The good ol’ days of 2009 – weren’t they great? Back then, an SEO practitioner could do keyword research on fat-head phrases, create awful content around them, sculpt page titles and other meta data, play around with header tags and alt text and do pretty well in the search engines.


If they were lucky, they could get their mitts on an exact match domain name. But to dominate across multiple keyword categories and ensure the best rankings, link building was required. Forums, blog comments, bookmarking sites, directories and article sharing were some favorite link building opportunities.

The Journey to the Present

Google has launched many updates since 2009, each looking to overcome its major shortcoming – rewarding bad content. Back then, major search engines didn’t really have a good way to identify high quality content because they relied on an algorithm designed mostly around factors that had nothing to do with the quality of the content published.

In theory, PageRank was supposed to give Google the ability to identify good and relevant content. If a web property had a robust link graph, it meant their content was good enough to attract inbound links from other websites and blogs.

Once SEOs figured this out, the algorithm manipulation was on. After nearly a decade of spammy link building, Google finally figured out how to combat it.

How Google Fixed 2009-Era SEO

Today, Google relies on many updates since its 2009 algorithm to ensure better and more relevant content is displayed on its results pages. For the most part, these changes have allowed good, prolific content creators to flourish online. While these changes aren’t perfect, they certainly have led to content quality improvements on search engine results pages.

Below are some of Google’s most noteworthy launches, algorithm and indexing updates since 2009:

Here are some likely algorithm changes to come (may already exist):

  • AuthorRank – Factoring in a content author’s online authority
  • Transition Rank – Placing search engine results in a temporary random position for up to three months, before placing it where it rightfully belongs

The Bottom Line

It’s likely that many marketing departments around the world aren’t fully aware of the implications of the above. This is evident by the sheer number of current requests seen for the old tactics. Deploying 2009 SEO can actually hurt a web property’s visibility today.

To succeed on search engines requires a commitment to producing great, problem-solving content over time and executing a true earned media strategy. SEO in 2013 looks more like inbound marketing and PR than the SEO of yesterday. For help getting your inbound and content marketing ramped up download this blog optimization guide.

Inspired by Jay Berkowitz and his presentation: Top 10 Reasons Your Search and Social Media Suck.

Image Credit: Calypso Dragon 13


Chad Pollitt

Chad Pollitt

Director of Marketing at digitalrelevance
Chad is a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander; member of a Forbes Top 100 List and the VP of Marketing at DigitalRelevance. He authored "51 Things Your Mother Taught You About Inbound Marketing" in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and LinkedIn Pulse.
Chad Pollitt
Chad Pollitt

Strategy | 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “2009 Called. . . They Want Their SEO Strategy Back!

  1. …and yet 99% of queries are still paid link manipulated. Of course I don’t have the data to back that up, no-one does. However, it’s simple: perform a search for any major query, perform a backlinks analysis and you WILL see paid links contributing value behind at least one (more likely most) of the top 10 results.

    I love the utopian vision of a better algorithmic future, but we unfortunately still have to face reality: Google is mechanical. It still interprets links as the primary signal for ordering search results and as a result, it still has the unenviable task of having to isolate the many variables which go into determining the altruistic nature behind the rewarding of a link.

    The difficulty for the search engine? Well, how would you go about determining what’s manipulative? There are millions of potential avenues to sourcing a link, even looking at something as simple as guest blogging, it’s literally impossible for a search engine to ever get to the stage of categorically saying: “that’s paid”.

    Unless they achieve their ideal of dictating how we should markup hyperlinks, which they won’t – they won’t simply disregard every “advertisement” which is a followed link, because doing so would be impossible (what’s an advert?).

    They can’t just simply disallow all blog links from contributing value, that would bring the SERPs to a crashing halt and impact on the quality of results.

    I could go on all day, but the above post is not an accurate reflection on reality, despite the fact I’d love it to be. It isn’t quid pro quo – great content doesn’t equate to great rankings, there’s millions of pages of great content out there which never sees the light of day.

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