What is SEO?
SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization,’ and it is the process of improving the “quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.” SEO is used to target organic traffic instead of paid traffic. SEO is about understanding how search engines work and what people are searching for online.
For those who do not know much about SEO, it may seem simple. As long as your site looks good and loads fast, and you’ve got some links and keywords in place, you’re good to go, right? The truth is, just as in life in the practice of SEO, the only constant changes. As Google and other browsers aim to offer more personalized and refined searchers, ranking becomes more difficult.
Appreciating the power of search engine optimization is difficult without knowing its history. Let’s take a look at where SEO started…
In the early ‘90s, search engines were known as virtual libraries that contained indexed content. It was practically impossible to search anything through them. In 1994 Yahoo launched the first web directory that quickly became very popular, and shortly after that, WebCrawler and Lycos were launched. Lycos was very easy to use and became one of the most visited online destinations in 1999.
At this point, search engines could only use the text on the site to figure who should rank where. All one had to do to rank first was to stuff keywords and add many spammy backlinks. Over time, search engines started slowly improving their algorithms by analyzing keywords, word count, and header tags. Those were the very first optimization steps. During the ‘90s, webmasters had to track their rankings in 10-15 different search engines.
And then… Google’s domain was registered.
1997 – Google is born
Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were Ph.D. students at Stanford.
It was the first search engine to use links as a ranking signal – it treated inbound links as votes of confidence from users, which subsequently lead to better quality search results. Google quickly became the most popular search engine on the internet.
Google revolutionized the digital world since it offered far better search results than all the other available search engines.
2000s and 2010s
When Google was first born, there were multiple black hat SEO practices to help pages rank higher. Google quickly changed its algorithm to de-legitimize that. At this point, the content was simply created to rank higher – the quality was not important. Google considered both on-page factors, like meta tags, headings, site structure, keyword frequency, and O off-page factors, such as PageRank and hyperlink analysis.
Gradually, Google started refining search results in order to incorporate search results from different websites, social media, video, news, etc., in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Around this time, Google was said to have “broken” SEO as it worked on changing its algorithm. Google started personalizing search engine results for each individual user based on the history of their previous searches.
In 2005, Google launched the Nofollow attribute to combat spam and reduced public web space abuse. And just five years later, an important update happened in 2010 – Google Caffeine. It allowed Google to index content based on how fresh it was. But perhaps one of the most revolutionary updates that Google did was Panda 1.0. This update penalized websites that had duplicated and bad quality content published on them.
In 2012, a new update called Penguin would identify links that tried to manipulate search rankings. These sites would contain over-optimized anchor text, links in irrelevant content, etc.
SEO is crucial in modern-day digital marketing since the majority of online traffic to websites is driven by search engines. Organic search results are far more reliable to savvy searchers and receive many clicks than paid advertisements.
“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It only searches engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”– Jill Whalen
These days Google outsmarts webmasters. Black hat SEO will usually get you penalized and is best to avoid. A good rule to follow is asking yourself the following question: “Am I comfortable explaining how I optimized my site to a Google employee?”