SEO SEM would look very different today if not for changes brought about by Spammers.
In fact, most Internet advancements have even happened because of spam. And to understand how far SEO SEM (search engine optimization and search engine marketing) has come, it is important to look back at where it came from.
Spam is the word used to describe unwanted email, taking the name from the Spam sketch in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But it has since expanded its meaning to unwanted SEO SEM tactics and results too, flooding the search engines with pages that no one really wants, all in the hope that some poor sucker will buy something, thus justifying their efforts.
Back in the mid- to late-1990s, Yahoo was really the only major search engine being used, and they relied on web masters to use certain tactics to tell them what a website was about. Most of these SEO SEM techniques basically involved having proper keywords on a website. As long as a search engine found a few keywords on a page, it assumed that was what the page was about. But as the competition grew stiffer, someone realized if they had more keywords on a site, they could win the search. Eventually it became a battle to see who could have the most keywords on a page.
However, this ruined the user interface, making pages unattractive. No one wanted to see the keywords plastered across the top of a page, screaming what the site was about. So web masters began placing keywords at the bottom of the page, repeating them over and over several dozen times.
The search engines didn’t want any of this, however, so web masters tried creating invisible text (white text on a white background), but the search engines began to penalize those sites. So they tried tiny text — using 6 or 8 point text — but that didn’t make the search engines happy either.
The next SEO SEM trick was to stuff as many keywords as possible into a page title and meta description, like the Description tag and Keyword tag. It was not uncommon to see the same keywords repeated in a title and meta tags a couple dozen times. The search engines penalized those sites as well, and said they did not want any SEO SEM keyword stuffing at all.
So the SEO SEM pros had to learn how to use one or two keywords in a title and description, and to practice proper search engine optimization. This technique is now the current accepted SEO SEM practice.
In the meantime, they also tried keyword stuffing in the body copy, trying to intersperse keywords into the copy as frequently as possible, creating horrible sentences like “Download this free website marketing report that details different website marketing techniques to improve website marketing.”
But, just as with the tiny text/invisible text tricks, the search engines caught on again, requiring SEO SEM pros to actually become good writers who created readable and interesting copy. While there are still plenty of bad writers out there, the push has been to improve the quality of online writing, and there has been some real progress over the last couple of years.
The battle still continues on, as SEO SEM marketers try to stay one step ahead of the search engines, while the search engines fight to keep their databases free of the SEO SEM trickery and chicanery that spammers are known for.
There probably will not be an end to SEO SEM spam any time soon, but as users get smarter about it and search engines find new ways to combat it, there could be a serious decrease in it, and an improvement to the user experience as time goes on.