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Simple optimization first began in the mid-1990s, early in the days of Internet search engines. The first ever search engine, Archie, was initiated in 1990 by a McGill University student.
Webmasters and content producers simply needed to submit a page’s URL to search engines so that search engines spiders could crawl, extract links and index information. Spiders downloaded pages and stored them on search engine servers. Then the indexer program input information (word contents, location and links) into a scheduler for later crawling.
Sigh. The good old days when optimization was easy.
Shortly thereafter, high ranking and visibility in search engine results were recognized as valuable and thus the term “search engine optimization” was coined in 1997. In the early days, search engine algorithms utilized keyword meta tags, index files or other information provided by webmasters. Soon enough, however, using metadata to index pages was found to be ineffective. Keyword selection (may or may not accurately represent a page’s content) often lead to ranking for irrelevant searches. People also began populating pages with backlinks full of spam to increase traffic. In 1998, Google’s founders conceived of a page ranking system for search engine results that judges pages based on quality, not the quantity of keywords and search engines adjusted algorithms to prevent excessive and irrelevant keyword stuffing, making webmaster manipulation more difficult. These new, more complex ranking systems adopted a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.
In the new millennium, Google began inching its way onto the search engine scene by providing legitimate guidelines for better page ranking in search engine results. Google Analytics made its debut in November of 2005. Check out is baby photo:
An annual conference was created in 2005 for search engine optimization experts from around the world. It was dubbed AIRWeb, or Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web. There, SEO authorities discuss companies’ web presences and regulate SEO tactics. Failure to disclose high-risk SEO techniques to users is a major no-no for AIRWeb. Major search engines like Google and Bing offer resources and guidelines for good website optimization. Webmasters can uncover indexing issues and traffic numbers.
Not in Kansas anymore
In December of 2009, a real-time search function was released, including tweets and breaking news in Google search results. SEO became an entirely different ballgame. It was no longer exclusively a task for webmasters. Journalists, web copywriters and even social community managers would have to optimize content for search engines.
The 2010s have seen rapid growth and change in SEO. Social sharing and signals have come about, and websites have been penalized in search engine rankings for failing to provide mobile-friendly versions.
As mobile usage escalates, search engine optimization will continue to place more emphasis on mobile friendliness. 51% of digital media is consumed on mobile devices, while only 42% is consumed on desktop devices. It is also likely that voice optimization will be more emphasized and analyzed. Voice-powered digital personal assistants are changing the game.
It is important to note that SEO pioneers learned from and competed with one another and continue to do so to this day.
Search engine optimization is an evolving field, as the Internet is still relatively young.
Stay tuned as the history of SEO continues to unfold.