In the mid-nineties, I got on the internet. Internet was offered with 64Kbit / s, and with 2 lines, you could even achieve double the speed. Now searching for information and viewing websites online was a lot more accessible. A not negligible disadvantage was telephone costs. Every moment on the net cost money and double with bundling. It meant that not many people were not online (too) much.
Websites were relatively simple, lots of text, straightforward. Making good looking websites was difficult. CSS was not there yet, and all formatting was arranged where it was needed. To be found, you used the keywords meta.
Even if your page was about something else, you were found on it if you used that keyword.
No one had heard of Google yet, and the search engine you used was Alta Vista and Yahoo.
The big problem was that you could search what you wanted with those keywords and always ended up with porn. So the algorithms were further developed. Rules were also drawn up for registering a website.
In the period from 2002 to 2005, we first heard about keyword stuffing and black-hat optimization. And having backlinks turned out to be a good way to get more prominent in the search engine.
So what did we do… .we sign up on every listing and home page we could find.
Larry Page had already come up with it in 1998: Page rank. But to get to that first page in Google, you not only needed a lot of backlinks, but they also worked much better if they came from a page with high page rank. So SEOs tried to get links from pages with a higher page rank than ourselves. Links were also exchanged, and you saw a link page appear on many websites.
We tried to read everything about who had what to add to the black-hat box of tricks. But link farms were blocked, and low-quality links became virtually worthless. One by one, all tricks were tackled by the increasingly smarter algorithm.
Things like the 301 redirect were also introduced. And in 2009, the canonical URL was introduced. And everyone thought the canon what?
In 2010 the social signals came into the picture, and to remain visible, we had to become more and more active left and right to become and remain visible.
In 2011 came the first major update called Panda. And everything in the link area that was somewhat grey was addressed. And more relationship was established between links, anchor texts, and content. Even in 2011, the first step towards structured data was made.
Google is a company, and they earn through advertisements; we all know how that works. You can no longer ignore it. So SEOs were sucked into that too. In the beginning, Google Ads was fantastic, with low ad costs, good visibility, little competition, and a lot of profit.
Over-optimization became a dirty word, and content became King. It became essential to write good content. Many websites also showed a similar trend in visitors to the image below.
The whole animal kingdom has passed so slowly when it comes to Google updates. And SEO is way more present than it was ever before. The big difference is that less and less manipulation can be done. Many blackhat tricks no longer work, and there are more and more factors that determine your position in the search engines. Because more and more are playing along, drops in search results such as with Penguin’s introduction will no longer occur to that extent.
With updates like Fred and now Bert, content is more and more assessed. Things like “intent” or, better, what you are actually looking for are becoming more of a factor to consider when you post content. If you don’t meet the intent, you will never rank for that keyword (assuming there is content on that topic).
Things like backlinks, a good meta description with title, good structure, and content are still relevant. Add to that structured data, intent, and social media presence; you are well in the right direction.
Always write content with the view that it must be relevant and that it answers the question that the search engines want to see answered. With the ever-growing number of websites and that coveted first page, the fight only gets more difficult.
SEO history is one thing. Nobody knows what the future will look like. Assuming that the algorithms will become so smart that, just like a psychiatrist who uncovers the source of the complaint, they will soon understand exactly what you are actually looking for.
Would you like to see what the history of the Google updates looks like? Moz has a nice list. There are more than you think.
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