The Evolution of SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has been around for as long as the internet – about 25 years. And in that short lifespan, SEO has become something that so many people and businesses could likely never live without. In this article, we track its evolution.

In 1991, there was a lone website that basically explained what the internet is, which was a necessity back then. But by 1993, the internet was already overflowing with websites, and search engines became a necessity. They were able to catalogue information and sort it by keywords. Yahoo and Google showed up over the next few years and became the primary sources for this service.

Marketers took full advantage of the fledgling state SEO was in at this point. They packed their content with keywords and over tagged it to move their way up search results.

Google and other big search engines saw an opportunity to connect users to the most valuable content and began implementing the rules of the internet we have today. They tried to level the playing field for content producers, and this began to evolve into personalized search results based on your search history.

This was called local SEO, and it caused marketers to focus on inbound links to up their exposure. It’s partially what made the web so personalized and focused on the individual user.

As user behaviour began to have more of an impact, things like Google’s Universal Search emerged. You could search by news, images, and other media, and real-time updates offered more timely content. In 2008, Google Suggest launched and it recommended content based on historical data.

This user-focused approach made the web even more personalized, and marketers took notice. They optimized their content accordingly, constantly thinking about user intent and the user’s need for instant results.

This is when a big change in SEO happened, and the only way brands could earn rankings was through quality content. Google cracked down on the overuse of keywords and optimization, and pointed fingers at brands who committed these SEO “crimes.”

With these new regulations, curiosity, accessibility, and the need for user-to-user connection began to grow. Google+ was born, and Google Instant expanded on Google Suggest for faster results – even going so far as to display results while the user was still typing.

Marketers couldn’t successfully grow a website without thinking about SEO, or how to make their content shareable. This was the first step towards the world of SEO we live in today.

2013-present day
The struggle that modern SEO has brought us is one between personalization and privacy. The digital world that search engines have created and the time they have spent getting to know users has created a need for security. Mobile use has also created problems, because if a website doesn’t have mobile accessibility, it also doesn’t have search visibility in Google.

Right now, the best way to optimize a website’s searchability is to segment content, optimize based on device and the user’s needs, maximize its shareability, make the most of keywords, and embed links. Today, a website can’t be competitive without taking full advantage of SEO tactics.

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