SEO History (1997-2020): How is SEO Drastically Different Now?

Before the introduction of the internet to the public, we were forced to search out for a simple piece of information in the library. Even doing that was extremely difficult. There were a lot of books and magazines to seek before we could find the necessary data.

The introduction of the internet has resulted in a free flow of information. However, it was still challenging to find the website that had appropriate information. That problem gave birth to search engines (Google was not the first search engine). If you are curious to know about search engines that existed before Google, here is the link.

Fun Fact: Altavista refused to acquire Google for a million dollar back in 1998.

Dfoxo SEO History

Image Source: Blogoscoped

The Birth of Major Search Engines: 1997-2002

Let’s get back to the main topic  Even after the birth of a search engine; they still needed to find the best web pages for the search term. The search engines back then crawled through the indexed web pages and gave the best appropriate results to their users, according to the score given by their algorithm (Search engine uses a complex mathematical formula to give rankings).  

When businesses knew that they could get a considerable number of targeted visitors on their website, they started to follow unethical practices to rank their web pages. A single piece of algorithm update took a lot of time back then. It allowed the black-hat tactics to flourish in those days and websites were free of severe penalties like today.

In the early 90s, Yahoo was a significant player on the internet. In 1998, Google entered into the business.

The Early Age of SEO (2003-2005)

For those of you who are not aware of “What is SEO and how it works?”, I will explain SEO Meaning to you in a simple manner before moving forward. The full form of SEO is search engine optimization.

SEO is a process of making your site visible in search engines with an aim to rank it higher on search results with the use of various Types of SEO strategies. We can categorize startegies into on-page and off-page SEO strategies.

I will also clear your confusion regarding “Search Engine Optimization Vs. Search Engine Marketing”. Search Engine Marketing includes other methods other than on-page and off-page optimization and focuses on increasing traffic via other means. One of the ways to get more search traffic is via pay per click ads (PPC). Follow this link for detailed comparison.

In the early 2000s, Google was getting ahead of others in the game of search engine. It started publishing guidelines and began updating algorithms to penalize websites, following unethical SEO practices like a link farm, keyword stuffing, and so on.

Dfoxo SEO History

Image Source: Digital Gyan

In this era, Google gave the taste of personalized search engine experience by showing relevant search results. The websites that appeared on search results helped to connect ethical businesses with customers.

Moreover, the local SEO appeared in this period. The search results gave users information about maps, local stores, checkpoints, and so on.

Google dominated this era by capturing the majority of the market share. Currently, Google captures over 85% total search engine market share, and it has been able to be a synonym to search engine.

Google promoted white-hat SEO practices during this period. The businesses started searching how to do search engine optimization and SEO keywords. The firms during this time heavily focused on inbound links for better visibility. Thus, this era set the foundation of the personalized search engine experience.

Google along with MSN, Yahoo, and others introduced No-Follow attribute to links for reducing spammy links. It significantly reduced the volume of spammy links.

Dfoxo SEO History

Image Source: OvertheTop

However, there were still many unethical SEO practices around this era. No one was penalizing the websites, who were generating many spammy links and stuffing keywords. I still remember the days when it was possible to rank higher in search results by distributing crappy articles in various article directories.

The Medieval Era of SEO (2006-2009)

In 2008, Google revealed its amazing Google Suggest feature. It drastically improved usability by offering more relevant search results by historical data. Google also created many search engine optimization tools like Keyword research tool, Google Analytics, Google Trends, and so on for a better SEO practice.

The marketers began to find better white-hat SEO strategies to give a useful piece of content, which was appealing to both users and search engines.

In 2009, Bing came to challenge Google in a search engine space. In some instances, Bing was able to provide more relevant search results. However, Google had many great strategies in their arsenal.

In August 2009, Google unveiled its Caffeine algorithm update. Google started including tweets, and There was a creation of Google Universal Search. Google Universal Search helped in offering better engaging content media in searches, such as video, images, news, and so on. It also focused on real-time updates. It bought journalists and web copywriters in the world of web.

The Climax in the world of SEO (2010-2012)

Dfoxo SEO History

Image Source: The Drum

Finally, the businesses in this era got severe about publishing quality blog posts on their websites to earn rankings. They got serious after Google penalized many sites who were scamming the users.

The massive corporation like J.C. Penny got penalized by the new regulations and stricter Google algorithms. Google was not emphasizing on content rather than over-optimized content.

At the end of 2010, Google began to consider social signals as the ranking factor. The term “page rank” also started to gain momentum. The page rank is an algorithm that gave a ranking to the website and web pages.

The NightMare for Black Hat SEO Guys: The Entry of Penguin and Panda

Google got severe in this era. They began to realize that their users will shift to other search engines if they do not deal with black hat SEO strategies. Google could catch the more straightforward shady tactics, but not clever blackhat tactics.

They brought Penguin and Panda algorithm to counter the dangerous black hat tactics. In those days, Google gave higher authority to .edu site. But, decided to use this unethically by asking by asking .edu sites to link back to them with keywords like a vacuum cleaner, bunk beds, and so on giving away discounts to students.

Google penalized, and it was a huge event back then. Google Panda algorithm cracked down on content farms and sites who were consistently sending low-quality backlinks.

Google Panda was a pain in the butt for many webmasters. However, that was not the only algorithm that got birth in this era. Google Penguin came in action after Panda. Google Penguin rewarded top-notch sites and penalized sites that were using shady tactics. It looked after clever blackhat tactics of SEO professionals in those days. It penalized sites that were informative but was using spammy links, which has nothing to do with the content itself.

Google Panda and Penguin algorithm are updated now and then to counter shady SEO practices on the internet. These algorithms also gave a shock to many article directories in those days who were publishing crappy pieces of content. All of them were nowhere in search results after Google penalties.

Dfoxo SEO History

Image Source: Neil Patel

Google also hit hard against those websites who were reserving huge space for ads, hindering user experience.

Modern Era of SEO (2013 to Present)

In 2013, Google started going beyond punishing spammy content. It brought PayDay Loan algorithm update. It was brought to counter keywords like payday loans that could result in many spams. Google started putting more effort in only showing legitimate sites on the search results.

Google goes local in 2014 with the release of Pigeon. It made a massive impact on local search results. It also massively brought maps into action and helped users to find local content and businesses. It gave birth to specific regional SEO strategies.

In 2015, Google realized that users also care a lot about their web experience on the website. With the growing usage of smartphones, Google started giving a strong emphasis on the mobile experience, while deciding the rank of the site. The mobile friendly test got momentum after that. Google forced the webmasters to improve their mobile experience. Those with mobile popups ads got penalized.

Today, the users have personalized experience, but they are concerned about privacy.

What are some of the upcoming trends to watch out in 2019?

Finally, we are at the beginning of 2019. Here are some of the trends that you should watch out in 2019.

  1. The massive growth of voice search

The researchers predict that around 50% of total searches will be voice search by 2020. Focus on the ways to optimize your sites for voice search.

2. People will demand more video content

More and more people will request quality video content. Be prepared to produce videos and integrate it on your blogs for better results.

3. Privacy matters

With the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Google will want you to have essential pages and notifications on your site like cookie consent, privacy policy, refund policy, email marketing consent, and so on.

One important thing: If your site still has no SSL installed, you must do it in 2019.

4. The user experience as an important ranking factor

The internet users hate to visit the site with lots of ads and non-intuitive interface. Google hates it when their users have a bad experience. In 2019, you can expect Google to put heavy emphasis on the user experience.

5. Artificial Intelligence will play a role in SEO

Artificial Intelligence will most likely have a massive impact on SEO in 2019. Google can train an AI algorithm to weed out sites using blackhat strategies so that you can expect a quicker penalization due to AI. Other than Google, businesses and SEO companies will also be aggressive in looking for the ways to use AI on their SEO plan.

What is the Future–SEO in the 2020s?

We have come a long way since the birth of search engines. The modern search engines are advanced, and they use sophisticated algorithms to find the best pieces of content for the specific keywords and also to find unethical SEO practices.

The future of SEO is difficult to predict; however, one thing is for sure. The search engines will get more sophisticated. With that said, we can make some general predictions.

According to the report, Google is paving a path for Artificial Intelligence (AI). We can expect to see even more complicated AI technologies integrated with search engines shortly. However, we cannot be sure of what future holds for us. To be aware of the future of SEO, we need to keep an eye on the evolution of advanced technologies, trends, and internet users behavior.  

The technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality will most probably affect SEO in various ways in times to come. By looking at the current trends and the demand of virtual digital assistants, we will see the rise of voice search, accelerated mobile pages (AMP), and a higher impact of social signals on SEO.

I hope you’ve found value in this article If you want to contribute your valuable insights in this article, feel free to leave a comment below. I will be happy to read and reply to your comments.

In this article, I will walk you through a fascinating history of SEO from the year 1997 to 2019 and beyond. It is crucial for SEO professionals to know about the history of SEO and this article will give you information about essential events that took place in the various period from 1997 till this date.

I took the year 1997 to start the journey, as there was not much happening before 1997. There were search engines before 1997, but the significant SEO trends began with the birth of Google, which is 1998. From its birth, Google has improved a lot and has been able to be a synonym of the search engine.

5 Replies to “SEO History (1997-2020): How is SEO Drastically Different Now?”

  1. Hello!
    My name is Roy. I wanted to ask do you accept sponsored articles or a link placement in the existing articles on your website? If you do, what are your rates?
    Kind regards,

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