The History of SEO


Personally I don’t remember a lot of this year. I turned four years of age and according to my mother this was the year I discovered my love for ham sandwiches. Outside of search, this was the year that gave us Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump and The Lion King. The PlayStation launched and Friends aired for the first time. All in all, I think we can agree it was a good year.

Brian Pinkerton also created the first ever web crawler, capable of indexing entire web pages. This was the start of search.

1994 in images


The year I turned 7 years old and for me this was the year my life changed. Pokémon Red and Blue were released internationally, and I was consumed. This was also the year that both Princess Diana and Notorious B.I.G. died. It was a great year for The Spice Girls, who released Wanna Be and Hanson, with Mmm Bop. At this time Lycos was the dominant search engine in the world, with over 60 million documents indexed. Yahoo was still powered by humans! They only utilised crawlers when human results failed to keep up with demand.

lycos logo


“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. These are these are the infamous words of Bill Clinton regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Apple Computers launched it’s “Think Different” campaign and Godzilla got a much criticised re-brand. Google launched Page rank. Page rank is named after Google co-founder Larry Page and measures page authority by assessing back links. Link building was born and a love affair between SEO and links began.

page rank


Nickelodeon launched its first ever original morning cartoon, Sponge Bob Square Pants. The kids show that isn’t really a kids show. Google introduced meta tags, allowing web masters to pass meta data to the search engine. Alta Vista launched a new algorithm. This was also the year of the internet’s own “Black Monday”. Search engine updates caused many sites to disappear.

altavista logo


Google launched the Page rank toolbar and its paid search model. Paid links where available on CPM model. This allowed users to pay a cost per every thousand impressions.


The phenomenon of Google bombing arrived. A practice were users would build links on mass to content using an irrelevant anchor text. A great example of Google bombing was the infamous “I’m feeling lucky: Chuck Norris” page. Links were built on mass to the term “Chuck Norris” to a site which was a clone of the Google SERP (search engine results page). The page reads “Google won’t search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don’t find Chuck Norris, he finds you.”

chuck norris google bomb


Google launches Adsense, which allows contextual advertising. The Florida update is launched which targets keywords stuffing, over optimisation of anchor text.

keyword stuffing meme


Rand Fishkin founds SEOMoz, which goes on to become an industry authority on SEO. Google begins to penalise webmasters that use JQuery function .mouseover to redirect users to other sites.

seo moz logo


The rel=”nofollow” link attribute is launched. This is used by web masters to inform search engines that links should not pass on link juice. This function was introduced to MSN and Yahoo later that year. Google Analytics was launched and the first rumours of Google’s sandbox effect appeared.

google analytics logo


BMW were slapped hard by Google for cloaking. This is the act of displaying different content to the user as is displayed to the search engine, giving an unfair advantage in search engine results. XML sitemaps were launched, making sitemap submission a doddle.


Google suggests launches. While users may find it hard to imagine, Google only first started trying to finish you’re sentences in 2008.


The rising popularity of social media sites means that Google had to refresh its index at a faster rate. Introducing Google’s Caffeine update, which did exactly that. Google launched real time search partly powered by Twitter until the contract expired in 2011. The Google Vince update is launched, witch prioritises brands in search.

google caffeine


Google confirm that Social Media, namely Facebook and Twitter, activity influences rankings. Décor eyes was penalised for intentionally offering bad service in order to receive bad reviews. These bad reviews included follow links which passed on valuable link juice.


JC Penny is hit with a well-publicised penalty that lasted for 3 months. Google Panda Launches which focuses on prioritising good content. Google launch Google Plus, Their own Social Media platform. Google Analytics (not provided) issue appears for the first time.

not provided meme


Google launch Penguin, an update which targets poor quality links and article spinners. We also see the introduction of the disavow tool into Web master Tools.

penguin vs spam


Google force integrate Google Plus into YouTube, to a mostly negative reception. The (not provided) issue that first appeared in 2011 reaches unprecedented highs. SEOMoz, now an established authority on SEO, rebrands as Moz. Google Also Released Hummingbird, which was the largest overhaul of it’s engine in some time.

google hummingbird

What does this mean for SEO?

Every time we see a significant Google algorithm update or Google tweeks its engine, people question weather this is the end of SEO. Every time the answer is the same, no. Every update brings us closer to the end of poor SEO. Contrary to some popular opinions, Google does not hate SEO. SEOs provide a valuable service, making sure that websites are optimised for Google’s crawlers, that sites are spam free and user friendly. SEO will become more refined, and search engine results will become more relevant.