History and evolution of SEO (search engine optimization)

SEO, Web

SEO has been evolving along with the technology of Google and other search engines. Today we review the history of search engine optimization, from its beginnings to what’s to come in SEO 2015.

The evolution of search engines and the history of SEOThe Internet has radically changed our lives in recent decades. And one of the aspects that has changed the most is the way we do business. So much so that there is already talk of a “globalized digital economy”. What does this have to do with the history of SEO as a discipline? Well… Very much so!

There are certain business models that seek to index, sort, prioritize and serve the information on the Web to users using increasingly advanced technologies (i.e, search engines); and there are the crackers that we take advantage of every loophole in that technology to to ensure that our customers have the best possible presence on the Internet.. The more advanced search engine technology becomes, the more ingenuity SEOs have to put into their work.

Summing up, which is gerundio! The evolution of SEO is related to the technological progress of search engines. A history of SEO must begin by describing the evolution of search engines. Here we go!

Evolution of SEO in the last 20 years

Actually it’s 20 years + 1, because by 2015 we SEOs have already been making our guesses and predictions. But let’s start at the beginning.


WebCrawler, the first bot or spider to index Web information, is born. In the same year, Lycos, which will be the first search engine to use the page crawling system, was launched. At the time, Jerry Yang and David Filo were busy developing Yahoo!

If the Internet is comparable to the discovery of fire, 1994 is equivalent to the invention of the wheel: from here on, everything goes smoothly 😉 But this technology is still in its infancy, and search engines are more like directories of web pages managed manually by the developers, and by the domain owners, who must submit their requests for indexing their pages.


Yahoo! already functions as a search engine (or rather, as a directory), and Altavista also appears , incorporating quite powerful algorithms and crawlers for the time. MSN begins to offer email services, news, chats… although we will still have to wait for the launch of its own search engine.

In this day and age, practically the only on page optimization that can be done to improve search engine visibility is to work on the title: search engines, for the most part, still function as directories or lists of pages, attention, alphabetically ordered! However, the first business models based on optimization, clear precursors of on page SEO, are beginning to appear.


Advances in Altavista’s software also benefit Yahoo!, which is beginning to consolidate its model as a search engine, leaving behind its character as a manual indexing directory.

On page SEO is starting to develop this year, although there is not even a term to name these services. Generic keywords work, and the higher the density, the better!


Attention, because this is the year in which the term SEO(Search Engine Optimization) is used for the first time in its current sense.

All SEO is based on placing keywords on web pages, and the business models of optimizers are consolidating.

Ask makes its appearance on the scene, with the firm intention of increasing speed, in a context in which search engine query processes are quite slow.


Attention, Google is born from the hands of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. A historic moment if ever there was one. But not only that… With Google, Page Rank is also born, and search engines evolve towards a model based on the ranking of results.

It is a year of important developments: on the one hand, MSN launches its own search engine (MSN Search); on the other hand, Goto develops the first PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising model , which, as you know, is an important field of digital marketing that SEO professionals also deal with.


Meta tags, or “meta tags”, appear and will play an important role in on page SEO. They are easily readable and classifiable by search engines, and easily manipulated by SEOs (malicious chuckle).


The world is not ending despite Y2K and the turn of the millennium.

Google consolidates its position as a search engine. So much so that Yahoo! is abandoning Altavista’s technology to embrace Google’s technology. As a result, your query results are significantly improved. The Californian search engine launches Google Tolbar.


If on page SEO is already a daily occurrence for many platforms and websites, now off page SEO is taking off. Links start to count for better results in the rankings and to improve the Page Rank. In fact, external links now count more than on page factors. That’s right, it does not matter the quality or the subject matter of the sites submitting the links. Only the number counts. A glorious past that, by the way, will never be repeated. C’est la vie!

As you can imagine, the first link farms appear, which will give so many headaches to googlers.


When it comes to keywords, it is no longer only their density that matters, but also their strategic placement within a web page.

Spam starts to proliferate, and search engines are forced to prosecute these practices by establishing penalties.

Google launches Adwords, its advertising service based on sponsored links.


There is already a market for buying and selling links, and spam has become a serious problem. Google takes measures and establishes penalties that bring down many websites (some of them unjustifiably). In this year there are no less than five updates to Google’s algorithm. One of them, called “Florida”, wreaks real havoc in November.

Google launches Adsense. It also acquires Blogger, the free blogging platform. WordPress, its natural competitor in the blogging world, was also born. Blogs start to be a common element in SEO strategies, and quickly, blogs are filled with spam comments.


Google has become the search engine par excellence, although Yahoo! takes a step forward and develops its own search algorithm. At the beginning of the year, Google introduces an algorithm change (Brandy) that includes local SEO.

SEO is changing, and now the protagonist is PPC.

Attention! Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook! No need for introductions…


The “nofollow” tag appears to fight spam in blog comments. In addition, the anchor text, which has been very important for link building up to now, is slightly less effective.

This occurs in the context of a tightening of the search engines’ anti-spam policy. Google is introducing three changes to its algorithm this year. One of them, “Bourbon”, incorporates the concept of customized searches.

Oh, by the way, MSN Search is renamed Live Search.


The most relevant in terms of SEO is undoubtedly the adoption of XML Sitemaps, a protocol designed to help bots crawl and index domain pages.

As far as Social Media is concerned, Twitter is born, the most important microblogging social network , essential for all types of marketers.


Google introduces“Universal Search“, a new concept for SERP’s, which includes, in addition to links to web pages, news, images, videos, maps, etc.

Blogs are consolidating as very important tools for SEO beyond filling other people’s blogs with spam comments. And so it has continued to this day.


A slightly quieter year, without so many innovations in the sector. Google introduces improvements in indexing Flash content, and link building continues to grow. Little else.


Social Media is definitely consolidating, and the race to generate content to share it on the main social networks is on. Welcome to link baiting.

The major search engines adopt the new rel=”canonical” tag to solve problems with duplicate content (the most common example is that of domains that can be accessed with and without www; the tag prioritizes one version over the other).

Live Search adopts the name Bing, and includes new services in its suite of offerings.


Google had been working for some time to prioritize quality content in SERP’s, and is becoming very efficient at it.

In June Google implements
More than an update, an algorithm change with an important part of its infrastructure. Caffeine had been tested in 2010, but its launch was delayed. Greater speed and, above all, greater efficiency in crawling and indexing information.

The month before Caffeine’s release, Google rolled out MayDay, an update that hit hard at websites that had over-optimized their sites with too many long tail keywords.


If you’re into SEO, I’m sure you remember that year…. That’s right! Google launches Panda, and messes it up! It was in February, although it would not arrive in Europe until April. The first version of Google Panda deals the biggest blow to websites suspected of employing techniques that Google disapproves of. No less than 12% of search results are affected, a truly alarming percentage. A large number of content farms come down with all the equipment. Poor content, keyword over-optimization… These and other practices are now effectively prosecuted. The rules of SEO have changed forever.

The same year saw the birth of Google+ and its famous +1 button. The social network has become a must-use tool for everyone, and its effects are noticeable in positioning.

It also introduces rel=”next” and rel=”prev” attributes to avoid problems with duplicate content in pagination.


As if Panda wasn’t enough, Google launches Penguin in April. This is an algorithm update aimed at chasing spam. It penalizes, among other things, keyword stuffing, but above all, low quality links. Hard blow to link building that will be repeated with each new Penguin update(and there are already a few).

Google launches Knowledge Graph, which provides expanded information on the right side of the results page, with encyclopedia-like entries, when users make queries about certain things, people or places. It may seem like mere props, but Knowledge Graph implies that the algorithm has become smarter, and is able to semantically distinguish the meaning of some words. Amazing!


To talk about 2013 is to talk about
a new algorithm that uses parts of Caffeine, but introduces major new features. With Hummingbird, the algorithm is even smarter, and with it, Google moves beyond the query-based search engine paradigm to one that allows users to establish a question/answer relationship with the search engine.

A smarter algorithm implies greater independence of the search engine from meta tags and other classic on page SEO factors, which are still important, but lose some relevance. Nobody doubts the importance of using long tail keywords, and to do it in a very natural way.

At the end of 2013, Google takes 15% of Authorship snippets (but the worst is yet to come…).


It’s not a matter of rehashing here all the updates to Google’s algorithm in 2014, among other things, because we already did that recently in another post. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

The most talked about is, in all probability, the death of Page Rank! Although, on the other hand, it was a death foretold. But also important was the definitive disappearance of the Authorship snippet, a factor that attracted user visits in a remarkable way.

And a recent news: Google News closes on December 16, due to pressure from AEDE (Spanish Newspaper Publishers Association) materialized in an Intellectual Property Law that tried to charge Google for linking press articles in its news service. The closure of the service causes immediate losses of between 10 and 12% of visits to Spanish online newspapers.


We are still on the threshold of 2015, but we can make some predictions. What, in all likelihood, will be new for this year we are entering?

Semantic SEO will be the best on page response to an increasingly intelligent search algorithm.

Link building links should be even more discreet, alternating keywords (preferably long tail) with wildcards. Google is trying to remove relevance from anchor text, and non-linked brand mentions, co-citation and co-occurrence may start to play a prominent role in off page SEO.

The loading speed of websites on mobile devices could gain weight when it comes to climbing positions in the rankings, as we have seen announced by Mountain View in 2014.

One thing is for sure: Panda and Penguin will be back, along with other updates, to further stimulate the creation of quality content. And SEOs, as expert crackers of the SERP’s that we are, will have to be more cautious when it comes to bypassing Google’s manual of good practices.

What does history teach us?

If you belong to this world, you already know the general conclusions, and you may have entered here only to consult a specific piece of information. If you are an amateur, you will have intuitively noticed that the history of search engines, which is the key to understanding the evolution of SEO, ends up being the history of Google. That is the case, at least in Spain.

Another conclusion you can draw is that anything that artificially alters the organic results of the SERP’s, has the disapproval of the Californian search engine, which will work to eliminate the cracks in its algorithm, with an almost infallible mathematical precision. Those of us in the business are constantly forced to take our ingenuity a step further. We have talked about evolution, and in a certain sense, all this seems to be a metaphor for the struggle of man against machine, to dispute the first place in intelligence. And I’ll stop here, I’m getting philosophical!

There are many questions that have been left unanswered, but if we go deeper, we could write a book! (I don’t rule it out… 😉 )

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Sin asignación particular. Artículos redactados por el el equipo de Rodanet. Varias personas del equipo participan en crear los mejores artículos en cooperación y equipo 💪 Porque nos encanta trabajar en equipo 🔝

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