It is impossible to imagine a world without search engines. This is despite the fact that they have been in existence for the last few decades. They have given people unlimited powers and knowledge at their fingertips, something that have witnessed great changes in people’s lives.
Search engines have greatly changed how people discover information. They have changed how people connect and socialize with friends and relatives. And most importantly, they have changed how people shop for goods and services. People are always actively looking for information online about the products and services they want to buy.
These changes in consumer habits have led to the explosive growth of search engine optimization as businesses constantly try to capitalize on potential clients searching for information online that is related to their services or products online. This article discusses the history of SEO and the major events that have changed the industry.
Content providers and webmasters began site optimization for search engines in early 1990’s. Initially, all a site needed was to submit the address of their page (URL) to various search engines which would in turn direct a “spider” that would “crawl” the page, extract all links to other pages from the URL, and return this information to be indexed. This process involved a search engine spider downloading pages and storing them on the engine’s server, where an indexer would extract different information and place them on a scheduler for crawling later.
It was during this time that website owners started recognizing the need to have their sites visible and ranked high on search engines, resulting in the creation of black hat and white hat SEO. However, it was not until 1997 that the term “search engine optimization” came into use. Computer programmer Bruce Clay is widely credited as being among the first people to popularize the phrase.
Early SEO techniques relied on indexed files in search engines, such as ALIWEB or webmaster-provided information, such like keyword Meta tag. Meta tags provided guides to a site’s content but it was found to be highly unreliable. Incorporating webmaster’s provided keywords in Meta tags sometimes provided an incorrect representation of a site’s actual content. Incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate information in Meta tags would cause sites to rank high for irrelevant searches.
Jose Martinez, an Albuquerque search engine optimization professional stated “Site owners also manipulated various attributes within HTML sources of a page in an effort to have their sites ranked high. They started using different factors such as keyword densities to make their sites visible and ranked high on search engines. Search engines, therefore, suffered from massive abuses and endless ranking manipulations.”
Engines had to find ways of ensuring that users were provided with better results. They had to make sure that their result pages only showed the most relevant results as compared to useless pages stuffed with high number of keywords from unscrupulous content provider. They responded by developing complex ranking algorithms that utilized factors that were difficult for content providers to manipulate.
In 2005, Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web (AIRWeb), an annual conference, was set up to bring together researchers and practitioners with interests in SEO and other related topics. From then on, site owners employing aggressive techniques for SEO purposes can have their sites banned from search results. Google banned a company known as Traffic Power in late 2005, for allegations that it used such aggressive techniques.
Search engines have played a big role in the development of the SEO industry through sponsoring frequent SEO chats, seminars and conferences. They have been providing guidelines and information to aid in healthy site optimization. Google even has Sitemaps, a program that helps webmaster find out if Google is encountering problems when indexing their sites. Bing has some webmaster tools that allow a site to monitor its site optimization process.
By 2005, search engines had successfully incorporated countless unclosed factors in ranking algorithms in an effort to reduce link manipulations. Search engines do not disclose the factors and algorithms they use in ranking pages. “However, it is believed that major engines such as Bing, Yahoo and Google use over 300 different signals.” according to SEO consultant in Vancouver BC Einar Gustaffson.
Search engines have also put into place measures that punish those sites that copy content from other sites. This is because sites used to duplicate content from other sites in ranking high in search results. They are also some measures that punish sites whose content is not unique.
The SEO industry has gone through some tremendous changes since its inception in the last few decades. The process is still ongoing with search engines and other players committed to ensuring that companies do not use unethical means for SEO purposes. This is to ensure that web users get relevant information anytime they browse the internet.