When did search engine optimisation start and how did it evolve over the years? The evolution of SEO is often misinterpreted, told incorrectly, or viewed from only one vantage point. This piece will take a look at the ways all forms of search engine optimisation evolved over the years, dating back to the time Netscape Navigator functioned as the predominant browser and the younger demographics actually used AltaVista rather than Google. This historical recount will look at SEO from the standpoint of a service provider and that of a business owner.
When AltaVista carried a significant market share, PageRank did not even exist as a factor in search engine optimisation. Rather, the on-page components of webpages carried high weightings in the ranking algorithms. The words utilised in Meta keyword tags actually carried value. Today, this history is widely known knowledge in the search engine optimisation industry. However, experts are quick to forget the enormous amount of time and monetary investments many business owners and online marketing providers spent to modify these components with the goal of obtaining top rankings in the search engines.
Due to the relative simplicity of algorithms at this time, many business owners elected to perform SEO on their own without the assistance of an ‘expert’. The companies that did provide marketing services utilised or more pragmatic approach based upon a superior data set to provide value to its clients. Many viewed the best SEO company during this era as one that could make its own website appear at the top of the search engines for various online marketing phrases.
Swiftly, SEO evolved with Google and the implementation of PageRank as an algorithmic factor in the search engine results. Yes, there is quite a bit of history that took place in-between, but with the average time the most individuals spend reading an informational piece rather short, the explanation requires a succinct overview that does not go into extensive depth on every piece in the history of search's evolution.
Suddenly, search engine optimisation companies and business owners alike started to focus on off-page factors for one of the first times. The primary component most entities invested time developing related to the building of citations from other websites (links) pointing to their webpages. The quality of these citations and the context in which they appeared did not play anywhere near the same role it does today. This resulted in unrelated web properties linked together in order to game the search engines serves as a quick example. Businesses relied heavily on manual exchange requests, whereas search engine optimisation firms utilised more sophisticated and automated techniques to accomplish the same goal. Typically SEO firms could achieve multiple citations at a faster pace and it is one reason that business owners hired firms rather than performing the required tasks themselves.
Suddenly, we jumped almost a decade, since most individuals (aside from scholars) are less likely interested in a detailed history of the evolution of search engine optimisation, but are keener to understand how it can help their current companies. A major shift is only starting to take place with social signals entering the mix of pieces that contribute to search rankings. Now Google can utilise signals from Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other social media networks to help determine the relevancy of a website for any particular query.
This is a logical and natural extension of the PageRank algorithm originally developed to as an off-page metric to measure popularity. This is evident since PageRank's initial intention is to use citations to determine the authority of website via other sites. Social media hardly existed in the past, and thus it is not surprising to witness these social signals factored into the search equation. These signals can provide Google and other search engines with a new means to measure the relative importance of website to its peers as opposed to relying solely on traditional citations.
This concise historical account, with admittedly many omissions to the full evolution of search, intends to indicate that the web is still in the early stages of determining the websites that deserve top placements in the organic results. Certainly, there is a long way to go before reaching fully semantic based algorithms, but companies are investing massively to reach this point. Search engine optimisation via various techniques will not vanish. Conversely, it will continue to evolve. Businesses and agencies will need to deal with increasingly sophisticated and numerous changes to stay competitive. Therefore, SEO companies are not going anywhere as search continues to evolve since owners of enterprises will still want to benefit from their advanced levels of expertise and experiences.
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