SEO, or search engine optimization, is the new(er) buzzword of digital marketing. In fact, I can hardly imagine my life without it, despite the fact that it's only two decades old. Search engines have given us normal folk superpowers--they've given us access to nearly unimaginable amounts of knowledge and information. Despite it's relative infancy, SEO already has an interesting and colorful history.
In part 2 of this series, we're going to delve into some of the major milestones spanning 2001-2010. If you missed part 1, please click here and check out all the excitement prior to 2000. Oh, and part 3 is coming soon!
"Good SEO work only gets better over time. It's only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change." -Jill Whalen
In the wake of unethical and black hat optimization tactics, Google took charge to level the playing field versus allowing keyword stuffing, excessive tagging and spammy backlinks to generate high rankings. During this period (known as the Florida update), many sites were penalized.
Now, it's 2003 and Google gets into the game of contextual advertising with AdSense. It's also the birth year of local SEO to help connect users with valuable information near them such as maps, locations, store hours and mobile results. This is the first time that marketers focused heavily on generating inbound links to help increase search exposure. Build a more personalized and user-focused web, and they will come!
Meanwhile, Seth Godin also wrote a popular blog on why SEO is an unreliable traffic source titled, "The Problem with Search Engine Optimization"
In 2005, Google releases the nofollow tag to combat blog spam which is also supported by both MSN and Yahoo. SEOs used it for PageRank sculpting to funnel PageRank to important pages. (However, just three years later, Google put a stop to this when they announced that "nofollowing" a link no longer passed more juice through remaining links)
But, one of the biggest milestones at this point in the story is the launch of Google Analytics, to help give marketers and SEOs an easy way to analyze and track the performance of specific campaigns.
Google then bans one of the first major brands, BMW for a tactic called cloaking in 2006. It's the practice of showing users and search engines different content. And considered a big no-no. So, in response, XML Sitemaps launch and are supported by each of the major search engines.
Google's next update was launched to improve usability and offer users more relevant content with Google Search. This shift in 2008, paired with keyword research tools, Google Trends, and Analytics, made optimization much more targeted and focused.
At the introduction of social media in 2009, Google wants to ensure that it can index the real-time results so that it can provide fresher results to users. This is the also the year of the Google Caffeine update, so that it can index the web more often. Bing agrees.
Meanwhile, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt said, "The internet is fast becoming a cesspool where false information thrives. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool." Google's response is the Vince Update that many SEOs feel favor brands.
In 2010 and beyond, a massive change in SEO occurs, forcing brands to earn rankings through quality, user-focused content or face penalties. Check back soon for the third and final installment of The History of SEO, Chapter 3. But in the meantime, let's continue the conversation below in the comments!