What SEO Used to Be Versus What SEO Is Now

With Panda, Penguin and all the other Google updates, SEO has changed over the years. What used to work doesn’t anymore.

So, how do you know what you should be avoiding and what you should be doing now? Well, I’ve created an infographic that breaks down the old and the new in SEO and explains how you need to adjust your SEO strategy today.

Click on the image below to see a larger view:

What SEO Used To Be Versus What SEO Is Now

Click here to view an enlarged version of this infographic.


The biggest thing that has changed over the years is content marketing. If you look at the graph above, you’ll notice that 88% of the companies that use SEO integrate content marketing into their strategy.

If you take away only one key point from this infographic let it be that you need to focus on content marketing. And not because I said so… but because it works.

How else has SEO changed over the years?

P.S. If you need help optimizing your site for the latest SEO updates click here.

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  1. Hey Neil,

    Great infographic.

    Nowadays it’s all about the long tails and quality. In a sense, it’s much better for the user experience now than ever before. Gone are the days where you could build a few thousand non relevant links and rank a spammy and short post.

    Those who persist and work hard consistently get paid off in the long run!

    • Christopher Pontine :

      Hey whats up Matt,

      Totally long tail keywords. Not even a question on this. Anybody that looks at their analytics will most likely seeing 100’s or 1000’s long tails sending that more hungry in-depth niche focused keywords.

      Might as well have 1 engaged organic click through then a bunch of bouncers anyways.


      Christopher Pontine

    • Matt, great point! Now it’s all about the long term game. You bring up a great point with long tail keywords, they are the surest way to really contextualize all your efforts.

      • Yes, totally agree with you what now it’s all about long tail keywords. Actually the best way to get visitors by long tail keywords is writing only for reader rather than search engine.


    • Fenja Villeumier :

      Hi Neil, Hi Matt, Hi Christopher,

      I think search engine optimization has changed in many ways over the years but the most influential development probably is the move towards a more holistic approach in SEO as Neil has pictured it in his appealing infographic as well. Our extensive market study on the “State of SEO Agencies” (http://blog.linkbird.com/en/infographics/state-of-seo-agencies/) also comfirms this finding.

      Quality in SEO is more important than ever before (like Matt has already pointed out) and can best be nurtured by a symbiosis of disciplines all heading for the same direction with the joint goal of creating an unforgettable user experience!

      Thanks for sharing and have a good start into the week all of you!
      Regards, Fenja

  2. I’m new to SEO world but I’ve been recently reading a lot articles about it. What I think is that Google updates have changed SEO world for better and after looking at your Infographic I’ve decided where to put my focus on. Thanks a ton 🙂

    • Ashiquzzaman, glad this infographic was helpful. I think with all the updates that have rolled out over the past couple years it’s been more important than ever to focus on utilizing the right tactics.

      • Thanks a ton man, I do follow Moz blog but somehow I missed this article. I’ll definitely check it 🙂 cheers

        • Ashiquzzaman, glad you found the article helpful.

          • Caitlin Arcizo :

            I am no longer positive where you are getting your info, however good topic. I must spend some time learning more or figuring out more. Thank you for fantastic information I used to be searching for this information for my mission.

  3. The new adage is quality above quantity, still seo is hard to gasp, it’s not a science, it’s divers and dynamic, changing to the dance steps of google. So I wonder when google’s next update will be.

    • Diepak, it definitely is a game of quality. At the end of the day it’s important to follow the guidelines as they roll out with each new update.

    • Christopher Pontine :

      Hey diepak,

      One of the SEO tips over time that just always stays is great quality informative content. I say continue with that and you have a great start.


      Christopher Pontine

  4. Andrew Broadbent :

    Hi Neil,

    I like this infographic. I agree that SEO has become contenting marketing now or at least it is a major part of the equation. My question to you is, how many people do you have on your team that helps you do research, and come up with guides and blogs every week? You cannot possibly be doing this kind of high quality work all by yourself right?

    • Andrew, while I do create and formulate the topics and write these article on my own I do utilize a team of people to help design and come up with the statistics.

  5. Neil: We love your daily emails. You are always right on.

  6. Very useful and on the spot infographic. Thanks for sharing Neil.

  7. Great content. SEO now is way more about doing what is right and thats it.

  8. Austin Coulson :

    Great post Neil. We’ve been preaching this approach to prospects and clients for a little while now and it’s nice to see it clearly laid out like this. Always appreciate your knowledge, thank you!

    • Austin, glad I could help. If you have any data or insights based upon your findings I would love to hear them.

  9. Randy Kauffman :

    Nice Infographic! On this one, we are doing very well, but it’s nice to get that verified by you.

    Thanks again!

  10. Pragya Bhattacharya :

    Hey Neil,

    Again Great infographic.

    This post is useful for both Beginner and Experienced online marketing professional.

  11. I liked SEO better when it was finding clever ways to plaster in a bunch of keywords, such as making them the same color as the background.

    Just kidding.

    Sort of.

  12. Brian Jackson :

    To be honest,one of the best infographic from you..:)



  13. SEO today is sure different.

    To me, building links now is like more towards reaching out to people and indirectly beg for links. It doesn’t matter if it is a broken link method or Skyscrapper technique.

    Love your infographics!

    • Alan, I wouldn’t say it’s begging. More like asking for links in a very contextual calculated way.

      • And you do that, how? Been researching very niche subject applicable to large market for a decade (motherhood came first, now I’m divorced & alone, either by design or divine intervention, but all my research used Gold Keywords, Good Keyword Search, and I believe I have an article on how to find what’s being searched on Google, in order to create “quality” content. Do I need now to ask other websites to backlink to mine (which I have to create as ex stopped paying for that), or only when I’m able to publish pieces on other websites?

        Most of my pieces are old and the backlinks don’t work.
        Maybe I am stuck in the 90’s state of mind for SEO, as I read books published in the late 90’s! I don’t have the resources to reinvest in a new library of How-to books on content marketing and SEO optimization. Help

        • Jen, just keep writing posts that have contextual links within them. That’s the honest to truth best strategy.

          You’ll find that when your articles gain more steam and exposure the keyword rankings will too. Don’t discount social as a driver or traffic.

  14. As always Neil, I love your posts.

    Thanks for sharing. Search engine optimization is still optimizing for the search engines; it’s just that now the search engines are being optimized for the user, so it worked out after all. haha


    • Ken, glad you liked the post. At the end of the day you want to make sure the intent of your keywords and the audience that is being reached are in harmony.

  15. Neil,

    Great post. SEO has indeed moved away from ranking for a specific keyword (“dog food”).

    I would add to your list — I believe that the main new keyword strategies are:
    * purchase intent keywords (“buy dog food”)
    * long-tail keywords (“best dog food for puppies”)
    * geotargeting (“dog food in Boston”)
    * related keywords (“doggy treats”)

    The related keywords data is part of Semantic SEO. You haven’t heard much about related keywords to date, in part because there weren’t any good data sources, until our team at MarketMuse built one.


    • Aki, great points and thanks for sharing. You always want to mix up keywords based upon intent as you mentioned. Semantic SEO as you mentioned is a very important element of keyword research.

  16. Hey Neil,

    I agree on the SEO assessment based on a big site of mine. I launched a niche site in Feb 2014 and within 8 months was hitting 3,200 to 5,000 daily organic search visits from Google (it grows each month).

    Here’s the thing, I did very little keyword research, the only links I built were social media links (my social media channels are pretty popular) and I submitted my site to BOTW.

    My posts get quite a bit of social engagement (Facebook and Pinterest mainly).

    Other than that, it’s a user-focused site with respect to content… resulting in over 1.1 million monthly page views in 8 months. Google took notice and sends a very nice stream of traffic every day.

    The interesting thing is when I set out with this one project, I had no intention and didn’t care if I got organic search traffic. I didn’t even try.

    With respect to content, me and my team invest about 4 to 10 hours on each post cranking out one to two per day. They are media rich with 650 to 4,000 words per post professionally written.

    It’s a lot of work, but it’s paid off. Instead of building links I invest time in content and social engagement.

    It’s great that organic search traffic is now possible without intense backlinking. I prefer focusing on content and engagement… it’s more fun and I no longer fear search engine updates.

    • Nice work Jon!
      and more importantly – what a breath of fresh air AND a stunning example of how doing things right pays off 🙂

      I’ve been in SEO since before it had a name (started late 90’s) and have never preached doing anything other than what you are clearly doing now. Forget the Pandas, Penguins and Google Dance. All that has ever been about is weeding out the rubbish (sorry guys, but you all know it’s true!).

      The guiding light for me – and I’m sure it wasn’t from Matt Cuts either – is that Google wants us all to make the web a better place. Period. (OK, I guess that’s a deep philosophical abyss opening up right there – but let’s just keep it simple – we all know the difference between “good” and “bad”, right?)

      So, to make the web better, I do not need to employ any kind of tricks or systems to somehow tip the balance in my favour, do I? Just like when I play cards with my friends and family, I don’t cheat when their backs are turned.

      All that “bad egg” behaviour will catch up with you. Think of it as some kind of digital karma 🙂

      So, concentrate on the WHY and forget the HOW.
      The algorithms and bots are so clever these days, they’ll pick up on how you are aiming to improve the web or otherwise.

      Sorry about the rant – it just happens to be old ground, with a few old haunted hangouts I used to frequent. This is my blood-boiling point: “SEO”, when it first spawned, was as niave as the title suggested – and then somehow it got hijacked, and became a term for “how we game the system”.

      OK, I have to admit, the term SEO was flawed from the outset. Search Engine Optimisation kinda suggests we’re doing something for the search engines, which imho was NEVER supposed to be the case. As I hope we can all agree on nowadays, it is the SEARCHER we are trying to optimise for.

      If this is what our great friend Neil means by “old SEO”, then I’ll stand by that, as long as we all acknowledge the addendum: not all of us were douchy SEO’ers from the get go!

      Many of us were – and still are – advocates of Fair Play, and even more importantly, of makíng the web a better place: the most insane, humanly edited, multidimensional “communications encyclopedia” there has ever been.

      Long may it serve!
      Long may Google (and others) try to preserve its just roots 🙂

      Here endeth the Lesson


      • Hey Jeremy, thanks for the thorough reply.

        I wish I had started on my current path years ago. C’est la vie; live and learn. I have to admit the growing use of social media and native advertising options makes not relying on organic search much easier.

        • Jeremy/Jon
          I appreciate your thorough and in-depth feedback. I think you guys are both extremely on your point in your assessments. “Old SEO” as I coined it has become something that is antiquated and no longer useful. With all the algorithmic updates it has become much harder for people to game the system. With that being said I focus my time on things that have traditionally never failed me — like content marketing and contextual linking. At the end of the day it’s all about supplementing organic growth and doing what works.

  17. Lol Neil there is one typo error in infographic. Check the second last para of New SEO of Brain dean one. You will find “by creating better conent” 😛 it should be content right ? haha

  18. Hi

    What do you mean by saying that Brian Dean “reach out to the backlinks for the compatitor’s outdated content and replace them with this?”

    Can you make it clearer?

    • Hey Luke

      Just go to backlinko.com and read Brian’s post on the Skyscraper Technique – it’s genius 🙂



      • Loz, thanks for sharing that link. Luke, if you go to the link you’ll find it’s easy to employ the Skyscraper technique.

  19. Harleena Singh :

    Hi Neil,

    I never used any SEO software or techniques, yet my Google Analytics tells that my blog, Aha!NOW, gets 36% organic traffic. I guess that’s fair enough for just for sprinkling few keywords and related phrases in the posts, though the main focus has always been quality, useful, helpful, and meaningful content.

    This is my formula and it has worked for me > CRISS < Content + Relationships + Intreraction and Engagement on site + Social Promotion + Site Layout = SEO. (In that order).

    This has been my strategy for the last 3 years, and it has paid out. Now that I've the ABC, a community at my blog, it has made things better.

    I only want to validate and reinforce what you convey through this post. Simple and nice infographic. Thanks for this post.


    • Harleena, I like how you presented the strategy. I really liked the CRISS strategy and I think it is roughly the same as my strategy. I have gotten a validation from my technique which means I think you will too.

  20. Tinker Source :

    You have a typo in your infographic in the last section, in the case study “conent” should be “content”

  21. Web South Solutions :


    Love how you mentioned Fiverr gigs in the infograph case studies. I have too many potential clients that have bought those type of fast and easy links then come to me to try to help them out. Sad thing is now that Fiverr is advertising on TV we are going to see a lot of this with everyone thinking they are an SEO expert because they bought 10k links for five dollars!


    • Wow, yeah I think with the advertising spots Fiverr has now we’ll see a lot more shady marketers trying to swindle people. The aim is to continue doing all the right things to ensure you can have sustained growth.

  22. Good luck ranking on first page (where the money is at), with those tips.

    If you’re new to SEO, don’t bother with SEO.

    Focus on other forms on marketing or if you’ve got the budget, and if the ROI is good enough, hire a good SEO from a blackhat forum.

    • Walt, thanks for your feedback. I think where you are getting at is that it’s harder to rank via the old tactics — it’s imperative to focus on a content marketing strategy that is contextual.

  23. Great info but there is a typo in the infographic

    under link building new seo case study

    by creating better conent < should be content

  24. Hammad Rafique :

    Correction: Brian Dean from Backlinko was able to increase his traffic by creating better content*

    • Thanks for the reference to Backlinko. I never heard of it before, but have just spent almost an hour over there, when I should be doing other work 🙂 like Neil, Brian has some great tips for small business SEO

  25. Neil,

    Are you still finding that infographics are a good way to build the “quality links” you mentioned, or is that no longer the case?

    Also, do you think that the “content marketing” approach will also begin to move in a different direction over the coming months? I know that content can mean a lot of different things, and that it likely will always be needed (by engines and consumers), but as quickly as this industry changes I have to believe that the next big change is just around the corner – and that charts from companies like econsultancy may look quite different in a year or two.


    • Jeff, I honestly think content marketing is here to stay. There is really no way you can get rid of it. People have always been inclined to read newspapers and other content rich stuff. With that being said, the amount of exposure and viral factor are what will make it always be appealing.

  26. Hello Neil,

    Brian Dean is really great in link building. I believe that, nothing is work better in SEO expect high quality content and quality Link building. And Content marketing is the best key to success in SEO.
    I am getting ready with your tips of Content marketing strategy 🙂

  27. Thanks Neil for sharing…always something here to learn

  28. Farcas Gelu Danut :

    Great infographic! Tnx!

  29. Hi Neil,
    Thank you for this amazing post.

    However there is a spelling error at Brian Dean part, it should be spelled “content”, not “conent”.

    Everyone makes mistake, chill out.

  30. Nino Natividad :

    Old SEO is now a history. Great comparison, Neil.

  31. Hey Neil,

    I see a spelling error in the second case study with Brian Dean as the example name. The error is “conent,” rather than “content.”

  32. Hey Neil,

    You have sum up the 10 years (2004 to 2014) of SEO difference in this single article. Great advice.

  33. Truly helpful infographic. Neil always comes up with authentic data driven inferences and conclusions in his posts and infographics. Love quicksprout.

  34. Dinesh K Takyar :

    Super duper info graphics! Quick and easy to read. Very helpful. In my case I just concentrate on writing for my visitors. The content should help them solve their problem.

  35. Hey Neil,

    It is an excellent comparison between Old SEO and New SEO. As you said, quality content, backlinks through relationship and long tail keywords are the things to be focused to please the search engines.

    I’m familiar with these concepts and thus driving a decent organic traffic. Thanks for sharing this awesome infograph for us 🙂

    • Nirmala, glad I could help. Focusing on all of the things you mentioned above can go a long way towards achieving your overall traffic goals.

  36. Soumyakanti Ray :

    Very nice Infographic indeed, like it so much. This clearly shows us the difference between OLD SEO and NEW SEO.
    Thanks for sharing with us such a nice work 🙂

  37. G’day Neil, you are a awesome. You pump out great content like a human machine! I really like the infographic, very engaging the 20% that gets the 80%! Now I really need to go implement it!

  38. Pushkal Gogna :

    Hi Neil,

    Excellent infographic explained very well.

    I have question for you why you stop forum? After i joined i look next day forum no more.


  39. Gregory Smith :


    Who was the real author of this piece?

    Greg Smith

  40. Nice infographic.

    There is a typo in the link building section. “conent” should be “content”?


  41. Hey, after reading this article am pretty sure to write more quality Content & add quality backlinks. Thank You Neil.

  42. SEO is still evolving.

  43. Zeeshan Shahid :

    Hi Niel,

    Nice effort to create this infographic this is the excellent example of old and new seo

  44. This is one of the best infographic I have ever seen on SEO.I have seen some sites with Spam back-links that still rank on Google for years without any problem with Google.

  45. These days, I’m working my content writers at full speed ahead to create quality content … good to know I’m on the right path!

  46. Really Interesting Finding, Thank you So Much for This Valuable Article. it’s Really Helpful for Us. Keep up this Nice Writing. Thanks.

  47. Great post! It’s another learning method about the SEO old and new. This graph is very helpful and useful for the bloggers. I learned and many great ideas here. Thanks for sharing this.

  48. Optimization and content marketing strategies are the win-win elements in an online venture. Excellent breaking down of SEO ‘before’ and ‘now’ discrepancies Neil. I guess, what strategists had more focused on in this year was the empowerment of content marketing in building a vibrant community around one’s brand.

  49. I like the SEO now since it really draws resourcefulness and strategic part of you. Unlike before, its all about links here and there without realizing that some of it are no longer beneficial and can ruin your website’s online reputation.

  50. Hello Neil

    I must say info graphic is SPECTACULAR !!!!!

    You have wrapped every relevant difference so gracefully in this info graphic that one should get all story of old and new SEO techniques clearly in just one slight glance.

    Well, yes, I too agree that focusing on content marketing, quality back links are long tailed keywords are the prime need of hour.

    Thanks buddy!!!


  51. Gaurav Khurana :

    how you create these info graphic i mean using which tool ?

  52. Many Thanks for your informative and useful article.

  53. True about SEO, I can add that there is no SEO today, content that has been built with purpose will bounce website traffic.

  54. Hi Neil,

    We are startup company. we would like to start SEO campaign for our website.
    Can you suggest some important things to carry initially.

  55. Alex Cleanthous :

    Great info graphic. Totally true, I’m realtively new to SEO in the grand scheme of it all and even in my tenure I’ve seen the approach of SEOs change online. Content is king!

  56. Alex Cleanthous :

    Great info graphic. I’m relatively new to SEO, but even in the time I’ve been paying attention I’ve seen the strategy of SEOs change. Content is now king online.

  57. Joe Bloggs @ Marketers Center :

    Hey, I see you have a twitter account, do you tweet all your new posts?

  58. always share usefull articel wih us, thanks neil i miss your next articel

  59. Awesome content as always. Really makes me rethink my online marketing and outreach strategies.

  60. I have never gave a thought about seo strategies in past, Always providing useful information. You have alot of experience neil, thank you for sharing info that helps me alot.

  61. It’s a really important analysis, seo has changed and everyone has to do his strategy now…

  62. Great infographic Neil as always… I was just about to share it however I noticed a typo… orange linkbuilding section > New SEO > Case Study > 3rd line says conent instead of content.

    If you update the graphic please do let me know as I’d love to share it.

    All the best,

  63. Hi Neil,

    Great tips through out your website, do you also have any guide specialized to Local SEO?

    Jennifer Franklin

    • Jennifer, what specific questions do you have? I can help.

      • Hi Neil,
        my query is about local SEO:

        1. What factors impact local seo results most?
        2. Should we rely on tools like majesicseo(trust flow/citatiot flow) for local seo research?
        3. I have seen few local business ranking with zero trust flow but on page 1, where others have very high page ranks but not even close to page 1

        Many other questions I have but I know you must be very busy to answer all.

        Thanks in advance Neil
        Jennifer Franklin

  64. Hi Neil

    I was wondering how infographics perform for SEO purposes. I mean text and keywords are picked up by Google are they? Or cross-linking.

    Also, why do people often put [infographic] behind the title of their post? Does that make it more likely to get opened?


    • Juliet, it’s all about the visual element when it comes to infographics. The practice of titles is to increase click through rate.

  65. Hi Neil

    Grate infographic, I have a blog on Millionaire dating sites review. I want to improve my blog traffic. I’m focusing on social media marketing and link building.
    Can you suggest me any other way to increase organic traffic.


  66. Awesome Infographic there Neil!

    P.S. This new SEO is hard 😛

  67. Hey man, what dpi size do you save your jpegs at? They look so beautiful. I feel like whevener I put something on blogspot the quality goes down.

  68. Great share Neil!

    Yes SEO is now totally changed and as competition is also there. Now we have to consider many more factors to do proper SEO. Thanks for tips in this post!

  69. Hi Neil, I every time spent my half an hour time to browse this blog’s posts daily along with a mug of coffee. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up…

  70. Hey Neil

    Your article is great about old seo and new seo , realy longtail keywords helps alot for rank website in search engine beacuse longtail keyword is very simple to understand and very specific and we can easily target relavant auidence. its in low competition but easliy to rank fast.

    thanks keep it up bro 🙂

  71. Off Page SEO :

    Awesome Infographic! This post is useful for both Beginner for online marketing. Tks for your sharing.

  72. SEONeos Review :

    Great article! Creating great content SEO and link building with other bloggers are the top two reasons for us to build our network and in this way we are able to make money.

  73. Oh, It seems that Google changes make SEO harder and harder But, with the help of your artcles, not impossible. 🙂

  74. Emilee C Hatch :

    Major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others keep updating every time.. Even the time has been changed a lot for SEO.. Old vs New will definitely help people to optimize site in a proper way. I am gonna take a note for this. Thank Neil!

  75. Andrew Wise :

    I’ve been working on the “new” SEO for the past 3 months, and have built more links to my site that I had in the previous 7 years.

    Thanks to folks like yourself and Brian Dean.

  76. SEO is changing so fast. What worked before isn’t working anymore now. We need to stay updated with the latest changes.

    Great post!

  77. I agree! Although I’d say most local SEO is still revolved around just a few super-targeted keywords. The longer-tail keywords generally rise up automatically assuming proper on-page.

  78. Very good insight Neil. I love the way you created PDF for easy understanding.
    Keep rocking!!!

  79. Luís Cláudio :

    Congratulations on the study I fully agree with what you said.
    Can you tell me how long it takes for results to begin to appear in a linkbuilding campaign

  80. Very good this page is recommended for its good content

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