History of Search Engine Optimization

SEO started in the mid-1990s.

Outstanding milestones in the evolution of search engines and SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) revolves around Google.

SEO predates the world’s most popular search engine, co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing began with the launch of the first published website in 1991.

When the first web search engine was launched, the history of SEO officially begins around 1997.

Coming high in search engines in 1997 was still a fairly new concept, 

and it was also very directory oriented.

Before DMOZ powered Google’s original ranking, Zeal powered LookSmart, 

Go.com was its own directory, and Yahoo Directory was a major player in Yahoo Search.

If not familiar with DMOZ, the Mozilla Open Directory Project (remember, Mozilla was a company

and Moz was a brand long before SEO Moz), was basically a yellow page for websites.

Relationship between search engine optimization and search engine marketing:

Before Search Engine Optimization became the official name, they also used other terms are 

  • Search engines Placement.
  • Search engine optimization.
  • Search engine ranking.
  • Search engine registration.
  • Search engine submission.
  • Website promotion.
  • Search engine marketing.

Search engine marketing:

Search engine marketing as a successor to search engine optimization.

Search engine marketing is used and associated with paid search advertising and marketing.

A timeline of the history of search engines:

Search engines have changed the way to find information, conduct research, 

buy products and services, entertain ourselves, and connect with others.

Behind almost every online destination, be it a website, blog, social network, 

or app, there is a search engine.

Search engines have become the connecting force and directional guide in everyday life.

Create a timeline of notable milestones in the history of search engines and search engine optimization 

to understand the roots of this technology, which has become such an important part of the world.

Dawn of SEO: The Wild West Era

In the last decade of the 20th century, the search engine landscape was very competitive.

Search engine choice, both human-powered directories and crawler-based listings, including AltaVista, 

Ask Jeeves, Yahoo ,….!

The only way to do any type of SEO was through on-page activities.

This included optimizing factors such as

  • Making sure the content is good and relevant.
  • Enough text.
  • The HTML tags were accurate.
  • Have internal links and outbound links.

To rank well, the trick was to repeat keywords enough times on web pages and meta tags.

To out-rank a page that uses a keyword 100 times, then use the keyword 200 times!

Here are some highlights:


Yahoo was originally a list of Internet bookmarks and a directory of interesting sites.

Webmasters had to manually submit their page to the Yahoo directory for indexing,

So that Yahoo could find it when someone did a search.


Built and tested Backrub, a new search engine that ranks sites based on relevance and 

popularity of inbound links.

Backrub would eventually become Google. They also launched HotBot, powered by Inktomi.


Following the success of the Search Engine Webmaster’s Guide, a website dedicated to providing news 

about the search industry, tips on how to search the Web, and 

information on how to better rank websites.


Goto.com launched with sponsored links and paid search.

Advertisers bid on Goto.com to rank above organic search results, 

which were powered by Inktomi. Yahoo finally won goto.com.

DMOZ (the Open Directory Project) became the most sought after place for 

SEO professionals to list their pages.

MSN entered the space with MSN Search, initially powered by Inktomi.


The first search engine marketing conference, Search Engine Strategies (SES), was held.

The Google Revolution:

In 2000, Yahoo made the worst strategic move in search history, partnered with Google and 

let Google push its organic results instead of Inktomi.

Google was a little known and little known search engine.

Search engines ranked sites primarily based on-page content, domain names, ability to appear in 

the directories mentioned above, and the basic structure of the site (navigation path).

But Google’s web crawler and Page Rank algorithm were revolutionary for information retrieval.

Google analyzed the factors both on and off the page, the quantity and quality of external links 

pointing to a website (as well as the anchor text used).

Although links were only one component of Google’s overall ranking algorithm, 

links were considered the most important factor by SEO professionals and an entire 

link building sub-industry was created.

Over the next decade, it became a race to gain as many links as possible hoping to rank higher.

Linking became a heavily abused tactic that Google would have to address for years to come.

They made the Google bar available in Internet Explorer, allowing SEO professionals to see the Page

Rank score (a number between 0-10).

This ushered in an era of unsolicited link exchange request emails.

So with Page Rank, Google essentially introduced a currency measure to its link.

Google’s organic results also got a certain company as AdWords ads starting in 2000.

These paid search ads appeared above, below, and to the right of Google’s natural (i.e. unpaid) results.

Over the next few months and years, the SEO world got used to a monthly Google Dance, or a period

during which Google updated its index, resulting in major ranking fluctuations.

Google AdSense – Terrible SEO Content Monetization.

In 2003, after acquiring Blogger.com, Google launched AdSense, which offers contextually 

targeted Google ads on publisher sites.

The combination of AdSense and Blogger.com led to a rise in simple and profitable online 

publishing and a blogging revolution.

AdSense spawned spam tactics and made-for-AdSense sites filled with scant/poor / stolen content that 

existed solely to rank well, get clicks, and earn money.

Local SEO and customization:

Around 2004, Google and other major search engines improved the results of queries that had a 

geographic intent.

For example, a restaurant, a plumber, or some other type of business or service provider in the city or town.

In 2006, Google released a map Plus Box.

Google and the search engines made greater use of end-user data, such as search history and interests,

to personalize search results.

SEO professionals started using this tag to sculpt Page Rank.

YouTube, Google Analytics and webmaster tools:

In 2006, Google gained the user-generated video sharing network YouTube, 

which eventually became the second-most-used search property in the world.

Because of its growing popularity, video SEO has become crucial for brands, businesses, 

and individuals who wanted to be found.

Google released two incredibly important tools in 2006:

Google Analytics – Free tool, the web-based tool was so popular at launch that webmasters experienced 

downtime and maintenance warnings.

Google Webmaster Tools – Now known as the Search Console, Google Webmaster Tools allow 

webmasters to view crawl errors, view searches the site appeared on, and request reinstatement.

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

XML sitemaps allow webmasters to show search engines all the URLs on 

their websites that are available for crawling.

Advertisers bid on Goto.com to rank above organic search results, 

Which were powered by Inktomi. Yahoo eventually gained goto.com.

DMOZ (the Open Directory Project) became the most sought after place for 

SEO professionals to list their pages.

MSN entered the space with MSN Search, initially powered by Inktomi.

An XML sitemap contains not just a list of URLs, but a variety of additional information, 

which helped search engines crawl smarter.

Universal search:

See really how searches grow in new and exciting ways starting in 2007.

Intended these updates to improve the search experience for users.

Let’s start with Google Universal Search.

Until now, the search results included 10 blue links.

Then Google began combining traditional organic search results with other types of vertical results 

like news, videos, and images.

Suddenly, the big brands seemed to rank much better in the SERPs.

Google wanted to give more weight to reliance on the algorithm 

(and large brands are more confident than smaller, less established brands).

A next-generation search architecture for Google that is supposed to be faster and more accurate, 

delivers better and more relevant results and crawls larger parts of the web

Speaking of speed, in 2010 Google announced site speed as a ranking factor.

Bing and The Search Alliance:

In 2009, Microsoft Live Search became Bing.

To challenge Google’s control of nearly 70% of the US search market, Yahoo and Microsoft joined

forces to partner on a 10-year search agreement.

Search Alliance saw Microsoft’s Bing power Yahoo’s organic and paid search results.

While Bing the no. 2 search engine, they finally failed to break Google’s massive grip on searches in 

the US and around the world.

In 2020, Bing officially changed its name to Microsoft Bing.

The rise of social media:

Another phenomenon was emerging in the 2000s:Social Networks.

Google made YouTube.

Other networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn emerged as major players 

(with many more to come and go in the following years).

Along with the rise of social media, we speculated that social signals may affect search rankings.

Social media can help SEO, but indirectly, like other forms of marketing, it can help 

to drive more website traffic and increase brand awareness and affinity (generating search demand).

While Google has repeatedly denied the impact of social media shares (likes, tweets, +1, etc.) Over the 

Years as a ranking factor, it continued to feature as a strong correlation factor. in various 

classification factor studies.


Schema markup, micro data, was introduced in 2011 to help search engines interpret 

the context of the query.

See each type of schema markup at Schema.org.

Schema is not a ranking factor and there is little evidence to support that it affects search performance.

However, the scheme helps to stand out in the SERPs with rich and featured snippets.

In links experiment revealed that sites with a scheme gained rankings 

once the scheme was implemented.

Google Zoo: Panda and Penguin:

Two major algorithmic updates, Panda in 2011 and Penguin in 2012, had a tremendous impact on SEO 

Google once again tried to clean up its search results and reward high-quality sites.

In 2011, Google found that its search results faced severe scrutiny because so-called content farms

websites that produced large volumes of low-quality content – dominated search results.

Google’s SERPs were also crammed with websites with non-original and auto-generated content, 

and even scraper sites outnumbered content creators sometimes.

As a result, these sites were generating tons of advertising revenue.

These sites also lived and died on organic traffic from Google.

With Google’s Panda Update released in 2011, many websites saw much of that traffic, 

if not all, disappear overnight.

Google provided information on what they considered a high-quality site.

Aiming to weed out low-quality (or thin) content, Panda was regularly updated over the next several 

years and was finally integrated into Google’s core algorithm in 2016.

With websites still reeling from the effects of Panda, Google unleashed a long-awaited over-

optimization algorithm, aimed at removing aggressive spamming tactics from their results.

Eventually dubbed Penguin, this algorithm targeted link schemes (websites with unusual link patterns, 

including an inordinate amount of exact-match anchor text that matched keywords).

To rank and keyword stuffing.

Panda, Penguin became part of Google’s real-time algorithm in 2016.

In 2012, Google introduced the Knowledge Graph.

This was a major change from interpreting keyword strings to understanding semantics and intent.

The Knowledge Graph lets you search for things, people, or places that Google knows about 

landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographic features, movies, 

celestial objects, works of art, and more.

Instantly get relevant information for the consultation.

A critical step toward building the next generation of search, harnessing the collective intelligence of 

the web and understanding the world a little more the way people do.

Google improved its search results with this information.

Knowledge dashboards, charts, and carousels can appear whenever people search for the billion of

entities and facts in the Knowledge Graph.

The next generation of Google search came in 2013 as Hummingbird, a new algorithm designed to 

better address natural language queries and conversational search.

With the rise of mobile devices (and voice search), Google needed to completely rebuild 

how its algorithm worked to meet the needs of modern search engines.

They considered hummingbird to be the biggest change to Google’s core algorithm since 2001.

Google offers faster and more relevant results, especially for mobile device users.


The mobile was talked about and promoted a lot because it was growing like crazy all this time.

As more users adopted smartphones, they increasingly searched for businesses and things on the go.

In 2015, the Year of Mobile, the point at which mobile searches overtook desktop searches 

for the first time on Google.

To speed up pages, Google also introduced sped up Mobile Pages (AMP) in 2016.

The idea behind AMP was to load content instantly. Many media outlets and 

publishers quickly adopted AMP and continue to use it.

In 2017, Google announced page speed will now be a ranking factor for mobile searches.

Google stated it will start devaluing pages with intrusive pop-ups.

In 2019, it enabled mobile device indexing first for all new websites.

By 2021, all websites will have switched to mobile indexing first.

Machine learning and smart search:

Google, originally built around information retrieval, 

grew into a company that prioritizes mobile devices.

In 2017, Google declared Google a company that prioritizes machine learning.

They designed google search to inform and assist, rather than provide users with a list of links.

Google has incorporated machine learning into all of its products, including search, 

Gmail, Ads, Google Assistant, and more.

In 2015, RankBrain was initially used to interpret 15% of searches that 

Google had never seen before, based on the words or phrases that the user had entered.

Google has extended RankBrain to run on all searches.

While RankBrain affects ranking, it is not a ranking factor in the traditional sense, 

where you are rewarded with better rankings.

  • Voice searches are increasing.
  • Visual search has gotten great.
  • Users (and brands) are increasingly adopting chatbots and using personal assistants (for example, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana).

These advancements in technology mean more exciting times ahead for SEOs.

Major updates from Google:

Google updates its algorithm every day.

Google releases major updates when there is a change in its algorithm.

There are also extensive core algorithm updates.

The goal of these major updates is to create a better search experience for users with more relevant and reliable search results.

These top updates from Google are not targeted at a certain page or site, but rather are intended to improve the way the system crawls content.

In 2018, Google confirmed they had implemented a comprehensive core algorithm update to benefit the least rewarded pages.

Google released another broad-core algorithm update targeting content relevance.


BERT is the biggest update to Google’s algorithm since RankBrain.

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers 

used for natural language processing.

Essentially, it helps Google better understand the context of search queries.

With BERT, Google can analyze context to provide better search results.

Featured snippets are brief text, bullets, numbers, or tables that appear at the top of Google search.

The goal of a featured snippet is to respond to the search query directly in the SERPs without the need

to click through to the website.

Featured snippets have kick-started the allure of the coveted zero position.

It featured the search result above all other distractions in the SERPs, 

they also appear in the organic results.

In 2020, Google updated this feature to remove featured snippet search results, 

so it would include them in the featured snippet or organic result, not both.

Google released another update stating that featured snippets will now 

take users directly to the text that applies to their search query.

Users now see text highlighted in yellow.

As voice search continues to refine, featured snippet content will provide a great opportunity 

to increase organic visibility.

Search engines and SEO have come a long way since the 1990s.

The history of SEO has been full of exciting twists: the birth of new search engines, 

the death of the old search engines, new SERP features, new algorithms and constant testing and 

updates, plus the appearance of great publications, conferences, SEO experts and tools. .

While search engines and SEO have developed a lot over the years, one thing remains certain: 

as long as there are search engines, SEO will remain vital.