By J. Samuel Burner [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsWe all know that SEO has changed, and that it’s different now from what it used to be a couple of years ago. But what did exactly SEO used to be?

Well, it’s time to explore the negative side of SEO’s semantic footprint and explore its dark, mysterious past.

A brief history of SEO

The SEO gurus of the past, aka the Wild West era of SEO, were practicing black magic then and it worked….but the game has changed. There is a new sheriff in town. Here is what SearchDecoder wrote on Sparksheet:

Over the years, SEO practitioners have contributed to a massive amount of spam and poor-quality content on the web. We broke directories, stuffed content with keywords, spammed the comments on blogs, and bought and traded links in order to game Google’s algorithm and push mediocre content toward the top in keyword rankings. Those days are over. Recent Google algorithm updates rendered most of the old SEO tactics obsolete.

What SEO used to be

Let’s go to the optimization experts, each of whom has obviously spent many days and nights pondering SEO’s historical development. This list was generated by typing in the exact match phrase “SEO used to be” on Google.

SEO used to be this thing that people thought of as happening in the dark corners of the web.”
Matt Cutts

“SEO used to be terrible.”
Allan Branch

“SEO used to be the playground of “consultants” who would use Voodoo and black magic to get people to your site.“
Ryan L. Ball

“SEO used to be magic.”
Alexander Casassovici

SEO used to be ‘say everything, often.
Cornell Warren

“SEO used to be a repair process like fixing a car.”
Rob Swick

 “SEO used to be a synonym for building links all over the web without paying much attention to either their quality or their value for business.”

Radomir Basta

SEO used to be the antonym of brand building.”
Uncredited post at

“SEO used to be the janitor—someone would come in at the end and clean up the back end of the content.”
Ted Karczewski

 “SEO used to be crack for marketers: get a quick hit of keywords and links and watch your search ranking improve while your eyes roll back in your head.”
EE Staff

“SEO used to be a scene out of Mad Max, a free for all world with no rules and some would even describe it as chaotic.”
Chris Beck

“SEO used to be a simple blog post.”
Uncredited post at


What did you think SEO was? Drop a comment and share your rant!

This post is a guest contribution. It may or may not reflect the views of SearchDecoder.

2 replies
  1. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Steve,

    SEO used to be some thing you did, to try and game Google. Now, it’s about creating something helpful, targeted and inspired, through a mix of pretty little details and good old fashioned problem solving. SEO also seems to be morphing into something Google envisioned; simply an assessment of if a site is relevant, useful and trusted according to the quality of traffic which links in to the site. That’s kinda been the vision I reckon and it’s slowly but surely coming into fruition. I feel that’s neat. Why? Betters the online game for all of us. We’re walking Win-Win, all the way around, for bloggers, marketers and searches because Google is forcing all of us to up our game in some sort of way.

    Cool post!

    Always fun to meet a fellow blogger at Search Decoder, Steve 😉 You’re also a Tri-Stater which is cool too. New Jersey native here.

    Tweeting from Bali.


    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      I agree Ryan, and many of us who have been online long enough got slapped on the wrist when Panda and Penguin came out, and one thing we know for sure – from experience – is that what SEO used to be, is not today 🙂

      I like to spread this message bc I am still seeing so many small business owners getting sold on $99 SEO a month using the old tactics in the past – they need to make better decisions and be able to distinguish from the Good, from the Bad, and the Ugly of SEO:



Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *