YBT Digital Marketing Series on Search Engine Optimization. Part 2 includes: The history and benefits of SEO. By Afshan Shaikh
Development of Search Engine Optimization
Search engines began gaining popularity in the early 1990s when search companies such as Lycos and Ask Jeeves emerged. This is when the term Search Engine Optimization or SEO first began to be used. The industry experiences a boom after the arrival of Google in the field. At the very early stages, SEO was poorly structured with marketers using irrelevant keywords to the meta-tags. Although this practice is not illegal, it is unethical as it didn’t allow search engines to provide consumers with relevant results. Nevertheless, keyword stuffing became a much used method by online marketers. Search engines were overloaded with website submission for web crawling and indexing.
Another fraudulent practice used was to include hidden texts of keywords and doorway pages that could not be seen by users but were tracked by spiders were extensively used to mislead search engines. Finally, SEO span was also common, where web content was overloaded with keywords to book ranking even though it made the content lose its worth. It was a time when such malpractices were rife and the trend became known as Black Hat SEO – using malpractices to gain higher search engine ranking for a short time.
When Google appeared on the search engine scene in 2004, it revolutionized the way in which the web was crawled and websites were indexed. Google introduced the use of backlinks as a measure of website rank in addition to web content. Backlinks required marketers to work harder to create and distribute valuable content and they were not as easily abused as keywords. Google took the search engine ‘clean up’ further by weeding out spammers – if a website had achieved rankings through black hat SEO, it would be removed from Google’s index entirely.
Google began using a unique new algorithm known as PageRank that used the approach of academic citations towards a journal and applied it to backlinks to a website. In simple terms, just the way a journal that had been cited extensively in other journals is considered to be more credible, a website that other pages link back to will be deemed to be high quality and will attain a higher ranking. Further, it is not just the overall website that gets ranked, but every page within the website has an individual page ranking. Finally, Google eliminated black hat techniques such as Doorway sites by updating rankings each time it crawled the internet and updated its database.
The Google revolution changed the face of SEO so that, today, although black hat techniques are still used sometimes, no company looking for long term search engine ranks invests in them. With the black hat phase over, SEO now requires massive amounts of data to be processed on a daily basis through analysis, mathematical computations, and regular evaluation of websites for relevant keywords. While business owners, whether large corporations or small and medium enterprises, understand the importance of SEO, they also need to be aware of these SEO fundamental tasks and concepts as it forms an integral part of digital marketing today.
However, if a company wants to implement full-fledged SEO marketing, then the marketing department will need to work in tandem with the IT team as the process can be highly technical in nature and requires a very specific skill set. Businesses also often hire professional SEO experts who not only set up the initial SEO of websites, but also train company staff members on how to maintain the website in an SEO friendly manner.
Benefits of SEO for Businesses and Consumers
It is critical for businesses to have their websites ranked within the first 30 results on a search engine – if not the very first page. About 85% of all internet uses look for websites through search engines and 90% of these do not scroll beyond the first 30 search results (which is the first 3 pages). If a user is specifically looking for a product or service, they most likely have the intention of making a purchase. As such, the business growth prospects that SEO provides is immense. However, are thousands of companies competing for the same slots on search engines.
Although every search engine has unique algorithms, the approach followed by these are the same as Pagerank and so, if your website does not rank high on Google, it is probably not rank high on any other search engine. Businesses should keep in mind that SEO is not a quick, one time marketing tactic – it is a long term strategy and requires consistent efforts. However, by applying the right knowledge, skills, and resources, SEO can prove to be the cheapest, simplest and valuable marketing tool in terms of driving traffic to your website and improving ROI.
Stay tuned to learn more about SEO and Digital Marketing as we continue this series in the days to come!
Also, check out our Digital Marketing 101 Series: