The concept of Search Engine Optimization dates back to 90’s. But what actually is search engine optimization? It is the process of enhancing the quality and quantity of internet traffic to a website from search engines. Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process because search engines continuously alter their algorithms. During the early 2000s, there was one instance when a major algorithm update by google left many people scratching their heads. Google’s indexing algorithm changed and people were no more the first page for keywords.
So here is history in chronological order.
Early Days, 90s
Stanford University students Jerry Wang and David Filo created the first version of Yahoo. The first version was directory of interesting websites. Owner of websites had to manually submit to the directory so that it can be indexed. Indexed pages would then show up against keywords in Yahoo search.
Few years later Page and Brin launched Backrub at Stanford University. This new search engine ranked pages based on two factors: Inbound Link Relevancy and popularity. Backrub then went on to become Google. Few other search engines were also launched by various people. For example goto.com which supported sponsored link and paid search. At this point in time, SEO was pretty much simple and straight forward: Webmasters submitting pages to search engines to get indexed and ranked.
2000s, Google takes the game to next level
In early 2000s, Yahoo partnered with Google. Google was not known much back then. The Yahoo search result said ‘powered by Google’. This way Yahoo introduced Google to the world and eventually Google took over the game as a competitor.
Google came up with a brand new algorithm. If you describe the algorithm in layman words, it would be “if people are talking about you, you must be important”. Google used web crawlers to discover pages. Webmasters were not more required to submit pages. Google levered the use of anchor text to rank pages. It also used quality and quantity to external links pointing to a website as a factor. More link meant increased chances of getting crawled, so better search engine optimization. Link building was of such importance that this decade, (2000–2010), a whole new sub-industry of Link-building was created. Websites like Upwork.com (then Odesk.com) has thousands of job for link building and bookmarking. Eventually this way of ranking websites was abused in every manner possible.
Google also introduced various factors like Page speed to rank websites. Responsive UI is another factor google started to take into account when ranking websites. And with advent of Social Media platforms, search engine ranking showed a strong co-relation to user generated content. And then offshoot industries like Search Engine Marketing came into being. Google gave out many updates to the algorithm to combat spam but the SEO guys out there always had something to exploit, be it tags, links etc…
Google came up with, what they call it, Hummingbird algorithm. The next step in Google’s next generation of search came in September 2013 in the form of Hummingbird, an algorithm to address natural language queries and speech search. Google introduced the voice search. In 2015, Mobile traffic exceeded the desktop traffic. Google started to taking into account mobile friendliness as a factor in ranking pages.
Today Google uses AI to power their search engine. Search Engines have came a long way. Search Engines are designed to suggest and assist, not just spit out links. With great advancements in Natural Language processing and AI, Voice searching is getting better. Not only voice search but today’s Search engines have Visual search as well. Today, search engines are more stealth to spam and can’t be exploited easily.
If you are to optimize your website for search engines, you better be putting out quality content and relevant stuff.
As long as there are Search Engines, one thing is for sure, SEO remains a serious issue.