The History of Search Engines and SEO
by Mike Khorev
Before delving into the world of Search Engine Optimization, it’s important to know exactly how the search industry started. How do search engines work? And why do we need to optimize anything for them?
Web search engines are not a new invention. They have been around since the early days of the internet, and were used to list down and index pages and directories back in the day. If you owned an Internet-enabled computer in the ’90s, you must be familiar with some of these names: WebCrawler, Lycos, Altavista, Go.com, Inktomi, Dogpile, and Ask Jeeves. These were some of the popular search engines that people used before the trailblazing Google burst into the search engine scene in 1998.
It is not an overstatement to say that Google basically revolutionized the way how search engines work. Before Google, search engines were uncomplicated affairs that rank links by simply crawling through web pages and counting the search terms that are in them. More search terms = more relevancy. This system, which can be easily gamed, is the reason why search results pages were sometimes full of spammy links back then.
Google and the Rise of SEO
But here comes Google. The brainchild of then Stanford Phd students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google employs complex algorithms and formulas to determine the relevancy of a particular page in relation to a user’s search terms. Factors such as search terms, links, keywords, and operators were taken into account in the computation of search results. This resulted into results pages that are more relevant and “cleaner” (i.e. devoid of spam links) than those of other search engines.
This period also represented a time when people realized they could make money off their websites. Being listed on the first page of a search engine results page translates into more visitors to a website. And more visitors = more income. Business owners started trying to find new ways to get their websites listed at the top.
And thus search engine optimization was born.
What Is SEO and Why Should I Care
SEO is basically the process of tweaking a website/webpage for it to become more “visible” in the eyes of search engines. Why is this so important? First off, landing on the front page of a search engine results page (SERP) assures a huge amount of publicity for any website.
Studies have shown that the result at the first place in Google search pages get 20% of all clicks. This means that for a search term that gets about 100,000 searches monthly, 20,000 unique visitors will go just to the first place alone! Most people don’t even bother browsing beyond the first page, preferring instead to click just the top results. This is the reason why websites with high-traffic search terms (like “make money online” for example) make it a point to get themselves in the top five spots in the first page of SERPS. For industries such as real estate and advertising, search engine visibility can make or break any business.
How to Do SEO the Right Way
Modern search engines like Google assign different weights to a variety of website factors when calculating for its relevancy in SERPs. Though these elements and the algorithms that are used for calculations are not publicly revealed, search engine experts agree on a couple of things that are important: 1) content and 2) user experience.
As the saying goes, content will always be king. Without good content, there is no reason why people should hang around your website. Content should be related to the theme of your website and MUST be well-written. It must establish you as an authority in your particular niche.
User experience refers to how your website works in the literal sense. Can it load fast? Can people find what they’re looking for easily? Does it have an aesthetically-pleasing design? Does it look safe? Think of content as the body and muscles of your website, while user experience is the skin that keeps everything together.
A word of advice though, if you’re tempted to try out “black-hat” SEO tricks such as keyword stuffing and buying links- DON’T DO IT. Google has released updates that punish these kinds of tricks, and it will do your website more harm than good. Remember to stick only to organic, tried and tested methods.
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