Semalt Speaks On The Most Important SEO Changes In The Last 5 Years

SEO is one of the most volatile areas in the IT industry and clearly does not suffer from a lack of momentum in development. In the last year and a half alone, so much has changed in the field of search engine optimization that even an experienced specialist, who at this time dropped out of the "topic", would have to study a lot anew.

If we take a period of time within 5 years, then in SEO everything has changed almost completely. What was relevant then and how everything works now are completely different worlds. And Google and Yandex algorithms are only part of the puzzle. It's about the market itself. The attitude of the business towards search engine optimization has radically changed. Almost any entrepreneur already understands that the Internet can be both a springboard for takeoff and a lost opportunity for him.

Understanding the realities of modern SEO is important even for non-practitioners. At a minimum, it will help you in evaluating a third-party proposal or understanding how best to work if you decide to do the promotion yourself.

Here is a list of the most important changes that have taken place in SEO over the past five years.

Internal factors in priority

Both Google and Yandex are constantly improving their algorithms to provide users with the best search results. At the Top, there should be exactly high-quality sites and not just those with a better link profile.

It is unrealistic to earn the status of quality without working out internal factors, even if we are talking about low-competitive requests. If you somehow manage to get the Top due to good link pumping, if there are problems on the site itself, poor conversion and negative behavioural factors will quickly make themselves felt.

A few years ago, it was enough to buy more links than the competitors, and you would not have to pay much attention to internal factors. Now in many niches, the situation is exactly the opposite.

At the moment, there are many examples when a site with a minimum number of backlinks has good visibility in its niche due to a high-quality study of internal factors.

The death of link spam

If earlier there was a simple rule - the more links, the better, now the priority is quality. Any careless methods of working with the link mass are perceived as attempts to manipulate and are punished. In Yandex, Minusinsk is responsible for this, and in Google, Penguin.

Search engines are good at recognizing unnatural links, which has led to an increase in the popularity of techniques such as manual link building, crowd marketing, and content marketing. The latter is used to obtain the highest quality links since they are almost always posted only in relevant materials and on thematic sites.

Low-quality links, at best, will simply not be taken into account by the search engine. In the worst case, this can lead to the imposition of sanctions on the site. One of the proven ways to collect good sites for the subsequent receipt of links from them is the analysis of competitors. And to make a good competitor analysis, you need a powerful tool, I recommend the Semalt DSD tool.

Focusing on meaning instead of form

First, Panda from Google, and then Baden-Baden in Yandex, significantly influenced the practice of optimizing pages for keywords, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the usual methods.

Search engines are actively introducing semantic search, the essence of which is to decipher the user's intent, which may differ even when entering the same key phrase. For example, a user who enters the query "Tesla Model 3" can search for a review of this car model or just news on the topic or its photo.

Determining the intent of a search query - informational, commercial, or combined - allows you to correctly distribute the semantic core across the landing pages of the site. To automate this task, you can use a special tool SEO like the Dedicated SEO Dashboard.

Impact of behavioral metrics on rankings

This is especially noticeable in Yandex, where the closer you get to the Top, the more the influence of behavioral metrics is noted. These include all kinds of ways a user interacts with the site, such as time spent on the page, bounce rate, site click-through rate, return to search results, etc.

At first, there was very little information on the impact of these metrics on a site's position in search results. Then there was a boom in various ways of cheating and the services that offered this service appeared like mushrooms after rain. Today it has become clear that the most reliable way to use these factors to the advantage of website promotion is to actually work on improving them.

Content marketing 

Previously, no one wasted time on this, but it is already clear that the combination of content marketing and SEO is one of the most powerful tools for website promotion in search. High-quality and useful content that fully answers the questions of the target audience allows you to achieve several goals at once:
  • significantly increase the visibility of the site in searches and attract additional traffic from organic search results;
  • help get quality and relevant backlinks;
  • contributes to the formation of an expert's image;
  • stimulates the growth of brand awareness;
  • allows you to form the core of a permanent audience on the site.
As you probably already guessed from the points listed above, work in this direction can be divided into internal and external. The development of a blog based on a commercial project, combined with the systematic work of placing guest publications, allows you to achieve excellent results.

Mobile in the foreground

Optimization for mobile devices, which no one previously thought about, has become a clear necessity these days. The volume of mobile traffic exceeded the desktop one.

One of the most significant changes in search over the past few years is Google's move to a mobile-first index - now indexing the mobile version of the site will be a priority, not the desktop one. Moreover, both Google and Yandex are actively promoting technologies to speed up the work of website pages on mobile devices and are doing everything to make it clear that this area is now a priority.

The fastest way to improve the quality of your site's mobile optimization is to switch to responsive design. To do this, you can buy a ready-made design template for your CMS or order an adaptation of an existing one. It is also necessary to work on improving parameters such as the page loading speed, as mobile users often use a slower connection.

SERP changes

The issue results page is changing. PPC advertising blocks have grown, and they are gradually replacing organic results from the first screen, which is especially noticeable on mobile devices. This makes getting into the Top 3 even more desirable, and the rest of the results on the list get even fewer conversions.

Google is actively developing the Knowledge Graph and increasing the list of queries for which rich snippets are shown. Yandex is not lagging, also showing answers to many information requests right in the search results.

On the one hand, it improves the user experience by minimizing the user's effort to get the information they need. On the other hand, predictions come true that in the future search engines will tend to give fewer and fewer clicks to site owners, keeping users in their ecosystem.

The rise of local SEO

With the proliferation of high-speed access to mobile Internet (4G), people are increasingly looking for goods and services that are close to them in a particular city. It is thanks to mobile users that search queries related to a specific location are becoming more and more popular.

In Western markets, local SEO is an important component of the search engine optimization strategy, and now this trend is steadily gaining momentum in the Russian Internet. If your business is focused on the target audience in a specific city, be sure to pay attention to this.


In this article, we have listed the most important SEO changes over the past 5 years. Summing up the above, we can draw the following conclusions:
  1. The level of internal optimization becomes more important than the impact on external factors.
  2. When working with links, quality is important, not quantity. The link mass should look as natural as possible.
  3. Search engines have learned to understand the meaning of search queries, which increases the requirements for the quality of content.
  4. Competent content marketing is becoming an important component of a modern search engine promotion strategy.
  5. Optimization for mobile is no longer one of the useful, but not required options - now it is a necessity.
  6. Search engines are gradually replacing organic results with links to sites by showing answers to queries directly in the SERP.
  7. Local SEO is an important and promising direction for work, which is a necessity for the business in the regions.
Understanding what has changed in SEO and where everything is going allows you to effectively adjust the promotion strategy and get a good return on your efforts.

Keep your finger on the pulse and if you have something to add to our list - share your opinion in the comments!