A brief history of search engines and SEO

11th September 2017 | Leigh Brown | Internet

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is perhaps the most important online marketing activity. With most consumers turning to search engines to find the answers to their questions, you will want to be at the top of the ranks when the search engines give them the answer.

But when did search engines originate? And how different was SEO?

1990: Archie, the world’s first search engine, was created

1991: Tim Berners-Lee launched the world’s first website – which is still live today.

Feb 1993: With more people becoming connected to the Internet, and more websites being produced, six Stanford students decided to create a search engine that organised results based on the keywords found within the content on websites. This search engine would later be known as Excite.

Jun 1993: World Wide Web Wanderer (Wanderer) was created. The Wanderer is thought to be the first web robot used to crawl and index websites.

Oct 1993: ALIWEB was created. It allowed the user to submit the pages they wanted indexed along with a description. The problem is that people didn’t know how to submit their websites.

1994: Alta Vista, Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo! Search engines launched

During the primitive years of search engines they mostly focused on delivering results based on the keywords used on websites – cue the first SEOs.

The first SEOs quickly discovered the importance of keywords and went on to abuse this ranking factor used by these search engines by keyword stuffing. They found that the more keywords they used, the better they would rank and the more visible their website would be in search engines.

Search engines quickly went from a portal to the organised web to a muddled resource that contained some irrelevant results.

1996: Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin building a search engine called BackRub later to be called Google.

1998: Google is launched with PageRank technology. PageRank is a technology that Page and Brin developed to help measure sites based on quality metrics and not just keywords alone.

2000: Google begins to takeover the search engine world and constructs its Webmaster guidelines. The guidelines were created to help webmasters rank using white hat techniques instead of the spammy techniques used in the 90s.

But, it became apparent that Google wasn’t enforcing its guidelines and so SEOs continued their spammy techniques to secure high rankings.

2003: Google’s Florida update. SEOs still practising the spammy keyword stuffing technique had their websites hit HARD! As it was Google’s vision of becoming the search engine of choice for users it decided to take steps in providing more reliable and relevant results.

2005: Google, Yahoo and MSN united to create the Nofollow attribute to help decrease the amount of spammy links.

Nov 2005: Google Analytics was launched

2009: Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, is launched as a Google-killer

2010 – Now: Google have released a vast number of algorithmic updates to help improve the quality and reliability of its results. The updates to its algorithm aim to penalise sites with poor quality content and using manipulative strategies to rank. These types of changes Google are making only emphasise its focus on the user rather than website owners.


Hubspot, Search Engine Land, Wordstream

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