How it started, what you need to know…and what’s changed over the last decade

Ever since the internet was invented, there has been search engine optimisation. SEO is how businesses get themselves noticed on search engines like Google. It’s revolutionised how we buy and sell things and has been an interesting journey for many marketers to say the least.

When marketing professionals tell you that great content is important, you can certainly believe it. But there was a time when article spinning, keyword stuffing and untold nefarious black hat practices were the order of the day.

SEO Beginnings

Search engines were developed to provide structure and order. They also made the eyes of the marketing world light up when they first appeared. Now, finally, here was a tool they could utilise to boost their client’s sales.

One of the first search platforms was called Excite. Google didn’t really appear until 1997. The whole SEO scene in these early days was a bit like the old Wild West where anything was fair game. This wasn’t a good thing, however, and there were companies that wanted a different kind of online world. It’s one of the reasons that Google won out while Netscape disappeared into the ether of digital history. Key to Google’s success was connecting users to valuable content.

The SEO Mistakes

Despite this, marketers continued to run riot over search engine technology and internet content for  good few years. It meant that when you performed a search you often ended up with content that looked incomprehensible. Keyword stuffing gave rise to low cost solutions that were available and being sold by many SEO providers.

Massive amounts of blog content was produced in the noughties which was more about getting up the rankings than providing any useful information for users. It gave rise to ‘specialist’ sites that were designed for large volume blog and article creation. Article spinning software that cost next to nothing and simply replaced the wording in a blog post was created and led to even more largely useless but high ranking content. It all got a bit messy.

The Rise of Google

Meanwhile, as marketers and budding entrepreneurs sought to take advantage of SEO ‘loopholes’ to make money for their clients, search engines like Google had decided enough was enough. The key moment came around 2010 with a massive change in the way SEO worked – it meant that businesses and marketers now had to produce high quality content. Blog manufacture and keyword stuffing was out and those that didn’t comply found their rankings sinking rapidly.

Improvements in technology means that search engine ranking has become ever more sophisticated. While this has benefited most businesses, because they now have more meaningful content, it presented a significant challenge for marketers and businesses who began to find the pickings pretty slim.

Now we’re in a world of segmentation, personalised content, video is taking over, written content needs to be less keyword focused and more…well, useful. There may be a few loopholes still open here and there but they are closing fairly quickly. Marketers, in a lot of instances, have been forced to play the long game and businesses can not be offered immediate solutions to their selling needs.

Visual content such as video is becoming more important and, if you can’t make it on mobile, you’re basically nowhere.

In essence, SEO marketing hasn’t died as many people seem to think. It’s grown up, become sophisticated and professional and, if used in the right way, become a lot more powerful.