The History of SEO – How Did It All Begin?

The History of SEO – How Did It All Begin?
19 January 2021
Today, SEO is a well-known and essential online marketing tool. But have you ever wondered what’s the history of search engine optimization and how did it all begin?
The history of SEO goes back to the mid-1990s when Google wasn’t particularly popular and the Internet itself was rather inconsiderable. More than 20 years ago, users would open one of the portals like Yahoo after connecting to the Internet. To meet the expectations of as many people as possible, these websites started developing to create new thematic portals. The portals also included website catalogs which contained links to various platforms divided into different categories. After a given page was added to the catalog, a person interested in a specific subject could easily access it. However, it did its job only partially as catalog search engines weren’t configured appropriately. Their main disadvantage was that websites were listed as a whole, not as individual subpages which made it hard for users to reach content that was of interest to them. That’s when we could observe the emergence of the need to develop an intelligent search engine that would meet all the requirements. The Internet turned out to be pretty unpredictable, no one expected that it would expand so rapidly in just a few years. seo process management

The first SEO steps in history

Most webmasters have always wanted to be displayed on top positions in the search results. However, in the beginning, the principle of search engines’ operation was rather simple - the results were based solely on the keywords included in website headers. Soon, website owners took advantage of that imperfection and started manipulating the keywords by using popular phrases. They would even use offensive language which had nothing to do with the page content, however, it was searched by Internet users. That’s when search engines started paying attention not only to the header but to everything published on the site - and that’s when the SEO revolution began. SEO was developing together with search engines. The term search engine optimization was coined in 1997 at Stanford University in the USA. Google was the first search engine to improve its searching capabilities. For most people, it was infeasible to outdo its complex algorithms or manipulate the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and all the attempts to do so were unsuccessful. google history seo

Google Bomb - how to outwit the search engine?

Shortly afterward, we could witness the emergence of Google Bomb and it turned out that outwitting the search engine was a piece of cake. All you needed to do was to provide a website link with a selected anchor text, meaning the content between tags, that would redirect users to a given link. This way, index manipulation became simple again, as Google would assign a page to a specific anchor and display it after typing it in the search bar. [caption id="attachment_36096" align="aligncenter" width="450"]example of google bomb seo history One of the popular examples of Google Bomb in the USA was the display of President W. Bush's page after typing "miserable failure" in the search engine.[/caption] In 2009 Google implemented a certain improvement - Real-Time Search, meaning presenting the most up to date results from websites and micro-blogs.

Modern SEO - search engine optimization in the 21st century

Today, Google algorithms are extremely complex and the search results are based on several hundred factors that affect website positions in the SERPs. Currently, we can observe the increasing importance of long-tail SEO, meaning the use of long, complex phrases. Compound phrases are significantly less competitive than one or two word key phrases. In the past, SEO was about selecting a few phrases entered into TOP10 which wouldn’t necessarily convert. So why is long-tail SEO more effective? By creating more elaborate phrases, you can assume that potential customers visiting your page will find a product that corresponds to their Google queries the most. What else has changed? In the past, Google would focus on the number of links - the more linking pages, the better website visibility in the search results. However, quality is the key factor. Your links should be unique, they should redirect users to quality content and valuable websites with high domain authority levels. Otherwise, Google algorithms may consider your links as spam and impose a filter on your online store which would decrease your position in the search results. Due to the development of the online world and the fact that more and more users benefit from mobile devices to browse various websites, mobile-friendliness is an increasingly important factor. Although it didn’t matter in the past, now it’s an absolute must-have. Google ranks websites with responsive designs and correctly implemented mobile versions much higher.

Good vs. bad SEO specialists - the ultimate division

SEO specialists can be divided into two groups - those advocating white hat SEO and those who choose less noble black hat SEO practices. The term refers to western movies where antagonists would usually wear black hats, whereas protagonists would be presented with white accessories. black vs white hat seo So, what’s the difference? As the name suggests, white hat SEO is about proper website optimization and promotion conducted according to Google guidelines. It doesn’t use spam or other unethical solutions. On the other hand, black hat SEO is about implementing solutions that aren’t in line with Google standards. Although such activities help to quickly reach higher positions in the search results, they’re dangerous and unsafe - your website might be penalized by a filter, decreased position in the search results decreased domain authority, or being indexed out of the search results. Typical activities applied by black hat SEO specialists include: buying links, cloaking - meaning providing robots with content differing from the one presented to users, keyword stuffing, or using link exchange systems.

Search engine optimization as a parallel on and off-site process. What is it?

On-site activities aim at making the website more understandable and transparent for Google robots. It means that the website structure, content, and keywords need to be optimized in the finest possible way. On the other hand, off-site activities are supposed to improve website visibility and keyword positions in the search results by performing actions outside of the page to obtain traffic from various sources such as social media, bookmarking sites, website catalogs, or guest posting. Unfortunately, it’s possible to frequently encounter illegal black hat SEO solutions applied as part of the off-site process.

The development of SEO - what does it affect?

The dynamic development of SEO has a strong impact on the expansion of online marketing. Thanks to it, we have SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisements. The equation SEM=SEO+PPC illustrates it best. seo and sem So, what’s SEM? It includes all advertising activities (both free and paid) thanks to which a given website can reach higher positions in the search results. This includes sponsored link campaigns. Although SEM is a great form of promotion, it frequently requires sizable budgets. PPC is a great tool suitable for immediate promotional actions, thematic or occasional campaigns. The advertiser doesn’t pay for the ad being displayed but for real clicks on the link that redirects users to the selected page. It’s a very flexible marketing tool that allows for convenient budget planning. The fee paid by the advertiser is passed on to the system's owner as in the case of Google Ads.

Why should you know the history of SEO?

The history of SEO doesn’t go back to ancient times so do you actually need to know it? Of course! Being familiar with the history of search engine optimization can help you predict what will happen in the future. The dynamic development of the whole Internet and search engines triggered many other changes, such as the growth of online marketing or e-commerce. Online stores started cooperating with agencies to work on content marketing and company blogs which helped them to increase the visibility of specific products or services. However, before doing SEO for an online store, it’s worth learning some basic information. Nevertheless, the Internet remains one of the most effective ways of reaching new customers.

What’s in store for SEO?

Are we able to predict what will happen in the future? How will the search engines develop? Is it possible to customize these intelligent solutions to individual Internet users? When looking at one of the tools - Google Suggest - that provides probable search results after typing a given query, we can safely say that it's a very likely scenario. However, won't the continuous configuration and customization of search engines do more harm than good? What else can Google learn about us? It’s rather impossible to predict precisely what’s in store for SEO.
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Delante is an online marketing agency specialized in generating website traffic from search engines and paid ads (SEO / SEM). Over 80% of our clients are from rapidly growing e-commerce industry.


  1. Funny to see Google in the original form – didn’t even remember that it looked like that! 🙂

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