The History of SEO – Search Engine Optimisation 

Setting the Scene

It’s undeniable: Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a giant in today’s digital marketing world. But did you know its roots go way beyond Google’s inception? Think of SEO as the sands of digital marketing: vast, shifting, and touching almost everything online.

Did you know? The SEO groundwork was laid even before the birth of the search giant created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin!

Historical Milestones in the World of Search Engines 

Looking back, it’s clear that search engines have revolutionised how we process information and interact online.

  • 1991: The dawn of the first-ever website.
  • 1997: The ‘official’ start of SEO. But what was the landscape like then?

Dawn of SEO: ‘The Wild West Era’ 

The late 1990s were akin to the Wild West in the world of SEO. You had multiple of search engines to choose from:

  • AltaVista
  • Ask Jeeves
  • Excite
  • Infoseek
  • Lycos
  • And yes, Yahoo!

In these early days, professional local SEO services centred mainly on on-page activities:

  • Ensuring content was both relevant and robust.
  • Optimising HTML tags accurately.
  • Crafting a balanced mix of internal and outbound links.

Can you believe the mere repetition of keywords was the trick to high rankings back then? Today, this technique would be considered nothing short of spamming.

Notable Internet Highlights: 

  • 1994: The birth of Yahoo, an innovation from Stanford students Jerry Wang and David Filo. But unlike today, every website owner had to submit their pages manually for indexing!
  • 1996: The inception of Backrub, a precursor to Google.
  • 1997: A year to remember. Why? Danny Sullivan, a key figure in SEO, launched Search Engine Watch.
  • 1998: The introduction of with sponsored links and paid search.
  • 1999: An unforgettable year with the debut of the first all-search marketing conference, Search Engine Strategies (SES).

The Google Revolution 

By 2000, Yahoo made a strategic misstep. They collaborated with a then relatively unknown search engine: Google. This error in judgment catapulted Google to fame. Unlike its predecessors, Google had a unique approach to rankings, considering both on-page and off-page factors. 

Their message was clear: “If people were talking about you, you were important.”

An explosion in link-building ensued, but this strategy quickly became abused. Google’s remedy? Introducing a tool allowing users to view their PageRank score in 2000.

However, just like the ever-changing tides, SEO practices kept evolving, with Google leading the charge.

Implementing the Top Tips from SEO’s Evolution

Contemplating your next SEO move? Reflecting on the past, here’s what you can do:

  • Understand your audience: Tailor your content to be relevant and engaging.
  • Focus on Quality: Build genuine, high-quality links rather than mass-producing low-quality ones.
  • Adapt to Changes: SEO is an evolving landscape. Stay updated with the latest algorithms and trends.


SEO has witnessed an incredible journey from the humble beginnings of web directories to the rise and dominance of Google. As SEO practices continue to evolve, one principle remains constant: understanding and adapting to your audience’s needs will always be paramount.

So, wherever in the world you are, will you seize the lessons from SEO’s past to shape its future?


News Reporter