On the Origin of SEO

We’ve decided to start our series on SEO with a blog post On the Origin of SEO. SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization (more details with what we can do for you). While there are a few search engines, the most used and known is Google. Due to its importance, we are going to talk about Google updates as a way to describe the changes that took place with SEO.


In 1994, two students, Jerry Yang and David Filo created what we know today as Yahoo. It was and still is a directory of websites, organized in a hierarchy. It offered a new and easy way for people to use the internet.

Another two students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created in 1995 a search engine called Backrub. It was renamed Google shortly after that. Their aim was to organize the websites in a way that was more user-friendly. It grew, due in part to a big investment, but they kept their core values to this day. What differentiates Google from other portals or search engines is that their homepage is just a simple logo.

As the internet expanded, a new way of differentiating between websites was needed. Robots are the ones that discover the new websites, in a process that is called crawling. After that an algorithm decides the value of an website and for which keywords an website should show up in the searches. It might sound simple, but there are over 200 different ranking factors. Furthermore, there are daily algorithm updates.

The most relevant update for the history of SEO was Florida in 2003. It targeted tactics like repetitive use of the same keyword and repetitive use of anchor text in backlink profile.

The following year, the Austin update took care of other black hat tactics like invisible text on a page. Same year, a new update called Brandy gave way to the new concept of link neighborhoods. Also, Latent Semantic Indexing was rolled out. It means that Google will search on a page to see if there are relevant terms regarding the keyword.

In 2005, Jagger update targeted low-quality links, for example reciprocal links. The next significant algorithm update happened in 2009 when Vince made Google searches prefer big brands to less known ones.

Caffeine roll out in 2010. As the name suggests, this update allowed websites to become indexed and show up in search much faster than they were able to in the past.

February 2011 brought with it a new update, called Panda. This new update targeted low quality websites and, what is called thin sites. A thin site is one with only a few pages, with similar or no content. It was a way to determine automatically generated content and duplicate content. This update continued to be rolled out over the next months, for more than an year. It obviously affected websites at different times, as it rolled out. The Panda update has its own updates.

The Penguin update, in 2012, lead to big changes. Until then, backlinks were very important and many would pay for links. With this update, mentions like “sponsored” on the page would make the algorithm think that it was a paid-for link.

In 2013 there were a few important updates, one targeting precisely websites known for being spammy, like the ones with payday loans or porn. Another important update that year was Hummingbird. Similar to Caffeine, it was an algorithm update.

Pigeon, in 2014, was aimed to show more local results, so it modified how Google was using the location cues.

The Mobile update must be the most well known update. If you’ve had an website online at that time, it’s likely you’d already heard about it. It’s obvious, according to its name, that it targeted the mobile version of the websites. It wasn’t such a big deal as most people thought initially, it only affected the results on the searches made with the mobile phone.

All these updates changed the way we use Google and our laptops/computers as we have new results for our searches. It also changed the way entrepreneurs are looking at their online presence over the years. The whole point of these updates was so the user would receive the information he was looking for.
The algorithms are made so they mimic as much as they can the way a real person would look at an website or a page. While they were released by Google, the other search engines are updating their algorithms in a similar way, because this is how the user will get the best results.

Further reading:
SEO 2017 & Beyond. A Complete SEO Strategy Dominate the Search Engine by Andy Williams. Book available on amazon