SEO (search engine optimisation) has always been considered an evolving discipline in digital marketing. The internet itself, being a product of technology, has been constantly evolving ever since its inception.

Knowing this, it’s safe to assume that marketing practises that require the use of the internet would need to evolve alongside it. Certainly the dominance of search engines like Google has coloured the way in which professional SEO consultancy agencies have developed their methodologies.

Despite the assumption that SEO constantly evolves, there are still significant milestones that are observable throughout its lifecycle as a marketing discipline. One of these is the trend towards high quality, reputable and sincere online content.

While in an ideal world SEO would be the practise of developing high quality content, this has not always been the case. In the most primitive versions of search engine algorithms, the mere presences of keywords would be enough to suggest the relevancy of a website.

This basic, machine way of categorising web content was ripe for exploitation and gave rise to the many black hat optimisation techniques SEO practitioners shun today. These practises, now considered unethical, involved the artificial ‘stuffing’ of relevant keywords into webpage content in order to boost its relevance.

As the search engine algorithms got smarter, they began to not only ignore, but actively punish culprits who used these methods. Nowadays, shady optimisation practises like cloaking (where keywords were stuffed into the page and then camouflaged into coloured backgrounds) are not only unethical, but totally counter-productive.

Despite these strong moralising stances about how to do proper SEO in the contemporary search engine landscape, the lines are still blurred. Like any marketing endeavour, there is an inescapable element of dishonesty at play.

This inherent dishonesty is what, somewhat controversially, leads people to identify search engine optimisation as a means of manipulating indexing algorithms. The act of, for example, writing content with specific sets of highly targeted keywords included can be construed as a means of artificially tailoring content that would otherwise not exist.

This kind of content runs in parallel with the means of soft copy advertising and sponsored content. These articles, blogs or other types of writing exist purely for the sake of inflating search engine relevancy.

So what’s the relevancy of this revelation in terms of evaluating the evolution of SEO? Well, it comes down to the fact that, by necessity, the creation of content that appears to be of sincere hire quality and authenticity is what constitutes good SEO nowadays.

So, as search engines like Google become more human in their analysis of web content, the reaction by optimisation practitioners has been “ok, we’ll aggressively write content engineered for humans”.

In truth, the development of search engine algorithms to read content more like a real curator would has forced optimisation practitioners to inadvertently create more sincere content. Now, more than ever, ranking factors favour in-depth writing that keep users engaged and on a particular domain for longer.

The increased importance of high authority domains creates a self-fulfilling prophecy by which only sincerely well curated domains host sincerely good content in exchange for backlinks. All in all, this makes the content on the most highly ranked websites the best content there is in objective terms.

While this new paradigm in SEO is still in its infancy, it’s clear that in a total sense optimisation strategy has evolved to favour linguistic merit, or at least the appearance of it. However, what this does suggest is that search engines may become smart enough that no amount of optimisation strategy will be sufficient and only the best will ever actually be ranked the best.