Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, first started being used by webmasters and internet content providers in the mid-90s. Just in case you are unsure, SEO is the process of designing and creating content that will result in increased amounts of quality traffic to a website from organic or un-paid search results. Like many things internet related SEO has evolved over the years.

The Infancy of SEO

The actual term SEO didn’t become internet lingo until around 1997, according to Danny Sullivan, a pioneer in SEO and the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. However, in the early days of Yahoo! Before 1997 people were already beginning to mess around with SEO concepts. They started to test out different keywords and different keyword densities and placement. During these times, webmasters only needed to submit their URLs to the various search engines. The search engines then would send spiders to crawl through and index the sites to get results.

At this point search algorithms only relied on keyword density, meta tags, and index files, all things provided by the webmaster.  Soon people began to realize the value of having their website show up first on the search engine results pages (SERPS). At this time all people needed to do was put in the right keywords in the sufficient density and their websites would start seeing first-page search engine rankings. This prompted web content providers to start manipulating HTML source attributes to get their clients higher rankings. SERPS started to be filled with spam pages whose keywords didn’t match up with the pages’ actual content, making them unreliable.

Search Engines Fight Back

After realizing how easy it was for webmasters to manipulate their results search engines had to find another method of ranking pages. They had to ensure internet users that the SERPS actually reflected a page’s value and search relevance. They began to come up with more complex algorithms that would take into account off-site factors. Still, despite the improved algorithms black hat SEOs were still figuring out ways to manipulate them.

Then Google made its way on to the scene in September of 1998. Google developed its own algorithm, PageRank, which determined site rankings by measuring the quantity and quality of their inbound links. The superior relevant search results provided by Google instantaneously attracted a loyal following. Other search engines started to realize the importance of keeping up with Google, but it was too late.

Google: The New Definition for Search

After Google’s rise to power, MSN (Now Bing) and Yahoo! were the only other two major search engines. They started to incorporate undisclosed page ranking factors into their algorithms. This prompted webmasters and content providers to become more creative if they wanted to achieve long term increases in search engine rankings. Google began to take it further by personalizing search results and starting a campaign against paid links.

Present day, SEO is heavily focused on Google, since it accounts for over 70% of search engine users. With its dominance in the market, Google is the place you have to be in order to bring organic traffic to your site. Google now provides user with better relevant results by forcing webmasters and content providers to provide actual valuable websites in order to rank high on the SERPS.

As SEO becomes an adolescent, what is going to happen next? Google continues to grow, attempting to blanket as much of the internet as possible. On top of experimenting with other media vehicles as well. Will this allow SEO to grow as well or  will there come a time Google self destructs? I feel with the importance of any company to have a web presence and Google being the most effective way of making this happen, that SEO will continue to rely on Google for years to come. That is just my opinion though, what are your thoughts?

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