But the SEO marketers kept pace with the changes. There’s a lot of money at stake, and anyone who can deliver higher search rankings will find an eager market for their services. Neil Patel is perhaps the foremost example of this—featured in a 2007 Wall Street Journal story called “The Wizards of Buzz,” he’s amassed a client list over the years that features behemoth corporations like Amazon, CNN, and Microsoft.
Today “keyword stuffing” as shown in the example above will hurt a page’s ranking rather than help it. Link farms—websites that exist for no other purpose than to provide links to other websites, for a fee—have also been banished from Google’s search rankings.
By the mid 2010s, it wasn’t just keyword stuffing or link farming that would put an SEO marketer on the search engine’s shitlist—posting unoriginal or clickbait content would also come with heavy penalties. If you wanted your page “to rank” (i.e., show up in the first handful of results), you had to say something fresh, interesting, and useful.
The hammer really dropped in 2018/2019 when Google trained its search crawlers to put extreme scrutiny on the so-called “Your Money or Your Life” websites. The term refers to sites whose content could potentially affect people’s health, happiness, safety, or financial well-being.
Google’s update to the search crawlers’ algorithm gave a new weight to credentials and citations. In other words, if you search “best remedies for arthritis,” the top link is now much more likely to come from the Mayo Clinic than a mommy blog.
For the average internet user, this SEO arms race has made the internet both less interesting and less usable.
Toughts & Comments
I did not particularly like this article—the references to cocaine and anal beads make me think it was written by a Gen-X fan of Palahniuk. The author also seems to have an anti-Democrat (or at least anti-Biden) streak and ended by making the article oddly political. Still, they brought up some interesting points about the evolution of SEO.
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