20+ years in SEO. A Short Background of Search Engine Optimization

SEO or Search Engine Optimization ( SEO) is a major focus of Google in the present.

The practice that we call SEO actually existed long before the world's most-popular search engine, which was co-created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

While it is possible the fact that SEO and all aspects of SEO-related began with the release of the first website that was published in the year 1991, or maybe when the first internet search engine was launched, the history of SEO "officially" starts in 1997.

As per Bob Heyman who is the author of Digital Engagement, we can thank only the manager of the rock group Jefferson Starship for helping give the birth of a new field we'll come to call "search engine optimization."

He was extremely upset when Jefferson Starship's Jefferson Starship's official Jefferson Starship website was ranking on Page 4 of a web search at that time and not at the top of Page 1 at the top of Page 1.

Although we will not know whether this story is a revisionist story or if it is 100% truth the evidence is all-but certain towards the notion of SEO beginning around 1997.

Have a look around and you'll find John Audette of Multimedia Marketing Group was using the term in February 15th the 15th of February, 1997.

Being ranked high on search engines in 1997 was a relatively new concept.

It was also extremely directories-driven.

Prior to DMOZ was the source of the original Google distinction, LookSmart was powered by Zeal, was its own directory, and Yahoo Directory was an important player within Yahoo Search.

If you're not familiar with DMOZ it's its acronym is Mozilla Open Directory Project (remember, Mozilla was a company and Moz was a brand before SEOMoz) it was essentially the Yellow Pages for web sites.

This is the basis Yahoo was initially founded on being able to locate the top websites according to the approval of editors.

I began working on SEO in 1998, due to an opportunity from our clientele who had constructed cool websites, but had a lack of traffic.

I had no idea that it would soon become a routine.

But then again it was the World Wide Web was still something that was relatively new in the early days to the majority of people.

Today? Everyone wants to dominate the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Search Engine Optimization vs. Search Engine Marketing

In the past, before Search Engine Optimization became the official term, various terms were also used:

Search engine optimization.

Search engine position.

Introduction to SEO and Basics

Search engine rankings.

Registration for search engines.

Submitting a search engine.

Promotion of websites.

However, no discussion is incomplete without mentioning another word...

Search Engine Marketing.

In 2001, at one time One prominent writer from the industry offered the concept of search engine marketing as a possible successor to search engine optimization.

Evidently, it didn't happen.

Get ready now, you're likely to come across many false assertions (e.g., "SEO is dead," "the new SEO Dubai ."), and attempts to rebrand SEO (e.g., "Search Experience Optimization").

Although SEO as a concept isn't flawless - after all we're not optimizing our search engines, but we're optimizing our web presence . It remains the most popular term in our field for over 20 years and will remain so in the near future.

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What about the subject of Search Engine marketing?

It's still being used, however it is now more closely connected with ads and paid search marketing.

Both terms coexist peacefully in the present.

An Timeline Of Search Engine History

Search engines have revolutionized the way we locate information do research, searches, buy items and services, entertain ourselves, and communicate with other people.

In the background of nearly every online resource whether it's a site or blog, social network or app is the search engine.

Search engines have evolved into the driving force that connects us and the for everyday life.

How did this all begin?

We've created an outline of significant landmarks in the beginning of Google and Search Engine Optimization in order to discover the origins of this technology that has grown to become such a vital aspect of our lives.

Dawn of SEO: "The Wild West' Era

In the latter 10 years of the 1800s the landscape of search engines was extremely competitive.

You could pick from a variety of search engines, including crawler-powered directories as well as human-powered listings, including the such as AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo.

At first the only way to run any SEO Agency in the UAE was via on-page actions.

This involved optimizing for aspects like:

Making sure that the information was accurate and pertinent.

It was textual enough.

It was clear that your HTML tags were precise.

There were internal and external links.

If you want to rank high in this age, the key was pretty much repetition of your keywords in a sufficient amount on your pages and meta tags.

Are you looking to get a page to rank better than one that utilizes the keyword 100 times? That's why you'd want to make use of keywords 200 times!

We call this method of"spamming.

Here are some of the highlights:


Yahoo was invented in the late 1990s by Stanford University students Jerry Wang and David Filo in a campus trailer. Yahoo was initially an Internet bookmark list as well as a list of sites that are interesting.

Webmasters needed the task of manually submitting their site for indexing to Yahoo directory to be indexed so that the page would be available for Yahoo to discover when someone did an internet search.

AltaVista, Excite, and Lycos were also announced.


Page and Brin Two Stanford University students, built and test Backrub the new search engine that ranks sites by relevancy to inbound links and the popularity.

Backrub was later to turn into Google. HotBot powered by Inktomi was also launched.


After the success that was A Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines, Danny Sullivan launched Search Engine Watch, a site dedicated to providing information about the industry of search and tips for browsing the internet, as well as information on how to rank websites more effectively.

(Ten an additional decade later following having left SEW, Sullivan founded another well-known search magazine, Search Engine Land, and is now employed at Google.)

Ask Jeeves also debuted and was registered.

1998 was launched with ads and sponsored search. Advertisers competed on to be ranked above natural results in search, which are operated by Inktomi. was eventually bought by Yahoo.

DMOZ (the Open Directory Project) has become the most sought-after destination for SEO practitioners to have their websites included.

MSN made its debut in the market by launching MSN Search, which was powered initially by Inktomi.


The first all-search marketing event, Search Engine Strategies (SES) took place. The full report of the conference in the book by Sullivan on this page.

(The SES conference series continued operating under different monikers and parent companies until they shut down in the year 2016.)

The Google Revolution

In 1999, Yahoo did the most strategic mistake ever made in search . They joined forces in 2000 with Google to let Google be the engine behind its organic results instead Inktomi.

Before, Google was a little-known search engine. Not much was known about it!

The final result was that each Yahoo result on a search included the words "Powered through Google" which eventually introduced their most powerful competitor to the world , and Google became an iconic brand.

Prior to this the search engines have primarily assessed websites based on web page content domain names, the capability to be listed in the directories mentioned earlier and the basic structure of the site (breadcrumbing).

However, Google's web crawler as well as the PageRank algorithm revolutionized information retrieval.

Google examined both off-page and on-page aspects - the number as well as the quality of links that point to a site (as as anchor text that is used).

If you look at the Google algorithm, it was basically focused on "if your name is mentioned, then you have to be significant."

While links were just one aspect of Google's rank algorithm SEO experts embraced hyperlinks as the most crucial factor and a whole industry of link development was developed.

In the following decade, it was an attempt to gain as many links as you can in hopes of getting higher.

Links were a frequently misused technique that Google must address in the years to come.

In 2000, it was also when it was also in 2000 that the Google Toolbar became accessible in Internet Explorer, allowing SEO professionals to view the PageRank rating (a number that ranges from 0 to 10).

It also brought in a new age of unrequested email messages for link exchanges.

In the case of PageRank, Google essentially introduced the concept of currency in its linking. Just like domain authority can be used today to manipulate.

The organic search results of Google also brought an ad agency through AdWords ads that were introduced in 2000.

The ads for paid search began appearing above the, below, and just to the right of Google's organic (i.e. non-paid) results.

A group of webmasters got together in the bar in London to share details about SEO in general in 2000.

The informal gathering evolved into Pubcon which was a major search conference series that continues to run today.

In the next few months and years In the coming months and years, the SEO world grew accustomed to a weekly Google Dance or time period during which Google changed its index, which can result in significant changes to rankings.

While the Google's Brin once famously stated that Google did not believe in spam on websites His opinion was likely to have changed at the time 2003 came around.

SEO became a lot more difficult in the wake of updates like Florida due to the fact that it was more crucial than simply repeating keywords for X number of times.

Google AdSense: Monetizing Terrible SEO Content

In 2003, following the acquisition of, Google launched AdSense that serves contextually relevant Google ads on the websites of publishers.

The combination between AdSense and resulted in a rise in the simple, monetized internet publishing, as well as the rise of blogging.

Although Google likely didn't know that at the time they were causing issues that they'd need to fix later on.

AdSense created websites created for AdSense that were full of stale or shoddy content designed for the purpose of ranking well and earn clicks, and generate revenue.

Also, something important was happening in 2003.

I created the website you're currently on, Search Engine Journal!

I'm so satisfied to report that we're here, faster than ever before.

Local SEO and Personalization

In 2004 Google along with other search engines began improving their results for searches with an intent to be geographical (e.g. restaurants plumber, restaurant, or other kind of service provider or business in your town or city).

In in 2006 Google introduced the Maps Plus Box that I was pretty impressed by in the early days.

In 2004, it was also the year when Google and other search engines started making use of more end-user information, like interest and search history, to customize results for searches.

This means that the results you see might be different from what someone who is sitting right next to you at a cafe saw when they conducted the exact same search.

In 2005 nofollow tags were introduced to fight spam.

SEO professionals have been using this tag since it was an instrument for creating PageRank.

Google also announced two notable updates:

Jagger The Jagger has helped reduce the amount of unrequested link exchanges which were floating around in addition to announcing the decreasing value of anchortext as an contributor due to its corruption.

Big Daddy (coined by Jeff Manson of RealGeeks) that improved the structure of Google to enable an understanding of the value and importance of links between websites.

YouTube and Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

In October of 2006, Google acquired the user-generated video sharing site YouTube in a deal worth $1.65 billion. It eventually became the second most-used search site in the world.

In the present, YouTube has 2 billion users!

Due to its increasing growth in popularity, videos SEO has become essential for businesses, brands as well as individuals who want to be seen.

Google also introduced two extremely crucial tools in 2006:

Google Analytics. The free web-based tool was extremely popular at the time of its launch that webmasters were able to experience delays and warnings about maintenance.

Google Webmaster Tools. Today, it is known under the name of The Search Console, Google Webmaster Tools allow webmasters to look at crawling errors, check what search terms your website came to be displaying, then even request inclusion in the search results.

In 2006, XML sitemaps gained widespread support from search engines..

XML sitemaps enable webmasters to present to engines the URLs on their site that is accessible for crawling.

An XML sitemap does not just contain an URL list, but also an array of other details, which allowed search engines crawl more effectively.

Universal Search

We saw the search evolving in exciting and new ways in 2007.

Each of these updates was designed to improve the user experience when searching.

Let's begin the process with the Google's Universal Search.

Prior to this, results for searches had been 10 blue hyperlinks.

Then Google began to blend traditional organic search results along with other vertical results such as videos, news images.

It was the most significant alteration to Google search engine - and SEO in the time since Florida update.

Cleaning the Cesspool

In 2008, the then Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said the Internet was becoming a wastebasket and said that branding was the answer. "Brands are the way to get rid of the sewage," he said.

Just six months following his remarks and an Google update that was dubbed Vince.

The big brands appeared to have been ranking greater amount higher in SERPs.

However, it wasn't intended to be a way to reward brands, according to Google.

Google was looking to put more weight on trust in its algorithm (and large brands are more likely to be more trusted than lesser-known or smaller ones).

Following the release, Google released another to increase the speed of indexing and naming it Caffeine..

The Search Engine Journal reported at the time, Caffeine was "a next-generation search engine for Google which is supposed to be more efficient and precise, delivering more relevant, better-quality results while crawling more of the internet."

Regarding speed, in 2010, Google made it clear that the speed of websites was a factor in ranking.

Bing & The Search Alliance

The year 2009 saw the change. Microsoft Live Search became Bing.

In an effort to challenge Google's almost 70% control in search market share in the U.S. search market, Yahoo and Microsoft came together to work in a 10-year search agreement (though it was modified five years after).

The Search Alliance saw Microsoft's Bing provide to improve Yahoo's organic search and paid results.

While it helped make Bing the top search engine, it has not been able to shake Google's huge hold on search both in the U.S. and globally. In October of 2020, Bing officially rebranded to Microsoft Bing.

Social Media and the Rise of Social Media

Another phenomenon emerged in the latter half of 2000 and was social networks.

Google put its money with YouTube (although it could make a second attempt with the now defunct Google+).

Other networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all came out as important players (with many others expected to emerge in the coming years).

Alongside the rise of social media, there was speculation that social signals could affect ranking in search results.

Social media could aid SEO, but in a different way similar to other forms of marketing can increase traffic to your website , and also increase the brand's visibility and popularity (which results in search-related demand).

Although the effect on social share shares (likes tweets, likes and so on.) has been repeatedly discredited time and repeatedly by Google over the years, as being an important indexing factor over time, the shares was still to be mentioned as having a high connection in numerous ranking factor research studies.

If you'd like to learn more about this subject I would highly recommend reading the article How Social Media Aids SEO [Final Answer[Final Answer].


Schema markup is a form that is a microdata type, was created in 2011 to assist search engines understand what the search query is asking for. It is possible to view each schema markup kind at WIX SEO

Schema does not count as a factor that ranks. It is also not a factor in ranking. evidence that it can have an effect on search results.

But, schema can allow you to stand out in the SERPs by providing extensive and interesting excerpts.

For instance, during an Search Engine Journal webinar, Milestone disclosed that they experienced an 33% to 36 percent increase in search traffic for major fast-food chain sites after the schema was implemented.

Another study conducted by InLinks showed that websites with schema benefited from rankings after schema was implemented.

If you're uncertain if you've have implemented the right structured data strategy try it out in the Structured Data Testing tool of Google.

It's the Google Zoo: Panda & Penguin

Two significant algorithmic updates which were Panda of 2011 and Penguin at the end of 2012 have had an enormous impact on SEO that continues to be observed to this day as Google has once more tried to improve its results in search and reward websites that have high-quality content.

In 2011 Google discovered that its results for search were under scrutiny due to"content farms" or "content farms" (websites which produced large amounts of low-quality content) had dominated the results for searches.

Google's SERPs were also overloaded with websites that featured unoriginal and auto-generated content at times scraper websites were outranking the content creators.

In the end, websites were earning a lot of revenue from advertising (remember when I spoke about Google's self-created AdSense issue? ).

They were also alive and dying because of the organic search results from Google.

However, once the Google Panda update came out in the year 2011 the majority of websites saw some of, if not all of the traffic disappear overnight.

Google gave some insights on what is considered an excellent site.

To eliminate low-quality Khbyr Syw (or small) material, Panda was updated periodically in the following years, and eventually part of Google's core algorithm in 2016.

As websites continue to recover from the impact from Panda, Google unleashed a highly anticipated algorithm for over-optimization, meant to eradicate "aggressive spamming tactics" from its rankings.

In the end, it was named Penguin, the algorithm focused on link schemes (websites that have unusual linking patterns, such as the highest amount of anchor text that matches the keywords you are searching for.

Wanted to get a position in the search results for) Keyword stuffing.

Penguin was not updated nearly as often as Panda and Panda, with over one year between updates. As with Panda, Penguin became part of Google's real-time algorithm in the year 2016.

Things are not strings.

It was in the month of May that Google revealed in May 2012, the Knowledge Graph.

It was a significant shift from interpreting keywords, to analyzing semantics and intentions.

Here's what Amit Singhal of Google's previous SVP of engineering said it in the the time of its launch:

"The Knowledge Graph enables you to find items, people, or places that Google has information on including famous people, landmarks cities, sports teams, cities and buildings, geographic elements, films and celestial objects, works of art, and much many more. It will instantly provide details that are pertinent to your query. This is an essential initial step in developing an entirely new generation of searchthat draws on the global intelligence of the internet and comprehends the world than we do."

Google increased its search results by incorporating this information.

Carousels, knowledge boxes and carousels are able to appear when people search to find any of the millions of objects and data within the Knowledge Graph.

The next step of Google's next-generation of search algorithm came in September 2013, in Hummingbird. Hummingbird Hummingbird, an algorithm that was designed to improve the way it handles natural language queries as well as conversational search.

With the increase in mobile (and the rise of voice searches), Google needed to overhaul the way it worked in order to accommodate the demands of the modern-day users.

Hummingbird was thought to be the most significant alteration to Google's algorithmic core in the years since 2001. It is clear that Google determined to offer quicker as well as more accurate results especially for mobile users.


Around about 2005. a frequently asked question kept popping up within our industry:

Does this mean that this is"the "Year of the Mobile"?

The truth is that 2005 wasn't the year it was.

Or in 2006.

It was not 2007 either.

Or 2008. Or 2009.

It wasn't until 2010 that Google changed into a mobile-first business.

Then 2011, 2012 2013 and 2014 arrived and went.

Mobile was discussed and a lot of hyped up because it was expanding exponentially throughout the entire time.

As more people embraced smartphones, they were more often seeking out businesses and other items when they moved.

In 2015, we saw an event known as the Year of Mobile - the moment when mobile search surpassed desktop searches at first on Google. While this is true of the raw numbers for search results but it's also the case that search intentions are quite different and conversion rates are significantly lower for mobile devices.

In the same year in which comScore announced that only mobile users outnumbered desktop-only users..

In 2015, it was also that Google announced a highly-anticipated smartphone-friendly version of its algorithm which was created to give users "the most current and relevant results, regardless of whether the content is available on mobile-friendly web pages or in an app for mobile."

In an effort to improve speed of webpages, Google also introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2016.

The concept for AMP was to speedily load content instantly. Numerous publishers and news media rapidly took to AMP and still use it to this day.

It may also be a surprise In January 2017, Google announced that page speed would be a factor used to rank mobile search results.

In the exact month Google announced that it would start to discredit pages that display annoying pop-ups.

In July of 2019, mobile-first indexing was enabled for all new websites. Additionally, by March 2021 all websites will have been converted to mobile-first indexing.

Machine Learning & Intelligent Search

In my previous post, I discussed how Google was founded in the early days around the retrieval of information, evolved into an enterprise that was mobile-first.

The situation changed in 2017 , when Google President Sundar Pichai declared Google a machine-learning-focused company.

Presently, Google search is designed to help and inform instead of providing users with a the list of websites.

That's the reason Google has integrated machine learning into all its products - such as searches, Gmail, Ads, Google Assistant and much more.

With regards to the search engine, we've begun to observe the effects of machine learning using Google's RankBrain.

The announcement was made in October of 2015 RankBrain was first employed to attempt to understand those 15% search results that Google has not seen before using the keywords or phrases that the user entered.

Since then, Google has expanded RankBrain to run on all searches.

Although RankBrain has an impact on rankings, it's not an element of ranking as such. In other words, you're rewarded with higher rankings when you do x, the y, or z.

There's more to come shortly in the world of intelligent search.

Voice search results are growing.

Search in the visual has become insanely effective

Users (and companies) are increasingly embracing chatbots as well as personal assistants (e.g. Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa Microsoft's Cortana).

The technological advancements mean future exciting times are coming for those who perform SEO.

Google's Core Updates

Google releases updates to its algorithm each day.

However, throughout each year Google makes updates to its core algorithm in the event of any change in its algorithm.

Additionally, there are large-scale algorithmic updates.

The aim of these major changes is to deliver an improved experience for users, with more relevant, reliable results.

These Google fundamental updates don't focus on specific pages or websites but are designed to improve the way the system monitors the content.

Here's the way Google described the core updates::

"One way to visualize the way a core update works is to imagine that you created a lists of the top 100 films in the year 2015. Then, a few years later, in 2019, you update the list. The list will naturally evolve. There are some new and amazing films that were never seen previously will be considered to be included. You may also revisit some films and see that they deserve more space among the films than they did previously."

In March of 2018, Google confirmed an update to the core algorithm was rolling out to assist "under-rewarded" websites.

Just a little over one month later, Google released another broad algorithm update aimed at the relevance of content.

Another broad core update was released in August (sometimes mistakenly and inaccurately known as"Medic" update) "Medic" version) specifically targeting websites with poor quality content.

In March of 2019 as an update to the Core update Google announced that the core update (a.k.a., Florida 2) was out and was expected to be an enormous one.

However it was believed by the SEO community thought that it was more an attempt to reverse the earlier algorithmic practices.

Another general update to the core of the site came out in June of 2019 that revealed the flaws of E-A-T-based websites, with a focus on the trustworthiness and authority of the links that come in.

Every once in a while, Google will release a general update with an effect on all search results across the globe.

There was, for instance, an broad update to the core in September of this year which aimed to boost websites that perform optimally overall. There was also a broad core update came out in January 2020 focused on YMYL (your money Your Life) categories.

That's the primary difference between general core updates as opposed to. core updates. You have to look at your site in general, not just a particular page.

Recently, Google released a fundamental upgrade in the month of May that focuses on the sites with low content, as well as boosting local results.


BERT is the most significant Google algorithm overhaul since RankBrain.

BERT is a short form as Bidirectional Encoder Representations derived from Transformers utilized for natural processing of languages.

In essence, it helps Google comprehend the meaning of queries more clearly.

For instance, the term "bat" can refer to the nocturnal winged animal commonly connected with Batman. Also, it could be used to describe the player of a baseball team is preparing to bat.

Through BERT Google has the ability to analyze the context of its search results to bring more relevant results for its users.

What is what makes BERT more appealing is the fact that Google is now able to use words that surround your keywords to aid its spiders ingest your content.

For instance, "I went to in the bat cave." Or, "After my bat, I went to the dugout." Google can now build a context model around other words that are in the sentence. This is an important factor in the way that natural language processing has identified human language.

the Google's Danny Sullivan said:

"There's nothing to be optimized for using BERT, and nothing to rethink. The basic principles of BERT's quest to reward outstanding content are the same ."

If you're curious about learning more regarding BERT Dawn Anderson explains everything you must learn about BERT here.

Snippets from the Featured Snippets

It's likely that you've seen excerpts previously, but you may not have realized the purpose behind them.

Short snippets of text or bullet points, numbers or tables that show up on the first page of Google's search results.

The aim of a featured snippet to respond to the question directly within the SERPs, without having to visit the site.

However, featured snippets can be extremely volatile, therefore be careful.

The snippets of featured content are not new. They were seen in 2014 in 2014.

The snippets of featured content have triggered the attraction of "position zero." That means your search result will be prominently displayed above the other search results as well as be listed in the organic results.

As of January 20, 2020 Google changed the way they display their featured snippets to remove duplicate featured snippet results which means you will be listed in the featured result or in the organic but not both.

In the month of June in 2020, Google released another update which stated that featured snippets of text will now direct users to information relevant to their query.

Users can now see the text with yellow highlights.

While voice search is continuing to improve its capabilities, featured snippets of content can be an excellent chance to boost organic search reach.


SEO and Search Engines have advanced a lot from the 90s.

We've only discussed the various ways to do this in this article.

The journey of SEO has seen thrilling twists and turns: the creation of search engine innovations, demise of the old search engines, the introduction of new SERP features, the introduction of new algorithms, and continuous testing and updates. Not to mention the development of excellent SEO conferences, publications experts, tools, and publications.

Although SEO and search engines SEO have seen a huge change throughout the years, there is one thing that remains constant that so long as there are the search engines SEO is still vital.

We're just getting started!

Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita