Whatever you see on Google or other search engines today has probably been optimized. Search engine optimization (SEO) has become so huge, particularly in the marketing field across industries. But only a few people know the history of SEO and that the practice is much older than Google itself.

Of course, this claim is open for argument as some would say that all search engine-related marketing practices were only launched in 1991, around the same time when the first website was published. And yes, the World Wide Web site remains active and recently celebrated its 29th birthday. However, others claim that SEO was introduced much later, around 1997, making it at least a year older than Google.

The Early Years

When the first website was born, many heeded the call and launched their own sites. As the Web welcomed many other websites, it became challenging to access all of them to find relevant information. Search engines were created to give the Web a structure to allow for accessibility.

By 1993, Excite, which is among the first publicly accessible search engines, categorized the process of retrieving information. And about a year later, Yahoo, Alta Vista, and many others joined in. But it was only in 1996 when SEO began to take root. At that time, Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed BackRub, an early search engine which relied heavily on backlinks as a gauge of a website’s importance. This search engine eventually became Google and was registered as a domain in 1997.

The Turbulent Years

Before SEO became what it is today, it went through turbulent years. At that time, people did not adhere to hard rules, which allowed many marketers to use blackhat SEO strategies to make their pages end up on the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Before SEO became what it is today, SEO was pretty straightforward.

SEO started simple. Users only needed to perform on-page optimization, which means ensuring their content had enough words, their sites’ HyperText Markup Language (HTML) tags were correct, and their pages had enough internal and external links. When they had all these, they were good to go. Those who wanted to rank high on SERPs only had to repeat keywords within their content. Outranking a website simply meant employing keyword stuffing or using keywords as many times as possible, even if they did not make sense.

And so content marketers spun their articles, making them what we now call “spammy.” It was a chaotic time, leaving searchers frustrated because they were not getting relevant results.

In 1998, Goto.com launched the first paid search and sponsored links. Advertisers who wanted to rank higher in terms of organic search needed to bid on Goto.com, which eventually became part of Yahoo. Since there were no hard rules to follow at that time, SEO experts referred to DMOZ (the Open Directory Project) if they wanted to have their pages listed.

The Google Revolution

Perhaps Google became one of the most recognized and authority among search engines because it saw an opportunity for improvement. It learned from the chaos and considered its elements to update its algorithms to encourage website owners, content marketers, and virtually every Internet user to focus more on quality and create relevant content. Once achieved, websites got the reward they deserve—top ranking on SERPs.

While the history of SEO dates back to before Google was born, the search engine did revolutionize the practice to make sure websites were judged based on relevance. Most search engines today still depend on on-page optimization, site structure, and domain names. Google is, however, taking things further by developing algorithms that look not only at on-page SEO but also off-page strategies.

Over the years, Google has been rolling out updates to ensure that users can access the best content possible. Fast forward to today, many of Google’s updates made SEO more targeted and focused. This user-focused tactic to SEO laid the foundation for achieving a more personalized Web. That is also why many websites are now investing in SEO content writing services to increase their exposure and visibility.

The history of SEO tells us that change is inevitable. It is always best to look forward and prepare for the future. And the best way to do that is by sticking to ethical or whitehat SEO strategies and investing in content creation that provides value for all visitors.