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How SEO Has Changed as the Web Has Developed
  • By Jordan Thornhill


In 1989, Tim Bernes-Lee created the first iteration of the World Wide Web. This was then developed by scientists in Geneva, Switzerland, and eventually released it to the public in August 1991. This was closely followed by the first search engine as we know them, called Veronica. This was launched in 1992 and was quickly followed by the first web browser in 1993, called Mosaic. The browser developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Illinois. Google, Yahoo, and Bing came along later, and the need for SEO started to grow. Throughout this blog, we’ll explore how SEO has changed and how you can change as a business to keep up.

What Was SEO Like?

Since the mid-1990s, webmaster and content curators have been trying to optimise their sites for search engines. To start with, the content creator would submit their page address or URL to the engines directly, and this would then be evaluated by a search engine spider. This then developed into search engines actively reading specific parts of a website, including the keyword meta tag and index files.

This put more onus on webmasters and creators to put quality, relevant information into these areas and throughout the site. By including descriptive keywords, they were much more likely to rank well when customers we’re exploring the web. However, some webmasters found that there were ways to trick the pre-written algorithms with underhand tactics. Some of these include:

  • Incorrect or Misleading Meta Descriptions
    • By adding in services or terms that didn’t apply to their business, companies were able to appear in more searches. This made them more likely to catch the eye of any passing trade or those with a curious mind.
  • Keyword Stuffing
    • This was done a lot in the 90s and is simply the practice of using a keyword or a group of keywords excessively throughout a website. The idea behind it is that the more keywords you have, the more likely you are to be found.
  • Inconsistent Information
    • Using inconsistent information had the same effect as the incorrect and misleading descriptions mentioned above. They showed customers things that the company couldn’t do, all to draw in the passing trade.

While this was effective at first, it was quickly found out by early search engines, including Altavista and Infoseek. By 2005, it was found that companies employing these tactics could be banned from the search results. One of the most notable cases was a company called Traffic Power, an SEO expert that worked for commercial clients. They used these techniques without disclosing their practices to customers. Google eventually banned Traffic Power and some of their clients as a result.

What Is It Like Now?

SEO has developed since and is now a complex process that is undertaken by experts around the world. Everything that is written for the online world is SEO-optimised, whether it’s a news article, a blog, or a product description. Much of the SEO guidance now comes from major search engines, including Google and Bing, and this means that people know exactly what these website-ranking behemoths are looking for.

While SEO has changed hugely since the 1990s, some of the principles still ring true now. For example:

  • High-Quality, Well-Written Content Should Be Used throughout
  • Text Should Accurately Describe Your Services
  • Write for Your Target Audience

These three pillars are what SEO is built on, and are things that should always be included when you’re writing for your website, social media page, blog, or another online page. Recent updates from Google also recommend other things, including:

  • A Conversational Writing Style
  • Avoiding Black Hat SEO Techniques
    • You can learn more about what this means here
  • Writing Succinctly and Purposefully in Your Meta Descriptions

What Does This Mean for Businesses?

SEO in the early 1990s was fairly primitive, and the techniques used were, in hindsight, fairly straightforward. By simply adding keywords and short descriptions in places, a good ranking was easy to come by. Now, writers must work hard to craft high-quality content throughout the site, taking into account everything that Google, Bing, and other engines recommend. Having a dedicated specialist working on this is the best solution for companies. This allows you to focus on how your business operates, rather than your Google ranking.

By taking control of your SEO and bringing it into 2019, you can be assured of a more accurate search engine ranking. Many website writers are stuck in the past, but you can step into the present by taking this advice on board and transforming your site.

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