David Lee - Sep 5, 2017

How Has SEO Changed?

As we approach the end of 2017, one trend is perfectly clear: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), has fundamentally changed. Many of the techniques that worked in the past are no longer effective. Here is how your SEO strategy needs to adapt.

Before we go into how your SEO strategy needs to change, let’s review some of the changes with Google in the last five years.



Five years ago, in 2012, Google rocked the SEO world with the infamous Penguin update, which basically signaled the end of “black-hat” SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing and back-link farms.  


In 2013, the importance of only targeting keywords took another hit with the Hummingbird update, which focused on improving upon on semantic search or “searcher’s intent.”


And then, in 2015, Google announced that RankBrain and machine learning had entered into algorithm, which means that Google is starting to understand the topics and content on your web pages and site.


So what does this all mean?

In the past, SEO technicians would optimize the content around being found in the Search Engine Results and pay very little attention to the actual reader of the content. Today, you need to do both: optimize the content so that it can be found on Google AND easily understood by the reader. Many of the techniques that were once popular are no longer effective

If you have read our blog on What Factors Influence SEO Ranking, this chart from SEMRush should be familiar.

SEMRush - Ranking Factors.png

Source: SEMRush

As you can see, while there are several factors that influence your SEO ranking, one of the clear trends is that quality content plays a major role in determining how much traffic you can drive to your site.  Your SEO strategy needs to change and adapt.

Think of topic clusters, not keywords

While keywords will still play a role, trying to include every permutation of a keyword (keyword density) is no longer needed—whew! Instead, think about the topics you want to be known for, then create deep and meaningful content around that topic.  

Hubspot - Pillar Topics.png

Souce: Hubspot 

There are two aspects to creating a topic cluster.

The first is, of course, gathering and organizing all of the related content into a cluster. If you have existing content, you will need to perform an audit to identify which topic cluster your current content falls into. If you are creating new content, use a Buyer Persona to help you brainstorm around topic ideas that your target audience is interested in.  

The second aspect is the architecture of your site. Again, if you have current content, make sure that you provide an internal link back to the central topic—the pillar page, which is discussed below. And make sure that your pillar page is linked to all of the related subtopics. This way, search engines can see the relationship more clearly, and it signals to search engines which page is the authority on the topic.

The pillar page

Central to the topic cluster is the pillar page, a comprehensive overview of the topic. This page is the glue that holds together all of the pages on that topic. A couple of key concepts for your pillar page:

  • It can be a blog article or a site page
  • It is a living page; as you add more related content around the topic, you will be modifying your pillar page to accommodate that new content
  • You will want to devote marketing funds to this page to boost it on social media

Remember, marketing has changed. Today’s B2B buyers are doing extensive research on their problems and possible solutions, and they are evaluating the company that will best be able to help them.  

Make sure that the content on your website is organized so that it can be easily found AND is valuable information that potential customers actually want.

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Written by David Lee

As the founder of Do What Works, my goal is to take the best practices and lessons I learned from working with Fortune 500 companies and bring them to the mid-size market and help our clients grow their business.