The story of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is intertwined with the evolution of the modern search engine. The history of SEO is the history of the search engine, the devices we use, and the internet itself.
The Great Library of Alexandria burns to the ground. The destruction of the library erased untold knowledge collected from around the world.
Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development Director, Dr. Vannevar Bush, proposes a common record. A collection of data and observations to be amended, improved, and revised to reflect current knowledge and understanding, a singular compilation of all contemporary knowledge. A radical idea prior to the internet.
The Pre-Google Internet
McGill University student Alan Emtage creates Archie, progenitor of the modern search engine.
Stanford students create Architext, the first search engine to sort search engine result pages (SERPs) by keyword density.
Website owners can manually submit their sites to ALIWEB for search engine indexing.
Search engines begin using web crawler robots to sift website content for indexing.
Search engines begin to resemble how they look today (AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo!).
Protective foam equipment seller Greg Boser begins researching how to optimize his website to increase traffic and drive sales.
Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin start building BackRub (Google), a search engine that emphasizes backlinks as website ranking criteria.
Google goes live.
The Wild Frontier of 90’s SEO
Early search engine ranked website pages based on the amount of times the queried search term was found on the page. This led to people stuffing their web pages full of often-searched keywords. This practice overflowed into excessive meta-tagging of pages. Many optimizers also engaged in churning out spammy, low-quality backlinks to improve their SERP position. These bad practices were specifically targeted by Brin and Page as they developed Google. Their new search engine would rank websites based on keyword relevancy AND content quality.
2000 – 2002 SEO’s Intermediate Years
This time period was a struggle as search engine developers looked for ways to guide and motivate website owners to optimize their content the right way. Google labored to separate advertising from the function of the search engine. They provided guidelines on how to optimize website content the right way. This is commonly referred to as “white hat” SEO. However, without ranking penalties for bad behavior it did little to allay exploitative, “black hat” practices.
The Rise of Google
Google algorithm update Florida institutes penalization for keyword stuffing.
Google makes its first step towards voice search by combining customized urls with telephone calls.
Google, MSN, and Yahoo! unite to reduce spam links and website comments by instituting NoFollow link attribution.
Google launches Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console), and purchases YouTube.
Search engines universally adopt XML sitemaps (search engine bot sitemaps).
Google Universal Search arrives adding news, images, and video to web search results.
Google Suggest (autocomplete) beings showing search suggestions based on aggregated data.
Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, launches.
Bing and Yahoo ally to combat Google’s 70% US search engine market share.
Expanding Search Results
Google begins delivering real-time search results including breaking news and social media posts. SEO became a concern for journalists and social media managers.
Google announces site speed is a ranking factor.
Bing and Google further integrate social media by showing related social media posts in the SERPs and assigning PageRank (measure of link’s relevance and authority) to frequently linked profiles.
Google’s Panda update course corrects its algorithms to downplay ad-riddled content farms specializing in frequent, high quantity/low quality content posting.
Google introduces enhanced search feature Knowledge Graph, focused on search intent and semantics often displayed in knowledge panels, carousels, and boxes.
Google Penguin update penalizes web pages with spam links that do not complement the page’s H1 (header).
Above the Fold update begins penalizing sites with heavy advertising in the above-fold area.
Google Hummingbird update better interprets conversational language used in mobile and voice search.
Google Pigeon update improved map and local search queries by implementing the spelling correction, synonym, and knowledge graph features of other search functions.
Moving Beyond the PC
Google mobile update begins penalizing mobile unfriendly websites and pushing websites towards responsive design.
Google introduces Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), resource-light pages designed to instantly load content on mobile devices.
Google begins mobile-first indexing.
SEO in 2018 and Beyond
Contemporary SEO is About the User.
Every Google update is focused on providing a better experience for the user. You can do five things to please the people and the robots.
- Provide quality, original, updated content
- Recognize what searchers want and give them more of it
- Design your website for the best user experience possible on all devices
- Make your website and changes easy and straightforward for spiders to index
- Link your website to relevant, high-quality websites and disavow bad links