As with all things Internet, the history of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is short but filled with major achievements and hugely successful applications. The evolution of SEO has been fast – a short 18 years. Nonetheless, SEO is wholly responsible for the web as it is today. And it will likely continue to shape the future of the internet. 

It is important to understand the history of SEO to truly master its use. 

Search Engine Historical Timeline

man in white long sleeve shirt writing on white board

There are several different theories behind the start and rise of SEO. Wikipedia provides one of the best and most in-depth timelines. It starts with the development of Archie in 1990 and Gopher and Veronica in 1991. The World Wide Web Wanderer was then developed in 1993.

Archie worked with downloading directory listings. However, the other programs rose to popularity quickly because of their ability to index and search directory listings. Think of it as using Archie to download listings similar to the yellow page listings from a phone book. Veronica then allowed users to search those listings by typing in a search word or name.

WebCrawler was the first full-text search tool, hitting the net in 1994. One of the first commercial search engines, Lycos, came online soon after. Excite, Infoseek, Magellan, and one of the fastest-growing, Yahoo, were launched in 1996-97. 

Mosaic was the first Internet Browser. Then, Netscape was a leading pioneer in bringing the World Wide Web to business and personal desktop computers across the world. It also played a vital role in promoting the use of those first five search engines.

“Google It”

person typing on gray and black HP laptop

In the year 2000, while everyone was preparing for the biggest and most widespread computer failure ever, exploded on the internet scene. Google quickly became the favorite, and it remains today as one of the most effective and most used search engines. Success came so fast to due to its use of PageRank. The premise of PageRank is that by ranking pages, they will return the best results to a user’s search entry.

By the end of January 2020, Google held 87.35% of the market share. The closest second was Bing, at 5.53%.

How Important or Effective is SEO/SEM? reports that “80% of all online transactions begin with a keyword search.” You can’t argue with statistics like that. 

The easiest way to learn about how SEO works is to go to each search engine and type in the same search entry and then analyze the results.

Try several different search phrases and enter as much detail in the entry as possible. For example, try entering ‘bookstores in Ohio’ and then try a second search by typing in ‘bookstores in Cleveland, Ohio’ and the results will be much different.

Those results at the top of each list will have bookstore, Ohio and Cleveland on their web site because they will be using SEO.

A few of the most successful users of Search Engine Optimization include Google, Amazon, and Travelocity. These sites and thousands like them use SEO to drive people to them by improving page rankings and generating traffic using several search strategies including paid searches, paid inclusion, A/B testing, direct marketing and link building – all topics for future articles.