The History of SEO

The first time someone made a change to their website in order for another website to send visitors to it SEO was born. Back in the mid 90s we were just excited that we could make a web page and have people visit it. Usually we would send an email or an instant message telling people to go there. We would put up cool GIFs (pronounced gif not jif) or Applets all over the page because they were cool and weird and expressed our personality in ways text couldn’t. Such cool GIFs:

Animated Email GIF MC Hammer Dancing GIF Pinocchio Clinton GIF Under Construction GIF Waving American Flag GIF

Defining SEO

Some web designers in the late 90s (me included) started becoming more specialized in SEO. The first SEO Heros. We looked at all the different search engines trying to figure out how they put different people at the top. Usually it was a mix of submitting your site to their search engine (sometimes uploading some content) and making sure you were listed in DMOZ.


DMOZ was everything. It was a directory of all the things on the internet. To get listed, you just needed to drill down to your category and add your listing. Moderators would approve or deny your submission and your site gets to the top of Yahoo and Web Crawler (AOL). As time went on, moderators got way more picky.

The Rise of Google and SEO

Google Search from 2000 Highlighting the Speed
It was all about speed.

Google originally set out to fix a problem. Most search engines had to search through huge databases of websites to return a result. The process they used was slow and could take up to 10 seconds to return a search. Google limited its database to 1 million sites, created the page rank system to better catalog those sites, and as a result was able to serve up a search in less than 2 seconds. They would even tell you how long it took (see image).

Speed is why Google took off. As time went on they focused more and more on the quality of their searches. They realized that any search engine could speed themselves up over time. The only way to compete in the search engine market is to provide the best search results.

Chasing Google

After Google dominated the market it’s been an uphill battle for other search engines. Since Google commands such a large portion of the search market they also command a large portion of the revenue which they reinvest back into their research and development. They can pay for the biggest datacenters, they have the biggest index of websites, and they have the most computing power, so they win.

Google & SEO

Now Google is the place where you want your website to be seen. This is where SEO Specialists spend most of their efforts. Since Google is basically a system of rules, many SEO folk try to find the loopholes and cheats in those rules. People who rely on these tactics are referred to as Black Hat SEO. Here are some of the tactics they used to use, but Google has since closed those loopholes:

  • Links – Google used to value links, the more links the better.
    • Blog Networks – Creating hundreds of thousands of blogs that use content copied from the internet to fill those pages. Pay their owners and they’ll add millions of links to your site. Penguin and Panda stopped this.
    • Link Sharing Networks – The free version of Blog Networks where common link sharing scripts could be used to share links using automated systems. Penguin kinda killed this.
    • Mirror Sites – Create a bunch of websites and have them link to each other.
  • Content – Google used to value keywords and how many times they were mentioned.
    • Copied Content – If you fill your site with large volumes of copied content, your site becomes highly relevant to Google. The Panda update killed this one.
    • Keyword Stuffing – Just put keywords all over your site. Hide them, repeat them, link with them. Penguin killed this one.

There are many more, but Google keeps trying to stop them. And good for them, none of this helps the average Internet user anyway.


The SEO world is ever changing as we discover correlations and patterns in what Google’s system values. Since 2004, Evan has been saying “good, useful websites are what Google wants to rank” and that remains true in 2016. Google is looking for websites that its users want to find. If your site is not relevant, useful and easy to use, it won’t rank. ¬†Funny that we built this website then. We’ll see how it goes.