A Brief History of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – TechTalks

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By Katie Kuchta

How long has it been since you last let your fingers go through the yellow pages? Or opened an encyclopedia? Or called the library for homework help?

If you are like most Internet users, your answer is “long” or “never”.

Search engines have made these activities as old-fashioned as buggy whips, hoop skirts, and door-to-door brush sellers.

Today we have everything at our fingertips in a smart device or a sleek desktop. We rely less on personal suggestions and more on what the Internet suggests to us. And one company, in particular, has been the thought leader in this technology-dependent age: Google.

The Mountain View, California tech giant’s search engine has become the hub and primary source of information. This flow of information has become one of the most important marketing channels today.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website through a variety of tactics and constant modifications to appear in search results. The goal? To improve the user experience of the website and to improve the performance of this site in search results. SEO ultimately drives traffic (and business) to the website. It’s easy to think of SEO as something new, but it’s actually been part of the digital age from the start.

1991: Welcome to the World Wide Web

It all started when Tim Berners-Lee shared his invention of the very first browser, the World Wide Web, most often referred to as the “Web”. In August 1991, the web pioneers published a code library (libWWW) so that participants can create their own browsers and web servers.

1994: Eric Ward pioneer of bonding

Link building started before Google had a huge role to play in increasing search rankings. It was then, like today, an important factor in the marketing of a website. But at the time, the Internet was not that complex. Eric Ward earned his nickname “LinkMoses”For his pioneering realization that the web meant nothing unless there was a way for people to find a specific URL. In 1994, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang created a new category in his young company’s directory, just for Ward: “web promotion”. A young entrepreneur named Jeff Bezos hired Ward as a consultant to help launch Bezos’ new business, Amazon.com. Today, link building is one of the most important Google ranking factors and one of the top three.

1995: browsers get a graphical interface, search engines are born

The browser wars have begun, sparked by the December 1994 launch of Netscape, the first commercially successful web browser. This was followed in 1995 by the introduction of Microsoft’s entry into the browser realm, Internet Explorer. These browsers have graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and they can embed both text and graphic images in a single page. This innovation has significantly boosted the popularity and growth of the web. Search engines as we know them today existed then, but their quality varied due to their limited speed and reach. One called Alta Vista, created in 1995, became popular because it combined a fast and wide search (for the time). But he couldn’t really follow. The Internet was growing faster than the ability of search engines to index it. In terms of online search, it was the era of organized directories, dominated by Yahoo. Yahoo didn’t know it then, but it would turn into a dinosaur.

1997: First use of the term “Search Engine Optimization”

The very first use of the term SEO is a reference from a web marketing agency, which offered “search engine optimization”As a service in February 1997.

1998: Google search is born

Sergey Brin and Larry Page
Sergey Brin and Larry Page

If Larry Page and Sergey Brin had never met at Stanford University, where would the research world be today? In September 1998, three years after their meeting, they launched Google, the name of a takeoff of the word “googol”, the term for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

What started as an academic exercise in determining the importance of pages on the World Wide Web in 1998 is now one of the largest technology companies in the world.

Today, Google is the most popular search engine, with nearly 5.6 billion searches per day. From a user’s perspective, how does Google know when to display what I’m looking for in a search query? And on the other hand, how does a website appear in Google’s search results? This is where search engine optimization comes in. Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, and the company keeps updating the search engine, whether large or small.

Once marketers (and now SEOs, optimizers themselves) began to understand how Google reads and ranks websites, they began to find ways to manipulate the search engine results page. They were able to improve their ranking in search results, without Google filtering the quality or relevance of the website.

Google figured this out and released a rulebook for building a great website called the Guidelines for webmasters. These guidelines are known as “white hat” SEO tactics. It’s a list on how to play by the rules and avoid penalties (like having a website removed or demoted from the lists).

2003: Black Hat Tactics and Google’s First Big Algorithm Update: Florida

Many sketchy behaviors have started to speed up the ranking of web pages for the targeted keywords. This practice of tactics that go against the guidelines is known as “black hat SEO”. Black Hat SEO tactics include things like filling pages with keywords, duplicating content, and hiding text and links. Responding to foul play, Google released its first major algorithm update, codenamed “Florida”. Named after the research-changing whirlwind hurricane, it battled websites practicing the black hat tactic. He also punished these types of websites by removing a majority of affiliate websites classified on commercial terms.

2011: update of Google’s Panda 1.0 algorithm

Google has continued to update its algorithm to create a better experience for users. In 2011, he reacted against a massive marketing trend that had polluted search results. These “content farms” generated a massive crop of low-quality content, and for a while the tactic worked. Marketers have created several pages in a short period of time.

The pages barely met the guidelines in effect at the time. Like Google’s Matt Cutts said so, the content farm pages did “the bare minimum without being spam”. One such farm, Demand Media, saw its market value climb to $ 2 billion after an initial public offering. But then Google applied an algorithmic pesticide.

Panda targeted these pages with low quality and thin content and reduced the results. It also rewarded pages that have unique and high quality content. Demand Media and businesses that relied on large volumes of low-quality content, had an epic fall.

2012: Google Penguin 1.0 algorithm update

So Florida fired the opening round from Google against black hat SEO tactics, and Panda has burned the ground beneath the content farms. And then Penguin launched a refined and selective assault on shoddy web pages.

The Penguin update took a deep dive into the link building schemes that many SEOs have practiced. Many have received penalties for ranking thin content with many links pointing to it. Penguin was a way to find out the value of links and see if those inbound links were from authoritative and relevant websites. (Penguin didn’t originally consider external links on a website, only those that link to it.)

2013: Hummingbird Helps Google Decipher Intent and Go Local

Panda and Penguin, while influential, were smaller, complementary updates to Google’s search engine. In contrast, the Hummingbird update hit the entire algorithm (similar to the “Florida” update in scope). This helped to show results with better or truer search intent by translating semantic search. Today, semantic search is how most search queries are read. It takes a closer look at what the user is looking for rather than just reading their query. The Hummingbird update also helped websites aimed at local results and showed more of a directory in local organic results.

2015: Google presents RankBrain

RankBrain was Google’s first algorithm update using artificial intelligence (AI). Its goal was to help understand new queries as they arise and determine user intent.

RankBrain itself performs algorithm updates and more closely monitors user satisfaction by measuring their interaction with the displayed results. Luckily, to optimize this update, everything revolves around the user and using language in your content that naturally reads as if a human wrote it (and hopefully it does. did !).

Now: Google’s top ranking factors

google search

Today, Google continues to dominate the search engine space, with nine out of ten queries going through its algorithm. It also continues to constantly update its algorithm.

What does this mean for SEOs and marketers trying to rank their websites in the SERPs? History shows a consistent result: The tips only work for a while. Businesses that are successful online are keenly aware of algorithm updates as they occur. But they keep their eyes on the long term goal of making sure their websites deliver what their audience wants. Aligning with user intent means having high quality, fresh, and relevant content, authoritative backlinks and using natural language optimized for RankBrain, and whatever the next algorithmic tweak will bring.

Katie kuchtaKatie Kuchta is the marketing manager of the growing start-up, LawnStarter Lawn Care.



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