What is the History of Search Engine Optimization?

Metaphor for the History of Search Engine Optimization

In 2016, when the answer to nearly any question seems to be a quick Google search away, it may be difficult to comprehend that just a couple dozen years ago, the only way to find the answer to a question may have been in an almanac, reference book, trade magazine, or a card-catalog system at your local library. Back in those days, search optimization may have consisted of buying a brand new 32-volume Encyclopedia Brittanica set! But after the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989, everything began to change — today at Boston Web Marketing, we will take you on a quick journey to look at some of the past history of how we got from the very first webpage of the internet to the search engine-dominated world of Google and Bing that we live in today, and what we can expect for the future of search engine optimization.

In the Beginning…

Tim Berners-Lee uploaded the first webpage in 1991, a simple HTML file with information on the World Wide Web project. The physics research giant CERN, who collaborated with Berners-Lee by hosting the original webpage, Tim actually maintains a historical copy of the first website that you can see for yourself! The first search engines that came after that were edited by humans and were usually alphabetical directory listings maintained by providers like Yahoo!, or message boards sorted by topical categories like those offered by Usenet. Quickly afterward in 1994, Brian Pinkerton at the University of Washington invented the first web crawler, an automated bot that could crawl websites and provide full text search. The first true search engines began to rise during this time period, with competitors like Excite, Lycos, and Infoseek claiming the first market share for search engines. But everything would change after…

The Birth of Google

A couple of guys from Stanford named Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to invent Google in 1997, and the rest is history. The big technological improvement in search was Larry’s big research idea, Page Rank, which ranked pages based on trustworthiness, initially defined by how many links existed to . The primary idea of trustworthy links is still a large component of modern SEO, but a big reason why Google became Google was their ability to constantly update their indexing algorithms to account for user success cases to filter for better and better results. These algorithms have evolved into the whimsically-titled modern algorithms that govern Google’s search engine today: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, RankBrain, and many others that operate behind the scenes.

Cashing in on the Gold Rush: Monetization through Google AdWords and Bing Ads

In the quest for profitability, the last few years have seen the advent of the additional component of advertising in search. Google acquired companies like Applied Semantics and DoubleClick that allowed them to capitalize on a broad network where they could display ads for business customers. Now, all major search engine providers allow businesses to pay for placement in valuable digital real estate on their pages and within their display network based on a combination of proprietary Quality Score metrics and second-price auction bidding systems. There are many advanced techniques for optimizing AdWords as a pay-per-click service, and Boston Web Marketing employs specialized Google Partner Certified AdWords consultants to manage AdWords campaigns for all our customers.

The Future of Search: Digital Assistants, Machine Learning and more

“Terrifyingly convenient,” writes Slate senior technology writer when describing the advent of new digital personal assistant technologies. Terrifying or not, five of the major technology companies in the world have or are developing digital voice-based personal assistant technology: Google Assistant, Siri by Apple, Alexa by Amazon, Cortana by Microsoft, and the new “M” being developed by Facebook. Many of the current hot cutting-edge techniques in the search engine optimization are based around voice-based search — if you are interested, get in touch with us to see if a Boston Web Marketing SEO specialist can help you maximize your visibility (or perhaps we should say audibility, since we are talking about voice-based search) to be found by customers searching for you with their new pocket digital assistant.

As for the future, as technological advancements in machine learning continue to permeate throughout the industry, many experts expect that voice-based search and other forms of mobile search will continue to progressively see additional market share. Feel free to contact Boston Web Marketing if you are looking for guidance as we adapt to the dynamic search engine optimization landscape as we approach 2017 and beyond.


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