today. This goes back to building a natural backlink profile. A site that has the majority of its links coming from one or two anchor texts is another sign to Google that your links are unnatural.
  • Be relevant in everything you do. The importance of relevancy for Google isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whether you’re producing content or building links, staying relevant to your niche is vital to maintaining ranks and satisfying Google.

What are you doing to stay proactive against Google’s future algorithm updates? Can you recall a specific algorithm update that completely altered the way you perform SEO?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Jensen Whitmer
Jensen Whitmer is an SEO Specialist at Web Solutions of America. He’s followed the progression of SEO with a focus in content marketing for more... Read Full Bio
Jensen Whitmer
Jensen Whitmer
Jensen Whitmer

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  • tom

    Content is no longer king. It’s Traffic that Converts is king!

  • Neco Turkienicz

    Excellent post, Jensen. The algorithm changes are empowering good SEO indeed, and I think your last point is the mos important one: stay relevant and create great content. As someone who creates online video marketing campaigns for different kinds of businesses to increase their visibility, I know that our videos get ranked high BECAUSE of their relevancy and quality, not only for the keyword we optimize them for.
    Gone are the days when someone could get away with creating crappy non relevant video, stuffing keywords and getting good ranking for that. We should cherish that.
    Neco Turkienicz – Video SEO Pro

  • Gowtham Kare

    Well said Jensen. Those algorithm updates enhance our skills and help us tune the content we create to effectively reach out target audience. Many bloggers think that Google is trying to suppress them, but I think that’s completely wrong. We are being pushed into a complicated environment that helps us design ourselves and of course our content to be user friendly and with a responsibility.

  • James Halloran

    I think what many people are viewing as a curse from Google’s algorithm updates is actually a blessing in disguise. As long as you’re EARNING links, not “building” them quickly, you should be all right. In the long run, I think many people will look back on Google’s Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates as iconic, historical algorithms that helped initiate the natural production of online content.

  • Alex

    Yes. I agree with your points.We have to stay proactive against Google’s future algorithm updates.From today i am going to follow this.

  • hina

    Some SEO Expert says, content is king and forget all seo ethics, But I would like to say If content is king then on page & off page optimization is Queen.

  • Mark

    Nice post Jensen! There is no doubt the role of the SEO has certainly changed. SEO as a stand-alone solution does not seem viable because in order to be profitable you need the other pieces of the puzzle (conversion, copywriting, etc) unless you’re ranking an Adsense sight in which case a sales, newsletter, or phone call conversion is not needed.

    Because SEO now requires more work and encompasses more areas, do you foresee an increase in SEO Service cost across the board?

  • Cameron Dunn

    Great article Jason, thanks for sharing. I’m relatively new to SEO and I find it fascinating to look back at how it has changed throughout the years. It truly is the mark of a master SEO to be able to anticipate what the next big change will be.

  • Xelin

    Very useful info you got here. The one thing I am afraid of, and everybody else, is getting hit with an algorithm update. It’s interesting how you’ve mentioned building one-dimensional backlink profile. I haven’t thought of this one. Good thing I was able to build links from various sources. In fact, I haven’t even started guest blogging. I think that so long as you keep things clean and build links the right way, you should be fine. But then again, it’s important to know and be warned of any google updates to avoid getting hit. Also, the disavow tool is a great help. I was able to clean a lot of backlinks from last year and it has really helped us somehow. Our unique traffic has increased significantly.

  • DevDigital

    Excellent post Jensen. You have described the overall SEO in one post, starting from its history to algorithm updates and what one should keep in mind to win the race.


    if you would do effective quality Link Building and Blog Posting & Promotion with Fresh Content you would be the King for the SERPs Rankings. Google SEO always there should have a space for On Page and Off Page Optimization . SEO is always the King of the Online Marketing World.

  • vseo

    To stay ahead think in what kind of problems Google has. And what kind of stuff is easy to replicate.
    Then think in how different techniques have evolved.
    Crosslinking / Widelinking / 301 push redirets are easy, so they drop relevance.
    Guest posting, directory submision are becomming quite easy, so they drop relevance.

    Think in what is going to be useful for the users.
    Something that they can integrate with 3rd party apps
    Something with “standar taxonomy” (schema)

    Then, your work is to avoid going with the crowd and keep focus on your customer.

  • Spook SEO

    I don’t agree with you @ Tom. Content still remain as the king and Social Media is its queen. You can’t deny the fact that for almost how many years, Google doesn’t change the rules about that two. Just a little modification but not a major tune up.

  • Kenny Doucette

    I agree with Spook, Content is definitely king, and social media is its Queen. Good content is a must for all websites and SEO. A site that lacks content is like a body without the internal organs…without it, it cant work!