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A Ridiculously Brief History of SEO

A Ridiculously Brief History of SEO

First the internet

Online. The internet. The world wide web. It has many names, and it contains more information than any other collection of data in human history. The only problem was how to find what you were looking for. Back in the day, websites only had IP addresses that looked something like Eventually, they were named using domain names that represented the IP addresses, but even with names, unless you had a large marketing campaign, how could your product or service be found?

Enter Archie Query Form. The first known public search engine. It searched FTP sites to create an index of downloadable files. Soon after, the creator of the “www”, Tim Berners-Lee set up a virtual library of early websites. There were a handful of early search engines but only a few that stood out. All of them required a bot, or search crawler, to index a page for information. Yahoo came about in 1994 and grew to be very popular. That same year, Lycos came out. The year after AltaVista was released and featured unlimited crawl bandwidth. In 1996, Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin came out with “BackRub”, a very early version of Google.

In 1998, Google is officially launched. What made Google different (superior) than the other search engines, is that it relied on website links to prove the most popular site, and thus the best result for a search query. For instance, let’s say an online retailer sells widgets, and they have a reputation for selling the best widgets around, other websites would naturally link to the widget website recommending them as the best. It’s basically an online referral. Google’s search crawlers would then follow these websites to the widget website and know to recommend it when a Google user searched for “widgets”.

History of SEO grows with Google

This was immediately recognized as superior because of the amount of abuse happening with trying to game the search engines. SEO grew out of this, because there is a right way to get ranked and a wrong way. The early days was the wild west and folks were keyword stuffing, and cloaking content to show up in the search results and, more specifically, on the first page. The link method was much more difficult to fake. However, it didn’t take long to figure that out too.

The Darker History of SEO

Pretty soon “black hat” SEOs were selling spammy links from link directories to get websites ranked. This went on for years until Google had enough and dropped the figurative hammer. The hammer in this case was Google’s Penguin update, which targeted sites that had used black hat link building. It wasn’t hard to do because usually these sites had thousands, if not tens of thousands of links pointing to them, all using “money keywords” and all coming from “bad neighborhoods”. The pain was felt immediately and overwhelmingly.

Google soon realized that they had created a monster. Now, anyone could point thousands of spammy, black hat links at a competitor’s website and they would be penalized and knocked off the first page of Google. They had effectively created something worse, “negative seo”. To mitigate this, Google simply devalued the worth of spammy links, but did not penalize the site itself.

Google has added many features over the years that we take for granted, including universal search results. Universal search results is what you see when you enter a search term into Google and the results show every kind, including the websites, local business & maps, images, videos and more. This all seems obvious now, but it wasn’t then, and search results used to be a bit more difficult to find what you were looking for.

SEO done right

All in all, when it comes to ranking, even with all the changes, Google hasn’t changed that much. Google is still looking for websites with high quality, authoritative content that users will find helpful to feature on page one of their search engine. Naturally, sites with high quality content and easy to use navigation will gain good backlinks which will further prove to Google that they belong on page one.

Are you looking to rank your website on page one of Google? Mighty Fish Digital can help optimize your website and fix any “holes” that might be preventing you from ranking as well as you should be. Visit our SEO page to learn more.

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