Lee Odden

The Evolution of Google Is An Evolution of SEO & Content Marketing

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO
BackRub Google

The first logo for predecessor to Google (BackRub) was this photo (via a copy machine) of of Sergey Brin's hand in 1996.

Continuing our theme this week of Content Marketing, this post digs into some of the changes that have happened with search engines (but mostly Google) and how understanding both the diversity of search results and content formats can help internet marketers gain a competitive advantage with content optimization.

There’s nothing static about Internet Marketing, but the one constant we can all count on is the persistent effort by search engines to improve search quality and user experience. Such continuous improvements can affect how content is discovered, indexed and sorted in search results as well as what external signals are considered to determine authority.

It’s essential for results-oriented marketers to monitor the front and back end landscape of search to be proactive about what it will take to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage.  Continuous efforts towards progressive search strategy for marketers are important, because we cannot rely on Google to send us “Weather Reports” every time an update is made.

Google 1998

Google 1998

In 2007 Google and other search engines like Ask made some of the most significant changes ever, affecting search results by including more sources such as Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News for certain queries.  In an effort to capitalize on the opportunity for improved search visibility for the array of media types included in search results, concepts like Digital Asset Optimization came about.

Fast forward to 2011 and you’ll find that search results have evolved from 10 blue links to situationally dependent mixed media results that vary according to your geographic location, web history, social influences and social ratings like Google Plus. At any given time there are 50-200 different versions of Google’s core algorithm in the wild, so the notion of optimizing for a direct “cause and effect” are long gone.

Google 2011

Google 2011

The incorporation of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook into Google, Bing and Yahoo as link sources have changed what it means to “build links” and whether PageRank is still important.  Social signals are rich sources of information for search engines and old ways of link acquisition simply don’t have the same effect.

Google says it’s mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.  Marketers need to understand the opportunities to make information — including various types of digital assets — easy for search engines to find, index and sort in search results. Structured data in the form of markup, microformats and rich snippets, as well as feeds and sitemaps, all play an increasingly important role in helping Google achieve this goal.

At the same time, so does understanding myriad data sources and file types that can be included in search results.  By understanding these opportunities, search marketers can inventory their digital assets and deploy a better, more holistic SEO strategy which realizes the benefit of inclusion and visibility where customers are looking.

Increasingly, marketers are approaching search optimization holistically under the premise of, “What can be searched on can be optimized“.  That means more attention is being paid to the variety of reasons people search as well as the variety of reasons companies publish digital content. Content and SEO are perfect partners for making it easy to connect constituents and customers with brand content.

In the past, SEO consultants have typically been left to deal with whatever content they could optimize and promote for link building. Now the practice of SEO involves content creation and curation as much as it does with reworking what already exists. When a SEO examines the search results page of targeted keyword phrases on a regular basis, reviews web analytics and conducts social media monitoring, they can gain a deeper sense of what new sources and content types  can be leveraged for better search visibility.

For example, while the inclusion of Twitter and Facebook data as influential in Google search results has received a lot of buzz, search results monitoring might show that the keyword terms being targeted do not trigger the same types of content. They might be prone to triggering images and video, not just web pages. That information can be considered when allocating content creation and keyword optimization resources.

For many companies, it can be very difficult and complex to implement a holistic content marketing and search optimization program. Substantial changes may be necessary with content creation, approval and publishing processes. But the upside is that a substantial increase in the diversity of content and media types indexed and linking to a company web site will provide the kind of advantage standard SEO no longer offers.

As long as there are search engines, and search functionality on websites, there will be some kind of optimization for improving marketing performance of content in search. What companies need to consider are all the digital assets, content and data they have to work with to give both search engines and customers the information they’re looking for in the formats they’ll respond to.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Online search has come a long way and is still changing rapidly.  Do you think the only way for businesses to capitalize on their online presence is to create meaningful content and optimize it? or should it be a combination of social media monitoring, review management, and optimized meaningful content. 

  2. Avatar Peter zmijewski says

    Hey, Nice Post
    Appreciate the way of blogging!!!!!!!!!
    Looking forward for more post like these!!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing….

  3. Don’t forget that Facebook is bigger than Google. It has more daily searches within Facebook, and so now Google isn’t the only place businesses, large and small, want to be. Having a site on Facebook will show up on Google, and you can optimize it to where it exceeds .gov and .edu sites on the first page of Google.  Facebook now allows for entire websites to be published without duplication penalties.  Therefore, a Facebook business page (with numerous pages as in a web site) is vital if you want your business to grow locally, nationally or on a global basis.

    • I disagree with the idea of putting an entire website on Facebook – why would you risk the future of your brand by relying on content hosted with a domain name you don’t control?

      Facebook is prone to just removing features that companies rely on. Messaging fans and discussions for example – just gone.

  4. Avatar Nicholas Cote says

    As previously stated the complexity of search engines and the emergence of search engine optimization have become important factors in having successful website and e-businesses. In addition to SEO and optimizing your content, what do you consider the three most important factors for “web-success”? Looking forward to reading more content like this, thanks!

    Nicholas Cote
    [email protected]

  5. Great post, it has some interesting information.

  6. I must agree with you! As long as search engines exist, so does SEO! With millions of people venturing to online marketing, the main key to success in addition to a good-quality content is knowing the latest algorithm Google has. Since the set of rules changes occasionally, everyone who wants success should watch out for these changes. In addition to that, anyone who wants to succeed in any online business should yearn and learn current SEO tactics. By doing so, earning would be possible indeed.

  7. Great post. Really amazing how searching on the internet and the internet in general has changed over the past years.

  8. Just started to following this blog, looks great 🙂
    And about this post, I think Google did just good to the technology, as it encourages unique info and quality stuff, which is “forcing” people to put more efforts in providing quality info to others which at the end imo leads to improving in total 🙂



  9. Lee, 
    Thanks for this post. I find it interesting that so much of what we do is tied to Google and Google algorithmic patterns. The obvious elephant in the room is “What happens if Google changes something on their end?” Hopefully they’ll always err on the side of good, not evil. Thank you again – keep em comin.

    Joe Kyle

    • I think it would be a mistake to over rely on any one internet marketing channel – especially Google. I don’t think any organization like the GOOG is immune to getting their priorities mixed. Just look at the recent search encryption situation where you have to pay via AdWords in order to see what queries drive traffic from logged in users. Diversification of online marketing is long term and competitive. That’s what I mean whenever I mention the notion of #optimize. It’s about optimizing all your internet marketing channels. That way your business has insurance against fluctuations as well as a better chance of reaching more customers wherever it is that they spend their time online.

  10. In terms of offering a quality experience in the eyes of both the search engines and human visitors, where do you typically draw the line between naturally syndicating material to other blogs or sites (i.e. article marketing) for greater exposure versus just simply trying to manipulate search results?   Especially for newer sites that don’t have a large readership.

  11. socialmedia marketing
    looking for more info and thanks for sharing this great article.

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