A Short History of SEO
Search engine optimisation is a relatively new practice, as the internet itself is fairly new to our societies! SEO today is almost entirely centred around Google and its ever-updating algorithms designed to prevent unscrupulous methods of forcing traffic to your site, but SEO itself pre-dates Google’s existence.
Opinions vary about when SEO first became a distinct service, some saying the late 90s, but others claiming as early as 1991 with the birth of the world’s first website, which you can still visit today! Evidence suggests that the term “search engine optimisation” originated in 1997, beating out other terms which had been suggested, such as search engine placement, positioning, ranking, and registration.
Early SEO was riddled with teething issues and gave birth to many methods we refer to as “black hat” today, like keyword stuffing. In the 90s, search engine algorithms weren’t nearly as advanced as they are today, so doing things are simple as repeating a key word or phrase over and over was enough to bump you up the rankings!
Throughout the mid-late 90s industry giants like Yahoo and Ask Jeeves popped up, and BackRub, a new search engine that used inbound links to test content quality and relevance, became Google. In 2000, Yahoo scored an incredible own-goal by swapping from Inktomi to Google to drive its search engine, taking Google from a lesser-known search engine to a household name. Today Google dominates the world wide web, accounting for 92% of search engine requests in 2019 while also being the single-most visited website on the internet with over 60 billion hits that year.
Since the ‘Google Era’ of SEO began, technicians and content creators have engaged in an ever-evolving battle with Google’s rules, guidelines and algorithms, which are still constantly being updated today. In 2003, Google’s Florida update put many small retailers out of business after it shook up how links are calculated and used to rank your page, resulting in many “false positives” – innocent, genuine sites which had been flagged by the new algorithm as spam or scam sites and dropped well down the rankings. This crisis began with the release of the Florida update in November and lasted until around February 2004.
Throughout the 2000s and 2010s Google has been constantly updating its systems in an attempt to maintain high-quality, relevant, and ethical sources at the top of its hits. In 2005, Google Analytics launched, and in 2006 Google Trends followed suit, allowing SEO technicians more extensive tools for analysing and researching keywords and online traffic trends. Two years later Google Suggest launched to provide users with suggested relevant results, further diversifying available methods of gaining traffic.
Today Google is the driving force behind the entire SEO industry, the businesses and livelihoods of millions depend on Google delivering custom to them through search engine hits. They maintained an unofficial promise to not release new updates before the holidays after the Florida update disaster but broke this in 2011 when they released the Penguin updates in November and December.