The Evolution of Google and Website SEO

SEO isn't what it used to be and that's largely because of Google. In this article we discuss why.


Steve Kehler

3 years ago | 5 min read

Shipwreck Kelly was a legend in his day. His face was on the front of many newspapers, and people would drive for miles to see him. What made him so special? Kelly could sit atop a flagpole, sometimes hundreds of feet in the air, longer than anyone else.

This unique "skill" earned him endorsements and a great income. Books were written about his life. Everything was going great for Kelly. But, then came the day that the crowds lost interest, and Kelly's flagpole sitting career was over. What had worked so well for Kelly in the past became irrelevant.

For decades, investing in SEO worked wonderfully to send internet traffic to a website. The rules were simple to follow and it was easy to edge out the competition. But the internet has changed. SEO has gone the way of flagpole sitting and doesn't work very well today. In this article we're going to discuss:

1. The death blow Google Ads dealt to SEO

2. How social media is undercutting SEO

3. The effect of ever-changing rules for SEO

Let's get started by looking at Google's grab of screen space and the resulting death blow to SEO.

Are you using Google any less than you did five years ago?

Most likely not. Google continues to be the top search engine in the world. That said, getting organic search results on Google used to be a much more productive exercise. This was the case until Google decided they needed to increase their revenues to please their shareholders. Today, if you want to see organic search results, you must scroll further down the page.

Google made some big changes to the search results page

First, Google got rid of ads on the right-hand side. Second, they added an additional ad to the top results. Third, Google added more ads to the bottom of the page. You may remember from a couple of years back how your Google search results looked a little different. The search results screen had three ads at the top and up to four ads on the right-hand side. Google removed the right-hand side ads so that desktop results were more congruent with the results that mobile users received. This may look like Google has less advertising, but in reality, they are only changing how the results appear to the user. Because of this, SEO has lost relevancy.

Let's look specifically at changes affecting mobile users

By allowing up to four ads before the organic search results, Google is making mobile users scroll even further down the page to get to organic results. Stats show that a huge percentage of all website clicks go to the top search result positions, regardless of whether they are ads or organic. More ads at the top of the search results equal more clicks on ads and fewer clicks on organic results. SEO lost a lot of value. Compound this with the rise in popularity of social media, and SEO is in a lot of trouble. This brings us to the second point - how social media is undercutting SEO.

Admit it, we spend a lot of time on social media

This trend doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. With the increased amount of time spent on social media, people aren't searching for topics as much as in the past. We're spending hours and hours, mindlessly browsing Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and every other platform. Occasionally, something will grab our attention and lead us off of social media. But that rabbit hole which we enthusiastically jump down hasn't been a result of an active search - it's been distraction marketing. We don't arrive at a website because of a search engine search. We get there because of and through social media. SEO played no role in bringing us to a website. Then, once you've been to a website, well you know what happens next.

Retarget marketing kicks in and never lets you go

The shoe store or car dealership will continue to hammer you with ads everywhere you go. That is, of course, if they are employing the services of a marketer who is worth their salt. To find a different source of info online, you'll need to go out of your way. Many of us are simply too lazy. Also, your visit to a website shows Facebook that you have an interest in the topic of that website. Every other shoe store or car dealership can now target you as well. Things aren't looking too good for SEO right now, and we haven't even covered what's required to keep up with new algorithms. We're now up to the third point - the effect of ever-changing rules for SEO.

Do pigeon, penguin, and panda ring a bell for you?

They may if you've worked with SEO in the past. Each of these was an updated version of Google's search algorithm. Each update meant changes to how websites were ranked. If you wanted to stay near the top of the organic search results, you were constantly needing to update and modify your website keywords and alt text. By no stretch of the imagination is SEO a set-it-and-forget-it approach to getting website traffic. SEO is a big investment and requires a lot of time and effort to make it work.

So what should you do?

You've already made a big investment in your website. Am I suggesting that you quit? Yes, I am. I'm suggesting that you quit investing in SEO for your website. It's time to jump off that hamster wheel. Of course, what you've already invested, it's not all a total waste. I don't recommend removing or undoing all things SEO for your website. When you are posting to your website, add appropriate alt text and keywords. What I am saying is don't fall into the trap of believing that SEO will be the answer to all your website traffic problems.

When you only invest in SEO and spend nothing on pay-per-click, social media, or print advertising, I know this is totally cliche, but you really are putting all your eggs in one basket. When the next algorithm change comes along, will you be ready for it? Do you have an SEO manager that is on top of all the changes, and as they happen, do they act on them immediately? If you're investing in other methods of traffic generation, when your SEO traffic does slow down, they are there to pick up the slack.

Now is a great time to diversify your traffic sources

We've discussed how the recent changes to Google Ads have really hurt the results you get from SEO. We also know that social media continues to be popular and almost eliminates the need for website SEO. Finally, SEO isn't free. It takes a lot of dedication to keep that wheel turning.

Just as Shipwreck Kelly learned the hard way, how the value of his entertainment ran its course and stopped being effective, SEO has gone that route as well. What worked effectively ten to twenty years ago is not nearly as potent today.

Thanks for reading this article. If you've enjoyed it and found it helpful, I'd recommend you read another article titled "How To Know If Your New Facebook Ad Campaign Is A Dud In 3 Days Or Less" In it we examine how to analyze three different aspects of a Facebook ad campaign, and from there, determine how well that campaign will do. Cheers.


Created by

Steve Kehler

To a 2nd grade student, a 4th grader is a genius. I've thrown a whole lot at the wall and am waiting to see what sticks. I'll share what I learn.







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