Learn about how the practice of SEO began and how it got to where it is today.
Search Engine Optimization has become an important part of any companies marketing strategy. These days, everyone knows that the better your SEO, the better your exposure. But how did it all start? Let’s take a short look SEO from its inception to its current widespread practice.
I’ll begin in 1994, when Brian Pinkerton created the first WebCrawler. This crawler generated a list of the top 25 websites. It was around this time when webmasters began to optimize sites for search engines. In these days, all webmasters had to do was submit their page URL to the various engines. The engines would "crawl" that page by extracting links and keywords which would be indexed.
Around 1997, the phrase “search engine optimization” came into use. Businesses began to see the value of having a webpage that ranked highly in search engines.
Early SEO was victim of widespread abuse and manipulation. Early algorithms relied heavily on keyword density, which webmasters could easily control.
In 1998, the PageRank algorithm was created. In addition to keywords, PageRank began looking at incoming links to determine where a website would rank. Webmasters could no longer stuff their sites with keywords and reap the benefits.
Google was introduced in 1998 and changed the SEO landscape. In Google’s rankings, off-page factors like PageRank were taken into account in addition to on-page factors like keywords, links, and Meta tags. Google could not be manipulated as easily as engines that only took on-page factors into account for their rankings.
As more and more people began to jump on the web, more users flocked to search engines and Google. The increase in traffic made high Google search rankings even more valuable. Companies desired those spots and were willing to pay to get there.
SEO firms developed on-page and off-page optimization techniques to help search engines understand and rank websites. SEO experts began to develop an industry structure that included industry news and SEO conferences. The practice was now in full swing.
Another side of the SEO story emerged – blackhat SEO and those who try to manipulate Google’s rankings with ethically questionable tactics. Google’s algorithm updates intended to stifle this practice.
Google’s first real clampdown on shortcuts and deceptive practices occurred September 2002, with an unnamed Google algorithm update. This update was quickly followed updates named Boston and Cassandra in early 2003.
Cassandra cracked down on link quality issues from domains owned by the same person or company. The Florida update put a stop to many on-page deceptions.
These began an SEO industry focus on Google algorithm updates that continues to this day.
Google has updated its algorithm numerous times since Florida and Cassandra. Panda (2011), Penguin (2012), and Hummingbird (2013) being the most recent.
Today, the best SEO companies specialize in predicting and adapting to major algorithm updates in their focus and strategies.