For those that don’t know, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of ensuring your site or web page is visible and ranking as high as possible in a search engine’s unpaid or ‘organic’ results. Basically, making sure people can find your site by searching for words and terms relating to what you offer!
The murky waters of SEO can be traced back to the beginning of the internet, but it wasn’t until the turn of the century that the world of SEO really started to take shape. Take a read through our evolution of search engine optimisation, from its mid 90s beginnings to its mobile optimised present day.
Way back in 1993, the birth of search platforms such as Excite revolutionised how online information was catalogued and found, sorting results based on keywords within content and backend optimisation. Not long after, soon-to-be big guns Yahoo and Google entered the market, again improving and simplifying how data was stored and indexed.
But, back then it was still a very messy SEO world.
Keywords would be stuffed throughout content, with excessive tagging and spammy backlinks also commonplace to effectively boost search rankings. This was largely down to the wild west nature of the internet at the time, with no set ranking criteria and few rules or regulations relating to search engines. But this was of no concern to some businesses, who were happily benefiting from spam filled high rankings and its resulting advertising revenue.
Local searches and inbound links
Search platforms soon wised up and got smarter!
Value and relevancy of results were improved, largely due to Google’s 2003 ‘Florida’ update and developments.
Bad linking was penalised and keyword stuffing took a back seat. Now, websites were on a more level playing field, both nationally and locally, with local SEO allowing maps, locations and opening hours all to be found accurately and promptly.
During the same period, emphasis was also placed on inbound links that in turn increased search exposure, with the foundations truly being built for a more personalised and user-focused web. Google Analytics soon followed in 2005, which to this day is still a crucial tool in tracking site traffic and measuring Return on Investment.
Reactive and focussed searches
The late 00s saw more reactive based search experiences come to the fore.
Continuous Google updates ushered in a new era of engaging searches, featuring news, tweets, images and video results amongst regular web pages. Historical data was also taken into account, with search results being affected accordingly, allowing for a much more focussed and target orientated search. Marketers, journalists and copywriters were now required to optimise content for search engines and increased exposure.
Instant results and social media boost
The turn of the decade brought further change and advancements. Google Instant and Google’s Knowledge Graph allowed for automatic results and recommendations, meaning users now didn’t even have to trawl through websites or fully type their search to find what they were looking for. At the same time, the book was thrown at those who failed to comply with new regulations around keywords and content quality, with sites indexing deep into Google’s search results as a consequence.
The continuing use and growth of social media has boosted social posts up the search rankings.
It’s now common to see Facebook and Twitter posts often ranking higher than other web pages. However, this isn’t to say social media has a direct impact on SEO or the ranking of your website – Google and other search engines can’t completely crawl (or trust!) all the data from sites such as Facebook and Twitter. But still, it’s pretty clear social media has an impact on brand awareness and plays an indirect part in the complex SEO machine (something that might increase in the coming years).
Optimisation and a new era
In recent years, the emphasis around local search and mobile device optimised sites has increased further.
If a site is unresponsive to mobile access, this will have a significant negative effect on search visibility and results. While this might not have much impact on desktop search results, for the ever increasing number of us searching by mobile (51% according to Hubspot!), your results will be way down the pecking order.
Today, focus is truly placed on a fully personalised experience for users, with relationship growth, link building, keyword utilisation and most importantly quality content, all at the heart of good SEO and high search rankings.
However, this has been met with concerns from privacy campaigners. While it’s great to be able to experience personal and localised search results, are companies starting to know too much about us? Search platforms can now tell what device you’re searching on, your location and previous search history almost instantly!
One thing’s for certain, with SEO set to continue evolving and be integrated into our daily searches, a more focussed and personal search experience is here to stay.
But, it’s important to remember – while modern day factors such as social signals and mobile friendliness are having an ever increasing impact on SEO, the main core influences from SEO’s post millennium growth spurt are still extremely relevant. Often too much attention can be placed upon an SEO strategy consisting solely of blogging, as opposed to conventional methods such as link building (which is still rated as one the strongest ranking factors).
A quality combination of both of the above strategies, along with a neat and tidy social media plan will continue to see you well placed – no matter what SEO’s turbulent rankings future brings.