In SEO there are many basics that are standard and remain that way. For instance, the title tag has always been important, and will likely stay important for a long time to come. It’s the way SERPs present the content of the page linked in the most concise way possible, so it’s the main construct of SEO.
However, there are some SEO elements that have changed over the years. For example: the keywords meta tag. This is something that is still used (by some search engines more than others), but is not nearly as prominent as it used to be. In the past, many pages would just fill this tag with every keyword possible and rank very nicely because of it. As search engines mature, they become more intelligent in analyzing pages, and tricky black hat approaches no longer have quite the weight they used to.
Another major SEO element that is not as prominently referenced as previously: keyword placement in content. I can hear many of you gasp now – that’s one of the major SEO staples! It is still used quite a bit, but it’s starting to change. Particularly with Google. Now keywords are still checked, but LSI is starting to play a larger role. Latent Semantic Indexing is basically the search engine’s associating of keywords with related words. In the past, you threw a ton of your main keyword up on your page, then made every other word “la la loooo”, you would still rank very highly for the main keyword. It was easy to cheat.
Now that search engines have progressed, they look for FULL content, not just one or two keywords. Nobody knows exactly how Google operates (except for the doctors working in their secret labs, with their NDAs chained around their necks), but we do know that they are starting to use LSIs much more when doing keyword rankings for search results. If you have your keyword and several LSI keywords as well, you’ll do much better than if you awkwardly place one or two keywords in some manufactured content you wrote JUST to have somewhere to put your keywords.
Good SEO is starting to mean actually writing valuable content. Personally, I think this is a good direction. People searching through search engine results should be able to find what they are looking for, and quality results. And to get to the upper ends of the results, you should be providing quality content. SEO is beginning to progress more in this direction.
For now, it’s not perfect, and some little tips and tricks still do a better job for search engine optimization than they probably SHOULD (aherm, sloppy backlinks, hrm) where they do not always provide the searcher with a quality result. But as the search engines get more advanced, SEO will have to adjust.