How Much has SEO Changed in The Last 5 Years?

Search engine optimization has seen granular changes due mostly to Google. SEO experts have had to refine their tactics over the years as Google betters its search results and attempts to weed out unworthy websites that may have tried to game the system through manipulation.

At 51Blocks we’ve witnessed low-quality links abused to obtain high rankings fall off the radar, and we’ve also seen Google’s iconic pagerank metric go without an update for years.

But major changes have occurred that has made search better, and it has changed the way that SEO experts must focus their attention.


Major websites, and JCPenney to name a few, were penalized in a foreshadow of Google’s Panda update. Google’s Panda update, released on February 23, 2011, impacted 12% of search results and attempted to eliminate content farms – content made just for ranking. Thin content was also penalized; short articles with no real substance.

Panda dominated the year with several updates. Google also:

  • Expanded site links
  • Google+ came to relevance
  • An attribution update was made

The changes in 2011 made SEO experts focus on higher quality content rather than content meant to rank a keyword and provide no real value to the reader.


The beginning of the year started with 30 small algorithmic changes followed by Panda 3.2 rolling out. Sites with too much ad space above the fold were penalized. Several other minor updates occurred until April 24, 2012 when Google’s Penguin update was rolled out.

The update adjusted spam factors and was an attempt to introduce an “over-optimization” penalty.

Several other updates changed the way SEO was conducted:

  • EMD update
  • Link warnings

Search engine optimization was changed dramatically in 2012 as on-page optimization became more of a factor. Little changes that once gave a competitive edge on-page were now being penalized.

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