SEO optimization anno 2005 versus SEO optimization anno 2024

Search engine optimization, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO), has evolved quite a bit over the course of its existence. In this article, I discuss the biggest differences between SEO in 2005 and SEO in 2024 . I’ll tell you about the most important changes in link building, content and technical SEO. I also explain how these changes have affected the effectiveness of SEO. Finally, I discuss how companies can stay competitive and rank well in search engines by following current trends and adhering to best practices in SEO.

Significant differences exist between SEO in 2005 and SEO in 2024

As an SEO expert, I have seen over the years how important an effective SEO strategy is to improve an organization’s online presence. However, SEO is a complex field that is constantly changing under the influence of user behavior and new technologies.

SEO best practices in 2005 were very different from today’s because the search engines back then were much simpler. In other words, they used less sophisticated algorithms. Below are some SEO best practices that were popular at the time:

  • Keyword density: high keyword density on a page was important to rank higher in search engines. Not infrequently, however, this led to overuse of keywords on pages. These days we call this “keyword stuffing” and by now it is actually counterproductive.
  • Page titles and meta tags: page titles and meta tags were important to help search engines understand what a page was about. At the time, it was believed that adding as many keywords as possible to these elements would promote ranking(1).
  • Backlinks: inbound links from other websites were as important then as they are now. However, less sophisticated link analysis algorithms existed. As a result, link spam and manipulation of organic rankings became more common.
  • URL structure: the use of keywords in URLs was considered important to improve ranking. Much less attention was paid to the readability and user experience of URLs(2).
  • Content quality: while keyword density was important, so was content quality back then. High-quality pages with relevant and unique content were already rewarded with higher rankings.

Most of the above best practices are no longer valid today. In fact, using these tactics can actually lead to lower rankings or even a penalty. SEO has evolved greatly. Current best practices focus on creating valuable and relevant content for users. At the same time, the technical aspects of the website and the quality of the backlinks are optimized.

What SEO best practices worked in 2005 but no longer do?

So in 2005, certain SEO tactics worked that today do not work or can even be detrimental to a website’s ranking. Below are some tactics that worked then, but no longer do:

  • Keyword density: as mentioned briefly above, keyword density was an important factor in ranking a page in 2005. This often led to the overuse of keywords on a page. These days, this will get you a penalty from search engines for “keyword stuffing.
  • Invisible keywords: to improve ranking, in 2005 people sometimes used invisible keywords. These had the same color as the background of the page. Anno now, this is no longer effective and, like keyword stuffing, can even lead to a penalty.
  • Automatic link exchanges: in 2005, it was common to exchange links with other Web sites to improve rankings. However, some sites used automatic link exchanges and link farms. These days, search engines actually consider that a harmful SEO tactic.
  • Duplicate content: in 2005, it was normal to duplicate content on different pages. Now, however, that is an SEO problem because search engines are looking for unique, valuable and relevant content.
  • Poor link building tactics: in 2005, there were less sophisticated link analysis algorithms. Poor link-building tactics such as buying links and placing links on spammy websites still helped improve organic rankings back then. Anno now, these tactics are actually detrimental to ranking and can lead to a penalty(3).

The above SEO tactics worked in 2005 because the search engines were less sophisticated and therefore easier to manipulate. Nowadays, search engines work on the basis of complex algorithms to determine a website’s ranking. It’s important to stay up-to-date with current best practices and avoid using old-fashioned tactics that are actually counterproductive now.

Why is SEO a lot harder now?

SEO has become more difficult over the years because of the increasing complexity of search algorithms. Increasing competition and users’ changing search habits are also contributing factors. Below I explain to you point by point why SEO anno 2024 is a lot harder than before:

  • Increasing complexity of search algorithms: search engines such as Google are constantly updating their algorithms. They do this to prevent Web sites from using inappropriate techniques to rank higher. Because the algorithms are now much more complex, it is more difficult for website owners to understand how search results are ranked and what factors influence ranking.
  • Increasing competition: with the rise of the Internet, there are many more Web sites and Web pages available than ever before. The ever-growing competition makes it harder to get to the top of search results.
  • Changing users’ search habits: the rise of mobile devices and voice-activated search have changed users’ search habits. As a result, search engines have also evolved to understand searches on different devices and in different languages and dialects. This means more effort is needed to optimize content for search engines and meet the requirements of different users.
  • Greater emphasis on quality: in the past, SEO was based on manipulating search engines and performing techniques for their benefit. Today, the emphasis is on creating high-quality content. It should match users’ search intent and provide them with valuable information. Creating quality content requires more effort and knowledge than optimizing content by adding keywords.

All of the above factors have contributed to the increase in SEO complexity. It is important to stay up-to-date and stay ahead of the competition using current best practices.

What worked in 2005 and doesn’t work now?

By now it has become clear to you that search engine optimization, or SEO, has evolved greatly over the years. Many of the tactics that used to work are now obsolete or are even considered spam by search engines. To make sure you keep seeing the forest for the trees, I’ve tabulated the key tactics that worked back then:

SEO tactics in 2005Current Status
Keyword stuffingA common tactic at the time that involved repeatedly inserting keywords into a page’s content and meta tags. This was usually done in a forced, unnatural way. Now search engines like Google consider this spam and hand out penalties for it.
Invisible or hidden textSome websites tried to improve their rankings by adding invisible or hidden text full of keywords. This tactic also counts as spam anno today.
Buying linksIn 2005, buying backlinks from other Web sites was a common way to improve rankings. Nowadays, buying links is a violation of the guidelines of search engines like Google and will result in a penalty.
Duplicate contentIn the past, the same content often appeared on multiple pages. One chose this to increase visibility. Meanwhile, this so-called duplicate content is considered a negative ranking factor.
Low quality contentIn 2005, abundant use of keywords could still compensate for low-quality content. Today, this is no longer the case, and Google actually values the quality and relevance of content.
Excessive use of anchor textIn the past, the use of exact match anchor text (the visible text in a hyperlink) was encouraged for SEO. Now, on the contrary, it is important to use a natural mix of anchor text types.

While these tactics may have once been effective, it is now important for SEO to provide value and a high user experience to visitors. You build a sustainable SEO strategy best by focusing on quality and relevance.

What are the biggest differences in link building?

Comparing the past with the present, one can conclude that there are several differences when it comes to link building. Below I list some of the most important ones:

  • Quality versus quantity: in the past, link building focused primarily on getting as many links as possible from other Web sites, regardless of the quality of those links. Now the emphasis is no longer on quantity, but on quality. Only with high-quality links from relevant and trusted websites can you add value to your content and website.
  • Anchor text: Previously, the use of keywords in anchor texts was an important factor in link building and ranking. Nowadays, it is important to use natural and relevant anchor texts that fit the context of the link(4).
  • Link quality: search engines today consider the quality of links much more than their quantity. Links from authoritative and trusted websites are seen as more valuable than links from less trustworthy or spammy websites.
  • Link building tactics: in the past, link building tactics such as link buying, link exchanges, link farms and comment spam were used to rank higher. These tactics are now harmful and can even get you a penalty.
  • Social media: with the rise of social media, social media links have become more important. Getting shares and links on social media is now an important part of link building.
  • Natural links: nowadays it is advisable not to actively seek links, but to create high-quality content that generates natural links. High-quality content is valuable and relevant. You further increase your chances of natural links by promoting your content and building relationships with influencers and other websites in your niche.

The focus on link building has shifted from quantity to quality, and the use of harmful tactics is now penalized. Creating high-quality content and building relationships with influencers other websites is now the best way to get natural, high-quality links.

What are the biggest differences in terms of content?

There are also major differences between the past and present in terms of content. Below you can read some of the key differences:

  • Focus on quality: in the past, people created content primarily to manipulate search engines and satisfy specific keywords. That led to low-quality content. Now the emphasis is on creating high-quality content. Such content is useful to the user and matches their search intent.
  • Multimedia use: nowadays, multimedia use, such as images, videos and interactive content, is becoming very important. Multimedia provide a better user experience and can increase user engagement with content.
  • Optimized for mobile: In the past, content SEO tactics focused on desktop computers. Due to changes in user behavior and the increasing use of mobile devices for search, content must now be optimized for mobile use. It should be easy to read and use on different screen sizes(5).
  • Voice search optimization: with the rise of voice search, voice search optimization of content has become of great importance. Optimize content for voice commands using natural language and spoken keywords.
  • Personalization: today there is a greater focus on content personalization. User data and algorithms allow websites and apps to customize content to individual users. This improves the user experience.
  • Relevance and authority: content relevance and authority are now more important than ever. Search engines value content that is relevant to users’ search intent and created by experts within the industry.

In short, the focus on quality and user experience has increased and using manipulative SEO tactics to rank is no longer effective. Multimedia, mobile optimization and personalization are now factors that contribute significantly to the effectiveness of content. Relevant and high-quality content that responds to users’ search intent is essential for effective SEO and an optimal user experience.

What are the biggest differences when it comes to technical SEO?

In addition to link building and content, there are obviously some major differences in technical SEO. Here are some differences between technical SEO anno 2005 and technical SEO anno 2024:

  • Mobile optimization: in the past the focus was on desktop computers, but today mobile usage has become much more important. You need to optimize a website for mobile use in order to achieve a good user experience and rank higher in organic search results.
  • Website speed: website speed is more important than. Search engines reward Web sites that load quickly because it contributes to a good user experience. Slow websites, in turn, actually get lower rankings.
  • Technical health of the website: in the past, search engines were less sophisticated and manipulative tactics got hold of them more easily. Today, search engines are getting better at identifying technical problems on Web sites. This can include broken links, duplicate content, incorrect canonicals and other technical problems.
  • Website security: website security is now more important than ever. Search engines prefer websites that are HTTPS secured and have an SSL certificate(6).
  • Structured data and rich snippets: the rise of structured data and rich snippets has led to new opportunities to improve and optimize search results for search engines. Websites can now use structured data that allows search engines to better understand content and generate rich snippet results.
  • Crawl budget: more websites and web pages exist today than ever before. That means search engines need more time to crawl websites, or in other words, to index their content.
  • By properly managing your crawl budget, you will ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website optimally.

Technical SEO has evolved to a more user-centric and qualitative approach. Mobile optimization, website speed, technical health, security, structured data and crawl budget are now important factors in optimizing websites for search engines. Technical tricks to manipulate search engines no longer work. Websites now have to meet all the technical requirements of search engines like Google to be effective SEO-wise.


Over time, SEO has become considerably more complex. In 2005, the focus was on manipulating search engines through keyword-stuffing, link farms and other techniques. Nowadays, you achieve high ranking in other ways. The emphasis is on creating high-quality content that is relevant to users’ search intent. This is content that adds value to the user experience. Search algorithms have become more complex, competition has increased and users’ search habits have changed.

It is important to stay up-to-date with current best practices. This is how you manage to rank high in search engines and maintain this favorable position. Mobile optimization, website speed, technical health, security, structured data and crawl budget are now important factors in optimizing websites for search engines. With a user-centric approach and a focus on quality rather than quantity, you will be effective in SEO.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
My clients give me a 5.0 on Google out of 75 reviews

I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.