The history of search engine optimisation (SEO) is a record of the growing sophistication of SEO strategies employed in the battle between search engines and websites. In the early days of the web, the perpetual SEO one-upmanship was not an obvious eventuality. Back then, the mutual dependency of search engines and websites was no different than it is today, and the best way to serve complimentary interests is through cooperation. Yet, the adversarial nature of SEO did not abate until Google emerged and annexed power from the scattered search engine principalities, consolidating a Google kingdom. In a short time, Google imposed a SEO peace treaty with websites, asserting “alpha dominance” within two years of its beta release.
The purpose of Google, or any search engine, is to respond to queries with relevant suggestions. SEO is an informed approach to structuring a website and building content that can increase the fortunes of a site by raising its visibility through improved search engine placement.
Throughout its history, search engine optimisation success has come with possible negative SEO side effects that must be controlled. A website can damage its own credibility when SEO tools, such as extreme keyword density, result in SEO redundancy. SEO tools can limit the depth of content when the Search engine optimisation requires the repetition of SEO keywords with frequencies that leave little opportunity to develop a substantive narrative.
This relationship of a few search engines with millions of websites spawns a sort of jealousy. Each website vies for attention through SEO. This situation gives increasing importance to the tactical structuring of websites and content. That structuring is SEO. The struggle to maximize search engine placement is a consequence of sorting; when things are sorted, they are sorted into an order. This SEO battle is not only between websites competing for the number one position in the order; it is also a struggle between websites and search engines. Google and its competing search engines must regularly edit their algorithms in response to evolving SEO techniques. This is routine maintenance on the cogs and gears of search engines to avoid manipulation by SEO.
The development of SEO measures and search engine counter-measures has increased its pace in proportion to the commercialization of the Internet. The more money there is to be made, the more imaginative and resourceful become the tactics of search engine optimisation (SEO).
In the mid-1990s, the Yahoo search engine was very popular, and the major requirement for a listing was the submission of a website’s name. Later the major requirement for a listing became $300 a year. That is an interesting SEO strategy. By 1996, some of the educated guesses being thrown like darts in the name of search engine optimisation started to hit their target. For example, SEO strategists were able to improve search engine ranking by increasing the density of relevant keywords. Search engine optimisation was an established discipline by the end of 1996.
1997 was the year SEO proved its validity at the expense of the Excite search engine. Search engine optimisation enthusiasts picked apart the Excite algorithm. SEO techniques were able to generate pages that appeared as the « top of the page » result in Excite searches. It did not take long for the bottom feeders to crash the party. The spammers quickly exploited SEO advances. Search engines, like Altavista and Hotbot, were spammed to irrelevance that year.