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The Changing Face of Google

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When looking at the history of SEO, you don’t have to go too far back in time. However, in the 20 or so years since Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) really took off, so much has changed. What was at one point considered standard practice to get your page to rank well in the search engines may no longer work. In fact, it will probably land you a large penalty from Google. Also, it was possible to engage in ‘black hat’ techniques to rank any page for almost any keyword.

Although there has been much said about the importance of content marketing, technical SEO is starting to make a comeback and once again influence SERPs and page rankings. Therefore, a look at the history of SEO can provide some insight as to what may prove to be an important factor in the future for website pages to continue to rank well for specific keywords.

A Short History of SEO

Since the first website appeared in 1991, the internet has grown into a ginormous collection of over 1 billion websites, social media platforms, and video streaming services. So, as the number of websites grew, so did the need to index them grow. This gave rise to search engines who would index all these 1000s of websites and deliver the most relevant results.

The first search engines were fairly simple affairs and search platforms became the norm for finding the information we were looking for. Back in the day, Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista, WebCrawler, IE, and Netscape were some of the first sites that made finding information easier. Results were shown based on keywords in the content and how the websites were optimized.

Manipulating SEO

It was not long before ‘webmasters’ were finding ways of manipulating content on the page and on the technical side of their website to get their sites ranking higher and earn more money. So, it became the rage to engage in ‘black hat’ practices like keyword stuffing, content spinning, getting spammy backlinks and cloaking.

The problem was that it was taking the internet search engine a long time to catch up and therefore these black hat SEO tactics would usually work for a long time. The downside for the general internet user was that search results were not always the most relevant and of low quality.

How Google has Changed SEO

Then in two students at Stanford University, Sergey Brin and Lawerence Page set out to improve the quality of internet searches for users. They realised that there was a lot of money to be made advertising, but this had to be done in a way that didn’t impact on the quality of searches. In 1997, was registered.

In 1998, Brin and Page published their paper called “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine”. One of the first areas they identified that needed improvement was to include PageRank technology in their search algorithms. This would base search results on quality, not just keywords.

Over the years, Google continued to roll out more and more algorithm changes that would change SEO forever. So, Google brought in changes to stamp out spam-based link-building practices, penalise websites that paid for links, downgrade pages that employed keyword stuffing.

The end result has been that websites have had to bow to Google’s algorithm changes and change the way they do SEO. Updates like Florida, Panda, and Penguin have made sure that search results show the most relevant content for internet users with features like maps, local searches, locations, store hours, and mobile results. 


Thumbnail photo of Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca has been a Forensic SEO Consultant for more than four years.

She works across all areas of the business with a special flair for forensic technical analysis, Google Analytics and link-based penalties.

She loves good food, holidays, watching the latest zombie slasher flick, and spinning the decks as an amateur DJ – she says “it’s just a matter of time before I get to host my first post-apocalyptic zombie rave”.


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