SEO: The Early Days

October 20, 2014



If you’re a business owner trying to rank better than your competition on the Internet, you more than likely have heard the term “search engine optimization,” or “SEO” for short. Practicing good SEO tactics help your site rank better in organic online searches, which in turn generates more traffic to your site and increases revenue and brand awareness.

That is today’s SEO. SEO practices of yesterday were much different and much less efficient. In the mid-90s, when the Internet was soaring and before SEO was even known as SEO, website managers trying to out-rank the competition used what’s known today as “unethical SEO practices.” These practices included:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Hidden text
  • Buying links to direct traffic
  • Poor quality content
  • Ad spam

Trying to get a site ranked was the equivalent of the California Gold Rush – thousands of website owners entering the World Wide Web and using these tactics to out-rank the competition to ride the wave of prosperity for as long as possible. It was a different time, no doubt, and things have changed drastically since then. It’s interesting to take a walk down memory lane to see just how far we’ve come in regards to SEO practices.

SEO in the 90s

With no official launch date for the Internet or search engine optimization, we do know there was about a decade between the two. Tech experts estimate the Internet got its start sometime in the mid-1980s, and search engine optimization came on the scene around the mid-90s when search engines began categorizing the Web. In these early days, search engines used “spiders” to crawl websites and extract words and phrases to index and rank content.

Algorithms for ranking webpages were far less sophisticated than they are today, which allowed website managers to manipulate the system, gaining more traffic. Back in those days, SEO was all about the traffic and gaining it by any means possible. For instance, if your site had a blog, you could include keywords and phrases in the content that were popular at the time, whether they were related to your content or not, and expect to see an increase in traffic t90so your site.

If you were on the Internet at that time, you may remember that Titanic and Seinfeld were popular. Doing a search online for either would often take you to an unrelated site such as an accounting firm’s website that had inserted the keywords into their content just to generate more traffic.

It didn’t take long for search engines to realize this was a serious problem and begin taking steps to improve users’ Internet experience. Google, the leading search engine online today, uses advanced algorithms to weed out poor content and spammy websites to bring only the most valuable and usable information to its users. All of the old, unethical SEO practices are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and with the ever-changing nature of the search engine algorithms, the Internet is sure to become a more educational and enjoyable place to be.

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