Evolution of SEO History of SEO

The evolution of SEO dates back to the ’90s. To be precise, it was in 1991 we can say the birth of SEO. Yes, SEO is a millennial. But what happened in 1991? In 1991 Tim Berners Lee deployed the World Wide Web to the public. He created the world’s first website (which is live even today). It was a milestone for the SEO that we see today. But SEO was in its infant state. Then people might not have realized how it is going to change the world. Later on, many other websites mushroomed on the internet.

Evolution of SEO in the ’90s

Archie, which was released in 1990 is considered to be the first search engine. Following its lead Excite, Lycos and Infoseek showed up in the mid-’90s. They were all tackling the issue of how data can be structured better and shown to the user.

Even though search engines like Alta Vista and Yahoo Search were created in 1994, it was only in 1996, when Google was created, the problem of organizing search results was bettered.

The early stages of the internet were not so stable, most websites were spammy and unstructured. For search engines, the basic task was to search through directories and text files. What most search engines were able to do was arrange useful links together. Websites were ranked based on certain factors like keywords, word count, and domain names related to the query. During then, a website was able to rank in the first position if it had the keyword written 10 or 100 times in it. Websites with lower word counts are used to rank lower. So, people began adding more keywords to their websites to rank higher, regardless of whether it would make any sense.

In this chaos, users had to go through hell when surfing the internet to get what they are looking for. Google was able to handle this problem better than its competitors. It introduced a ranking algorithm way back in 1996 named PageRank. The priority was to rank web pages based on the number of quality links to them. It partially solved the problem of keyword spamming.

The term Search Engine Optimization was coined way back in 1997 when a web marketing agency started providing optimization services.

Evolution of SEO in the 2000’s

Google was pretty neat with their strategies and that made them rule the search engine land. The algorithms deployed were trying to solve problems like keyword stuffing, spam linking and other black hat SEO techniques. Google then refines the search experience all the way through the late 2000s. It began integrating results from other internet resources like social media platforms and other websites. It included adding images and videos to its search results page.

Search engines like Yahoo got pushed back. This was mostly because of the search algorithms. When Google algorithm was prioritizing quality content, Yahoo was still relying on old authoritative websites to rank higher. This resulted in a massive shift of users to the Google search engine. The coming years was Google’s autocracy in the whole internet which was revolutionary.

Rise of a New Era

Tech giants like Microsoft created their own search engine named Bing in the late 2000s. In the meantime, Google was perfecting its search algorithms. In the coming years, we were able to see a bunch of algorithms Google released to fight major issues faced by the users, to find what they are looking for. This was an era of Google. There was only one name heard out loud when it comes to search engines. We can even call this breaking point as ‘Before Google’ & ‘After Google’ era.

Algorithm NameYear ReleasedFocus of Algorithm
PandaFebruary 24, 2011Content duplication, Thin content & Keyword stuffing
PenguinApril 24, 2012Spammy link building
HummingbirdAugust 22, 2013Keyword stuffing & low-quality content
MobileApril 21, 2015Poor mobile usability
RankBrainOctober 26, 2015Irrelevance, Shallow content & Poor UX
MedicMay 4, 2018Weak E-A-T signals
BertOctober 22, 2019Poor content and UX
Core Updates2017-presentSearch experience for users & Providing more relevant, useful, and trustworthy content
8 Major Google Algorithm Updates

People on the internet exploded to huge numbers and so does the number of websites or data on the internet. Visual content got more priority. It was during that time Google’s child company YouTube became the second largest search engine right after Google. Subsequently, we were able to see the dawn of social media websites, e-commerce sites that had their own algorithms. In short, everything was algorithm-driven.

Future of Search with Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence was firstly used in Google’s RankBrain algorithm update in 2015. Although Google began using machine learning in its other platforms like Google News, RankBrain was way important than the other updates. The focus of RankBrain was to find the intent of the search query. RankBrain worked in a way that recognize ‘things from strings‘. That means the algorithm analyzes the intent of the search query to grab the best results for the user.

Apart from introducing AI to search there are many advancements in other fields like voice search or visual search. Voice search is predicted to stay in the search arena in the future. Along with that visual search is also gaining rapid momentum with improved Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality platforms like Metaverse. If search engines are going to be a gateway to it, SEO is something that marketers can put their bet on.


SEO is not dead and it is never going to be any soon. Moreover, SEO is evolving with the changes in technology. In the coming years, we can see more of it. SEO is going to be more data-driven. Visual search is going to play a key role in the future. In addition to that with the help of Artificial Intelligence, SEO is going to be more personalized and much more competitive. The landscape of SEO is ever-evolving, who might know one day we get to see the rise of new search engines and how data privacy policies might impact SEO. Let us wait to see what it has in store for us.

Hope you enjoyed reading. Share your thoughts on the evolution of SEO.

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The Evolution Of SEO [1991 to 2022]

by Vishnu Peethambaran time to read: 4 min