The Evolution of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
If a tree falls in the woods, but nobody’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Probably not. A strange analogy maybe, but if your website doesn’t rank well for relevant search terms on the likes of Bing and Google, no one will know you, or your business exists. In today’s world, SEO is more important than ever. In fact, according to a recent study, marketers see SEO as becoming more effective, with 82% reporting effectiveness is on the rise and 42% of the same group stating effectiveness is increasing significantly.
Since first rearing its head, the notion of search engine optimisation (SEO) has evolved massively, changing the way brands and businesses inspire, campaign and connect with their target audience.
But before we delve any deeper, you might be asking yourself…
What is SEO?
Your web pages have the potential to rank in Google if
Your content is rich
Your content is well structured
You maintain a healthy link profile
The art of SEO can seem mysterious but in today’s world, it’s about building high quality content and developing a user experience that’s as human friendly as possible. Google has evolved its algorithm over the years to eliminate nasty ‘blackhat’ (playing dirty and cheating) tactics that compromise a user’s search experience. But it hasn’t always been that way.
As we mentioned, SEO has come on leaps and bounds over the years. Let’s take a brief look at the history of search engine optimisation…
SEO History Timeline
Not many people know this, but the notion of SEO dates right the way back to 1945, well sort of. In July 1945, Dr. Vannevar Bush, the (back then) director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, published an article in The Atlantic proposing the compilation of a ‘collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record’. In essence, an analogue version of Google. Although there’s no concrete evidence that Dr. Bush’s article went onto spawn the search engine, it could well have been a seed planted in the minds of the tech heads of the early 90s…
Tim Berners-Lee launched the world's first ever website.
SEO wasn't quite a thing, as it were, by this time; however, Eric Ward publicised the notion of looking for people you want to link to based on relevancy and connection. A big part of Google's ranking factor, even today.
Google launched in September of this year and changed the face of the web forever.
2003: Talking again of blackhat SEO tactics: over the years online marketers learned that 'stuffing' their web pages full of relevant keywords to rank well on Google, so the search engine fought back with its first major Google algorithm. Bestowed with the name FLORIDA, this development prevented the adoption of blackhat tactics and enhanced the user experience ten-fold.
2012: The Google Penguin update was released targeting websites that violated Google's Webmaster Guidelines. In particularly websites that were buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.
2015: Google introduced a sophisticated machine called RankBrain in a bid to deliver even smarter, more targeting search results. Did you know? As a machine learning technology, RankBrain learns like a human does. In fact, an experiment conducted by Google, in which Google's search engineers went head-to-head with RankBrain in a test, showed that RankBrain scored 80%, beating its human counterparts by 10%. Mind Blowing stuff, to say the least.
2017: You are sitting here reading this article. What have you searched for today and how was your experience?
As you can see, SEO has come a long way in a short time, improving the way it delivers results to its users and interacts with the ever-evolving digital landscape.
How has SEO changed?
By looking at the timeline alone, you can get a real sense of how SEO has changed over the years. Take Google. What was once a revolutionary yet basic website ranking directory is now an experience that is trusted by digital consumers across the globe – it’s an internet giant and a digital tour de force. In fact, Google processes around 40,000 search queries per second, which comes in at around 3.5 billion searches a day. Wow. The bottom line is, search engines like Google once displayed search results based on basic criteria, allowing people to manipulate search platforms by using cheap tactics.
Today, Google thinks like a human, scans like a human, and displays search results fit for human consumption. Today’s consumer is smarter, savvier and more empowered than ever and for a business to thrive and indeed survive, in this digital world, reaching your target audience on a personal level is a must.
SEO is about providing answers to questions, turning heads, sparking conversations and encouraging people to share your content. It’s about building trust and authority in a creative, educational and organic way.
Duplicate content is a big no-no, as is keyword stuffing, buying cheap links, and any other lazy kind of search activity. Today’s search engines won’t tolerate such behaviour, so SEO has to focus on the user – no shortcuts.
A huge driver of this change comes down to Google’s algorithms. Let’s take a quick look at the algorithms that haven’t yet been mentioned, but served to change SEO in a big way…
The search engine’s 2014
A development that focused on images, video, data, and local marketing
An initiative that focused on penalising site’s constantly accused of copyright infringement
You’ve also got your Google EMD update, Google Payday update, and many other developments (we could be here all day). But, the take-home message is that Google, Bing, Yahoo and other popular search engines work tirelessly to enhance their service and if you want to enjoy long-lasting SEO success, you must keep your finger on the pulse at all times.
SEO Resources for The Small Business Owner
As the first internet search engine of the world, Google is the most important site to focus on when it comes to enhancing your SEO profile and benefiting from healthy rankings for search terms relevant to your niche. But the others matter too.
There’s a lot to learn with SEO, but to help you on your way, here are a few resources that will help…
SEO is a broad and occasionally bewildering pursuit, but without a doubt, it holds the key to success in today’s hyper-connected digital world.
Today search engine optimisation is about offering your audience value; taking the time to understand their wants their needs and delivering high-quality content by harnessing all of the platforms and technology available. Do that well, and consistently, and you’ll see your rankings soar quicker than you might think.
In the modern world, good SEO is about good practice and when it comes to ranking well, time, effort, strategy and skill are the elements that will get you where you need to be – on the first page of Google.
Need help with your SEO? Check out our SEO Services for Small & Medium Sized Businesses.