The history of SEO is more difficult to track than most other parts of the IT world. Looking back, there are a number of milestones that defined what we know as search engine optimization today. We are going to take a look at some of those milestones in this article.
Early Days of Search Engines & SEO
Search engines used to be edited by humans and not have the information processed by crawlers, until in 1994, when Brian Pinkerton created the first crawler that can index whole pages. The crawler, dubbed Web Crawler, created a list of top 25 pages.
A year before, Excite was officially launched. It was the leading search engine of the 90s, but Excite didn’t take off until it bought Web Crawler in 1996. The search engine continues to lead the market until it stops creating its own listings in 2001.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Lycos. It was one of the first search engines who used crawlers to index pages on the World Wide Web. Lycos gathered over 60 million pages from the year it was founded in 1994 to 1997. The company later outsourced its search results to AllTheWeb.
On its early days, even Yahoo was powered by human. Crawlers were used to index pages, but an unprocessed search results were shown only when there were no human-processed versions available.
1998 was a big year for search engines and search engine optimization. This was the year when Google first introduced PageRank, an algorithm designed to rank web pages automatically. PageRank was particularly ahead of its time. The algorithm is designed to take on-site and off-site factors into considerations, including the incoming links for a page it is reviewing. The result was a much more accurate search results, even without human processing.
PageRank also changes the way site owners do SEO. Links and other elements were seen as more important, and terms such as backlinks and tags were very popular among search engine optimization enthusiasts. A year later, in 1999, a conference about SEO by Danny Sullivan was held. Danny Sullivan has been running the Search Engine Watch website and was one of the leading experts in SEO.
Until the year 2000, there were still a lot of big changes in the SEO scene. Search engines are regularly changing their algorithms, causing sites that would normally appear on the first page to disappear. The biggest incident was when Altavista revamped its search engine; an incident still known by SEO enthusiasts as the Black Monday.
The Year 2000 and Beyond
The early days of SEO may be filled with changes and new developments, but the changes that happen beyond the year 2000 are what makes SEO as important as it is today. Google introduced SEM and text advertisement in 2000, along with a much better PageRank Toolbar that webmasters can use to find great pages to place backlinks on. Google continues to lead the pack since.
In 2003, context was brought into the world of SEO. Contextual advertising from Google, the Google AdSense, showed the world how search engine crawlers were much smarter than they were a few years before. Keyword stuffing and over optimization of anchor texts were penalized. Instead, search engines now prefer high-value, readable content that users can actually benefit from.
The shift is still seen in SEO today. We no longer try to stuff as many keywords as they can into an article or a web page. Instead, we focus more on the quality of the articles and other contents we publish on our sites. SEO has come a long way indeed. It would be interesting to see how much further we will go in the coming years.
With everything that has been outlined so far in mind, SEO has definitely had an interesting evolution. Since people learnt that they could make money on the Internet and that a well-made website could be as strong as an established business, SEO has grown and has reached the position that it is famous for today. However, one thing is certain- throughout the years, SEO has changed in a way or another, but the fact which remained refers to the simple idea that it is essential in order to make a site successful.
How do you deal with SEO? Have you considered hiring a professional or did you take matters into your own hands? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.