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Understanding the SEO Paradigm Shift in Business

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By Hector Cisneros

Ever asked yourself the question, “What does Search Engine Optimization really mean? Does it mean the same thing it meant 5 or 10 years ago?” These are questions we are asked regularly. The answers to these questions is anything but straightforward. SEO has changed so much that it’s hardly recognizable.  Understanding their depth and implications is a whole other matter. In fact, creating a marketing plan based on most of the definitions you hear for SEO will almost certainly guarantee failure. In this issue of Working the Web, we are going to explain what the word SEO has come to really mean. We will explain it in depth and in layman’s terms so that business people can understand and use this knowledge to their benefit. So read on and get ready to receive the secrets of SEO marketing in the 21st Century.

A Legacy from the Past.

Back 20 years ago we had hundreds of search engines and zero social media sites. There
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was lots of competition. Like any market, it matured, the competitive field dwindles to fewer and fewer players. Today the search engine market is dominated by one player: Google. Google, (AKA Alphabet) controls more than 70% of search and as such it is a functional monopoly on the search market. This includes both paid and organic search products. They can dictate how their product works, who gets on page one and they can change the rules any time they see fit. If we want to get in front of the largest number of people who are searching for products, we have to choose between Google search (with 70%+ of users) and the rest of the players (30% or less).

During its infancy, the early search engines were a good thing for business owners and consumers alike. Banner advertising had a much lower cost and the average business person could understand how organic web page ranking was determined. Competition is a good thing.  Once a single player came to dominate search, the effects on search engine marketing were anything but healthy for the average business.

The Ever Changing SEO Landscape

Today, Google sets the entry level of cost for paid search and their algorithms determine
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how sites rank in organic search. How organic search is determined today is very complex. It is said by many that only 25% of organic search ranking is determined based on your website. The other 75% is based on your off-site elements, such as blogs, social sites and videos.  However, traffic is also determined by a multitude of other intangibles (including reviews, content quality, social posts, social sharing, page structure and many other factors). Any expert, even Googles own personnel, would be hard pressed to explain every warp and weave of how search ranking really works. If you do a little research you will see that most pundits state that Google has over 400 ranking factors.

Google has always promised that its search engine is designed to provide the user the best results for any search. They have stated that relevance, quality, timeliness, usefulness, authoritativeness, safety, links to a page and popularity (based on traffic to a page) are what determines ranking. Google, for the majority of its dominance, has done an OK job of fulfilling this promise to users. Having said that, their algorithms have provided a roller-coaster of changes as Google has worked hard to stop black hatters from trying to trick their way to page one. They have been experimenting extensively over the last 7 years to make Google Search based on their objectives and not those of SEO tricksters trying to cheat the system. Check out  these articles for starters; It’s a New Year and the Rules Have Changed,  Are You Prepared for Mobilgeddon?  And Is Your Website a Serial Killer? for detail on these changes. Later on, in this article, I provide a comprehensive list of articles for you to research.

Where we are Today

Google has stated that it wants to provide not only the best content (best meaning high
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quality, timely, relevant and authoritatively safe content) but it also strives to provide the results that participants are “actually” looking for. Google thinks it knows what you want! However, recent changes implemented by Google don’t necessarily meet this criterion in my opinion. For example, recent political searches were being skewed in favor of Hillary Clinton by not listing negative results when people were looking for an article about Hillary’s possible indictment. At the same time Google Search was offering up lots of negative results for searches on Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Some say that this is tantamount to influence peddling. It’s one thing to influence search with overt paid advertising, it's a whole other matter to sell influence covertly by skewing what people believe to be unbiased organic search results. Check out: “Can Internet Giants Google & Facebook, Steal the Election?”.

They also made changes that increased the cost of search marketing. They decreased the number of paid search listings from approximately 12 to 7 for highly competitive keyword searches. They also reduced the number of organic listings to approximately the same number, when there were about a dozen organic listing before. The implications here are clear. Google can serve up the results it wants you to see. Any algorithm can be manipulated, both by its creator and by outside influences. They control the horizontal and the vertical of your search results and they can change their mind anytime.

Recently I have noticed that Google has rolled back some of these changes, including the number of listing for highly competitive keywords. Apparently, the number of organic and paid listing is becoming fluid. Needless to say, these changes have had an effect on the confidence that was once placed on the search results Google provides. If Google does not address this issue, it could cost them market share.

Understanding the Important Algorithm Updates

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For the most part, algorithms determine ranking. In fact, there are literally hundreds of algorithms used today. The following are just a few of the most prominent updates that have shuffled the playing field of organic search. These algorithms make it harder to explain the entire search ranking picture, but a look at the most prominent will definitely help. These updates include Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, Pigeon, Knowledge Graph, in-depth Article ranking, Authorship Shake-up, Mobilegeddon, Https/SSL ranking, In The News ranking, and Rank-Brain.

Here is a partial explanation of what some of these updates affected, along with suggestions on how to take advantage of them.

Pigeon - affected local business rankings. It rewarded those in directories and penalizing those who were not! Make sure your website is listed in as many authoritative directories as you can afford to be listed in.

Mobilegeddon - rewards those websites that are mobile friendly by serving them up for mobile search and penalizing the ones that were designed for desktop usage.  Today 60 percent of all searches are mobile! Make sure your site is dynamic and will scale to all platforms.

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Featured Snipped - rewards websites with in-depth high quality, relevant, timely and authoritative content. These “Featured Snipped” (aka Answer Boxes) get major SERP (search engine result pages) real estate. They take up a large portion at the top of the search listing. Create your content as featured content.

Structured Data update further rewards websites with in-depth content along with ones that also have the content laid out to make it easier for the search spiders to understand. Format your metadata and your featured content so that search engines will understand it better. This will increase its ranking and raise the chance that yours becomes the featured snipped.

The Secure Website update favors websites that employ Https/SSL security because it is safer than those without it. Add an SSL certificate to your website so that people can access it securely. Add the SSL logo as well to further add confidence.

Penguin - The original and recent Penguin update affected site with bad or irrelevant links, solely determine by Google.  Remove any broken or irrelevant links from the past to boost your ranking.
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In-Depth Article and Authorship Shake-up changed the way content was scored. It now favors content that is authoritative and more in-depth. This means that if most of your content (especially blog content) is of poor quality, short length and not authored by a real person (like an auto-blog), your site will be penalized. Make sure your blogs posts are of high quality, in-depth in length (at least 800 words), provide useful information and the author is listed and their profile is attached to the blog.

Google My Business - Google had favored sites listed in Google Local, and now they have shifted that to the latest version of this ranking factor, Google My Business. This means if you haven’t gone in and set up r “Google My Business” you get penalized! This is also the place where customers can rate your business. Make sure you take advantage of Google My Business by asking clients to provide positive ratings for your business.

Rank Brain –Rank Brain is an artificial intelligence program Google uses to determine from 30 to 50% of a page’s ranking. Its primary criteria are based on user search trends. In other words, it changes ranking on the fly based on the current local, regional and worldwide search trends. This means that two similar terms (like Al’s Pizza and Al’s Pizza Pallor the movie) could change position based on how Rank Brain interprets the search trends. Make sure you are generating traffic (which help with trending) via your social nets, blogging, video post and even pay per click.

A New Strategy for the 21st Century

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It has been the position of Working the Web to Win for the past 5 years that any business that is engaging in online marketing needs to make Google happy. In search, it’s their board game. If you are not doing well in Google Search, then you have to pick a niche that has your demographic. Act like a big fish in a smaller pond. We have had great success on Facebook, building both a blog audience and our social standing in general. Regardless of where you hunt for customers, you have to track your efforts diligently. This means setting up analytics to measure marketing results so that you are able to understand if your efforts are working. It never ceases to amaze me when I ask businesses owner what their analytics are saying, and they look me in the eye and say, “I don’t know”! You can’t be successful online if you aren’t measuring your results.

We begin our process by evaluating the client’s current circumstances and web position by asking them to answer 15 questions which look at the most important factors for online success. We also ask relevant questions like what was your most successful advertisement and venue, what’s your budget, what are your goals and who matches your ideal customer profile.

Here what Google has to Say about Hiring & SEO Vendors

During this discovery process, we look at their, traffic, the number of authoritative strategic backlinks they have, the number of social sites, the number of followers and if their webpages are designed to convert or brand. We also look to see if they are blogging, producing videos, engaging in touch marketing and if they are the generating positive reviews. We also check to see if their on-page optimization for metadata is correct. By providing a comprehensive starting point, we increase the chances of producing an effective marketing plan.

We tell our clients, that generating lots of traffic is important. Especially organic traffic. This can’t be achieved overnight. Often it takes anywhere from four to six months, depending on their budget, current efforts, position, and their competition. 

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Having lots of traffic is a big part of your score. It shows you are popular! How a client generates that traffic will differ for each client. For some, it will mean engaging in pay per click advertising to generate immediate traffic. For others, it may mean creating a content marketing campaign that includes strategic backlinks, listings in the top 100 search directories, blogging, videos, social posts, social promotions or even email marketing. Still, others may find that their budget forces them to engage in guerrilla tactics like word of mouth networking, doing their own social posts, writing their own blogs or creating their own videos.

Whatever the case may be, we can provide them a free analysis that identifies; what they have been doing well, what their challenges are today, and we can evaluate their competitors to see what it will take to leapfrog them. The report we create includes useful action steps, (usually, the top 5 things to do) and a list of marketing behaviors that will make the biggest difference when it comes to reaching their primary goal.

For some clients, being on page one of Google search is not the be all to end all. Maybe they are looking for a way to increase their close rate by four more deals a month. They may want to improve their credibility or counteract some negative social reviews. Each of these goals is very different. Our goal is to always achieve the client’s goal 100% of the time.  Our strategy always builds traffic by providing high quality, relevant, timely and useful content. This provides staying power that will over time lower the cost of their online marketing. This is particularly true when creating and distributing blogs and videos. These items are authoritative which casts the author in a very positive light. It also gives them fodder for their social nets. This is one great way to create and engage an audience.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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The term Search Engine Optimization has mutated into a multi-headed hydra that requires a multimedia approach. This is best provided by a multi-disciplined team that can handle multiple elements any campaign may require, since no individual has the time or expertise to manage, monitor, feed and grow your web presence. SEO no longer means optimizing just the Meta Tags on your web pages. Nor does SEO translate into optimizing your content for the search engines. Traffic is an important part of the equation, as are positive ratings and social sharing. For positive ratings and social sharing to take place, your content has to be of high quality, relevant, useful, and timely. Leaving any of these elements out costs you market share. Your audience evaluates everything you do in business. You need to measure everything you do to make them like, trust and know you so they will have the confidence to buy from you. Today, in essence, SEO means to optimize all of your content marketing properties so that they reach the maximum audience and achieve the maximum return for your efforts.

Shy away from shortcuts, tricks and black hat techniques. The results you get from using these techniques is always short lived. Worst of all, if you get caught, you will be sandboxed or worse, de-listed. Here is a list of blogposts we have written on this subject. Read them. Learn everything you can. If you don’t have time to do the marketing correctly, outsource it.
  1. Google is Playing Musical Chairs with Ranking and it will Cost Us Billions
  2. Why do Giant Companies Step on Consumers Toes? Part 2: Real Examples of Giant Corporate Mistakes
  3. Hector the Connector Predictions for 2016 and Beyond!
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  4. Is Your Website a Serial Killer?
  5. Is Google Trying to Make Alphabet Soup Out of its Company?
  6. Are You Prepared for Mobilegeddon?
  7. It’s a New Year and the Rules Have Changed
  8. How to Avoid Being Caught in an SEO Phishing Net
  9. Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned and Best Practices, Part 2 – Website and SEO Principles
  10. Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?
  11. Who Wears a Black Hat on the Wild, Wild Web?
  12. Leveraging the Internet in the 21st Century
  13. Does Internet Ranking Really Matter?
  14. What's Up With SEO?
  15. Hummingbird is Nothing to Hum About!
  16. Your Website - Lost in Cyberspace
  17. How to Make Google Your Best Friend
  18. The Evolution of Internet Advertising
  19. Is SEO Still Important Today or in the Future?
  20. Google’s Secret Ranking System - Harder for You, More Profits for Them
  21. Holy Algorithm, Batman, the Penguin Strikes Back!
  22. The Tao of SEO

If you haven’t updated your website in over a year, you have fallen behind the SEO curve. If you haven’t updated your website in 3 years, you’re most likely not generating much traffic and if you haven’t updated, your website in 5 years or more, you’re not even in the game. If you’re going to compete in the Internet arena you have to do things the way that big players (like Google) want things done. Follow the suggestions in this article to bring your web presence up to date. If you don’t have the time or knowhow, contact Working the Web to Win. Getting websites found and converting traffic is what we do. We will make it happen guaranteed.

That’s my opinion, I look forward to reading yours.

In this article, I have provided an overview of the current state of SEO marketing in the world today. This article explains and explores the biggest algorithm changes in the last 5 years and provides suggestion on how to take advantage of these changes to improve your organic search ranking. It also provides a list of other articles that the reader will find useful for understanding the complete picture of what SEO means today.
Get your FREE copy today.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. We will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, and co-workers. You can find articles on this and other subjects by typing in “SEO or Internet Marketing” or your desired search term in the search box at the top of this blog. I recommend reading “It’s a New Year and the Rules Have Changed”“How to Avoid Being Caught in an SEO Phishing Net”,  and “Google is Playing Musical Chairs with Ranking and it will Cost Us Billions” for starters. Also, don’t forget to plus us, on Google+.

If you'd like a free copy of our eBook, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," please fill in the form below and we will give you immediate access to it. Your information is always kept private and is never sold.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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