Timeline of search engine optimization
This is a timeline of search engine optimization, attempting to describe significant events related to this practice. For the sake of context, many events directly related to search engines, their evolution, products and updates, are included.
- 1 Sample questions
- 2 Big picture
- 3 Visual data
- 4 Full timeline
- 5 Meta information on the timeline
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:
- What are some notable SEO tool services?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "SEO tool launch".
- You will see a variety of services (some of them for free) offering analytics, SEO rank tracking software, blogging, etc.
- What are some events describing practices against search engine guidelines?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Spamdexing".
- You will see a number of Black hat SEO techniques, and related events.
- What are some significant updates involving search engines?
- What are some of the several competitions specialized in SEO?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "SEO contest".
- You will see a number of notable contests launched throughout the years.
- What are some of the numerous books focused on SEO?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Literature".
- You will see a mostly random list of titles illustrating the literature industry on the topic of CEO.
- What are some events providing context to SEO?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Background".
- You will see significant events, some of them describing search evolution, and others related to major search engines.
|Time period||Development summary||More details|
|1991–2002||Prelude period||Early period starting from the launch of the world’s first website by Tim Berners-Lee. As websites start crowding the Internet, the first search engines fill a need for structure and accessibility. in 1993, search platforms like Excite revolutionize how information is cataloged and make finding information easier by sorting results based on keywords found within content and backend optimization. Webmasters and content providers begin optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-decade. Yahoo! in 1994 and Google in 1997 enter the scene to improve and simplify how data is indexed and delivered. In this primitive stage, marketers would leverage keyword stuffing, excessive tagging, and (often spammy) backlinks to generate high rankings in search. Often, major algorithm updates would take several months to complete, allowing black-hat SEO tactics to remain effective for long stretches of time. In 1994, several new search engines become widely accessible to the public. In 1996, in which some consider the time when SEO really took off, Sergey Brin and Larry Page begin building BackRub, the predecessor of Google, which would become the biggest, most recognized search engine. Around 1997, the first algorithm crackers appear. 1997 is the year that several SEO providers decode all 35 parameters of Excite’s algorithm.|
|2003–2005||Early developments||Google, MSN and Yahoo!, the three major search engines that are left, start incorporating undisclosed page ranking factors into their algorithms. The era of keyword-spamming SEO is long over. Webmasters and content providers have to rely on more creative ways to promote content and generate inbound links in order to achieve long term increases in search engine rankings.|
|2006–2009||Middle period||This period introduces highlights like Google's Universal Search to offer additionally more engaging content media in search results such as news, images, and video.|
|2010–2012||Consolidation period ||Social media becomes a more pivotal piece of SEO strategy. By 2010, content farms appear, designed to lure search engine algorithms. As a response, Google decides that the quality of the content should matter more for search engine rankings, and in 2011 launches its Google Panda update which effectively kills the practice. Toward 2012, Google continues setting restrictions to means of improving users' ranking score and continues penalizing websites using unethical methods of rankings.|
|2013–present||Modern SEO era||Focus moves towards mobile search. In 2014, the app indexing launches, making apps appear alongside websites in search results. In 2015, the so-called ‘Mobilegeddon’ update appears, making website mobile friendliness a ranking signal in searches. By 2017, SEO is considered, for the most part, a conversation with Google Search. 2018 starts with the continuation of mobile as a key focus for search engines. As of 2019, SEO campaigns are much more laborious and complex than they were a decade ago. Users get better relevant results and webmasters and content providers have to provide actual value in order to rank high on search results.|
The image below shows Wikipedia views for the article Search engine optimization from December 2007 for desktop, and from July 2015 (see red vertical line) for mobile web, mobile app, desktop spider, and mobile web spider; to June 2020, when the screenshot was taken.
|Year||Month and date||Search engine (when applicable)||Event type||Details|
|1991||Early development||The first website is developed for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. It is believed that SEO is born in this year, with the launch of the first website.|
|1994||Early developent||Greg Boser discovers that he could use the Internet to sell protective foam equipment to fight fires. Boser builds a website and starts seeking ways to drive potential customers to his site for sales.|
|1995||Organization||John Audette forms Multi-Media Marketing Group, which would produce a popular newsletter with tips for influencing search engines.|
|1996||April 1||SEO tool launch||Alexa Internet is founded. It offers commercial online traffic data and analytics.|
|1996||May 22||Spamdexing|| The earliest known reference to the term spamdexing is by Eric Convey, who says:
The problem arises when site operators load their Web pages with hundreds of extraneous terms so search engines will list them among legitimate addresses. The process is called "spamdexing," a combination of spamming — the Internet term for sending users unsolicited information — and "indexing."
|1997||Concept development||According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably comes into use around this time. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term. "all signs definitely point to the term SEO originating around 1997." "In 1997, the words “search engine optimization” were first used by John Audette and Bruce Clay, and soon after SEO became a widely used term."|
|1999||November 18||Conference||Search Engine Strategies (SES) takes place as the first-ever all search marketing conference.|
|1999||Spamdexing||Link farms are first developed by search engine optimizers (SEOs) to take advantage of the Inktomi search engine's dependence upon link popularity.|
|1999||Spamdexing||Google bombs date back to this year, when a search for "more evil than Satan himself" results in the Microsoft homepage as the top result.|
|2000||Yahoo!, Google||Background||In what is considered to be the worst strategic move in search history, Yahoo! partners with Google and lets Google power their organic results instead of Inktomi. At this time Google is a little-known search engine. After this, every Yahoo search result would say “Powered by Google”, with Yahoo! ending up introducing their largest competitor to the world and Google becoming a household name.|
|2000||Conference||Pubcon launches in London as the first of a large search conference series.|
|2000||SEO tool launch||WebCEO is founded. It offers SEO tool kit for digital agencies.|
|2000||October 23||Service launch||Google AdWords launches. It is a pay-per-click online advertising platform that allows advertisers to display their ads on Google's search engine results page.|
|2000||December 11||Notable update||Google Toolbar becomes available as a web browser toolbar for Internet Explorer, allowing SEO practitioners to see their PageRank score (a number between 0-10).|
|2001||Concept development||Danny Sullivan, a prominent industry writer, unsuccessfully suggests the term "search engine marketing" as a successor to "search engine optimization", with the purpose to cover the spectrum of activities involved in performing SEO, managing paid listings at the search engines, submitting sites to directories, and developing online marketing strategies for businesses, organizations, and individuals.|
|2001||Year round||Background||Users massively abandon old search engines like Lycos, Excite, AltaVista and Hotbot, and move their interest towards Google. Brett Tabke, Founder of WebmasterWorld, comments: “Many SEOs have sleepless nights as we realize it is Google or bust.” |
|2002||November 15||SEO contest||Schnitzelmitkartoffelsalat is launched by German webmasters as the first recorded SEO Contest.|
|2002||Service launch||Google announces the launch of Froogle, a free product listing and price comparison service where users can discover various products from across the vendors, sort them and make a purchase.|
|2003||Product launch||After acquiring Blogger.com, Google launches AdSense, which serves contextually targeted Google AdWords ads on publisher sites.|
|2003||SEO evolution||Blogging becomes popular and is utilized for SEO. Blogger and WordPress become widely used.|
|2003||November 16||Notable update||Google launches its Google Florida update, aimed at combatting keyword stuffing, a practice consisting in loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in search results.|
|2003||April 3||Spamdexing||The term Googlewashing is coined by Andrew Orlowski to describe the use of media manipulation to change the perception of a term, or push out competition from search engine results pages (SERPs).|
|2004||March||SEO contest||Promoweb agency organizes the first French-speaking contest, Mangeur de Cigogne (eater of stork).|
|2004||May||SEO contest||Nigritude Ultramarine 2004 launches as the first english language SEO competition, created by darkblue.com and run by SearchGuild.|
|2004||August||SEO contest||A new contest of SEO is organized in the United Kingdom by a web agency, based this time on keywords seraphim proudleduck. This contest is presented by Salmonbones.|
|2004||Notable update||Google and other top search engines start improving results for queries that have a geographic intent (e.g., a restaurant, plumber, or some other type of business or service provider in the user's location).|
|2004||Notable update||Google and other search engines begin making greater use of end-user data, such as search history and interests, to personalize search results. This means that the results the user sees could be different than what another person obtains sitting next to the user in another computer when searching for the same query.|
|2004||SEO tool launch||SEO Moz is founded by Rand Fiskin. First a blog, SEOmoz would grow to become one of the largest providers of SEO Tools.|
|2004||Google, MSN, Yahoo!||Notable update||The three major search engines that are left, Google, MSN and Yahoo!, start incorporating undisclosed page ranking factors into their algorithms.|
|2005||January||Google, MSN, Yahoo!||Background||Google unites with Yahoo! and MSN for the nofollow attribute, which is created in part to decrease the amount of spammy links and comments on websites, especially blogs.|
|2005||March 1||SEO contest|| Loquine Glupe is held. It is hosted by |
|2005||April||SEO tool launch||SpyFu launches. It is a keyword research and competitive intelligence tool used by digital marketers to improve their performance in online search.|
|2005||May–December||SEO contest||Hommingberger Gepardenforelle 2005 launches as another German contest. The goal of this SEO contest is to figure out how search engines determine rankings.|
|2005||June||Notable update||Google debuts personalized search, which makes use of user personal search and browsing history to make results more relevant, thus presenting customized results pages when the user is logged in.|
|2005||Spamdexing||Nofollow tags are created as a means to combat spam. SEO professionals begin using this tag as a way of PageRank sculpting, a technique consisting in distributing the PageRank of a website to other subpages.|
|2005||August||Spamdexing||The term splog (short for spam blog) is popularized around the time, when it is used publicly by Mark Cuban, who writes: " A splog is any blog whose creator doesn’t add any written value. I’m sure some might argue that packaging data, such as news feeds or the blog posts of others is added value. I dont think it is."|
|2005||SEO contest||Msnbetter Thangoogle launches as a Polish SEO contest intended to promote SEO in Poland and get the attention of search engines.|
|2005||SEO tool launch||Conductor is founded. It is a SEO technology firm offering a suite of enterprise SEO tools and performance.|
|2005||Spamdexing||The practice of meta-tag stuffing becomes ineffective. The practice involves repeating keywords in the Meta tags, and using meta keywords that are unrelated to the site's content.|
|2005||September||Notable update||Google releases Jagger, an update that helps to diminish the level of unsolicited link exchanges that fly around.|
|2005||September 29||Spamdexing||The term sping (a short for "spam ping") is coined by a French SEO blogger, Sébastien Billiard, in an article titled "Spam 2.0".|
|2005||November||SEO tool launch||Google launches Google Analytics. This free, web-based tool would become so popular at launch that webmasters would experience downtime and maintenance warnings.|
|2005||December||Notable update||Google releases Big Daddy, an update that improves the architecture of Google to allow for improved understanding of the worth and relationship of links between sites.|
|2005||December 20||SEO contest||The V7ndotcom Elursrebmem Competition is organized in the United States.|
|2006||February–May||SEO contest||"The Four Required Words" SEO Contest launches. It is sponsored by milliondollarscreenshot.com and is the first contest to use an expression in quotes and targeted image search, even though no images are shown in the time of the contest.|
|2006||March–December||SEO contest||Carcasherdotcom seocontest launches.|
|2006||May 11||SEO tool launch||Google Trends launches. It is a tool for SEO research.|
|2006||July 11||Literature||The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More is published by Chris Anderson.|
|2006||Product launch||Google launches Google Webmaster Tools, a suite of SEO tools that provides data and configuration control and lets webmasters view crawling errors, see what searches the user's site showed up for, and request reinclusion.|
|2006||Product launch||XML sitemaps are introduced, soon acquiring a great support from the search engines. XML sitemaps allow webmasters to display to the search engines, every URL on their website that is available for crawling. An XML sitemap contains not only a list of URLs but a range of further information, which help search engines to crawl more intelligently.|
|2006||Spamdexing||BMW is banned and utterly removed from Google’s search results for using a technique called cloaking, which means showing one type of content for search engines and another one for users.|
|2006||SEO contest||Redscowl Bluesingsky SEO contest takes place. It is sponsored by SEOLogs.|
|2006||SEO tool launch||Google Webmaster Central is launched. It is a free portal from that notifies the user of major technical issues with his/her website.|
|2006||Notable update||Since 2006, better methods of accessibility, including progressive enhancement, become available, so cloaking is no longer necessary for regular SEO.|
|2006||Website launch||BlackHatWorld launches as a forum aimed at discussing the latest trends in internet marketing. |
|2006||September 15||SEO tool launch||DeepCrawl is founded. It offers a SEO platform aimed at helping brands to accelerate growth and mitigate losses in organic search performance.|
|2006||October||Background||Google acquires YouTube for US$1.65 billion. Youtube would ultimately become the second most used search property in the world.|
|2006||December 11||Website launch|| |
|2006||End of year||Spamdexing||According to EURid statistics, over 50% of the registrations could be considered at best speculative and at worst domain name warehousing, a practice by registrars obtaining control of expired domain names already under their management, with the intent to hold or “warehouse” names for their own use and/or profit.|
|2007||January 15||SEO contest||SEO World Championship launches. It is sponsored by European Internet Marketing company Eastpoin.|
|2007||March 20||Product launch||Google announces Plus Box, a new search feature that lets users see more information about individual search results.|
|2007||May 2||Concept development||Jason Gambert attempts to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."|
|2007||May 16||Product launch||Google undertakes the most radical change to its search results ever, with the introduction of its Universal Search system that blends listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines among those it gathers from crawling web pages.|
|2007||Spamdexing||Google starts a campaign against paid links affecting PageRank.|
|2007||August||SEO tool launch||SimilarWeb is founded. It gives users the ability to see their competitors' traffic sources.|
|2007||September||Spamdexing||Ralph Tegtmeier and Ed Purkiss coin the term "mosaic cloaking", which consists in only cloaking parts of the website in an effort to be more stealth.|
|2008||February–April||SEO contest||seocontest2008 launches. It is sponsored by the UK Webmaster World Community.|
|2008||March 31||Literature||Search Engine Optimization is published by Kristopher B. Jones.|
|2008||June–August||SEO contest||Busby SEO Challenge 2008 is held. It is sponsored by Busby Web Solutions based in Australia.|
|2008||August 3||SEO tool launch||SEMrush launches. It provides an all-in-one tool suite for improving online visibility and discovering marketing insights.|
|2008||Product launch||Yoast SEO starts operations as a SEO tool. It is a WordPress plugin that makes it easy for users to do things like control titles and meta descriptions, set their targeted keywords and track how often they're using them, manage sitemaps, and other tasks.|
|2009||January 18||Notable update||Google Vince Update is released. It favors brand websites when it comes to search results for traffic-rich keywords.|
|2009||March–August||SEO contest||Net Builders SEO Contest is held. The targeted keyword is "sulumits retsambew" which is webmaster stimulus backwards. Backwards seems to be a common trend in these contests.|
|2009||April||Literature||Search Engine Optimization All-in-One for Dummies is published by Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza.|
|2009||June 3||Bing||SEO tool launch||Bing Webmaster Tools launches along with Bing.|
|2009||August 10||Notable update||Google announces Caffeine, which would become one of the most important updates in the search engine’s history.|
|2009||SEO tool launch||AuthorityLabs launches as a SEO rank tracking software.|
|2009||Bing||Background||After Microsoft Live Search becomes Bing, in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge Google’s nearly 70 percent grip of the U.S. search market, Yahoo! and Microsoft join forces to partner on a 10-year search deal (though it would end up being reworked five years later).|
|2009||September–December||SEO contest||OES Tsetnoc SEO Contest is held.|
|2009||October||Literature||The Art of SEO is published by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie Stricchiola.|
|2009||Year round||Notable update||Google executes between 350 and 550 adjustments to its search algorithm along the year, meaning at least once a day, showing the "rapid advancement required to stay on top if playing the game of SEO at the highest level".|
|2009||Spamdexing||Google announces attempt to stop the effects of PageRank sculpting that come as a result of nofollow links.|
|2010||January||SEO tool launch||WooRank launches. It is an automated website reviewing tool offering SEO auditing and monitoring.|
|2010||SEO tool launch||Screaming Frog launches. It offers SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising services.|
|2010||Spamdexing||A tactic appears where websites are created from large amounts of low-quality textual content, frequently updated and specifically designed to lure search engine algorithms. These sites are linked together forming so-called ‘content farms’ whose only purpose is to drive search engine traffic and, just like doorway pages before them, sending the incoming traffic to the final destination.|
|2010||SEO tool launch||SEOPanel is released. It is an open source multi-website SEO monitoring application.|
|2010||December||Notable update||Both Google and Bing add "social signals," which first display any written Facebook posts, for example, from the user's own network that matches his/her query.|
|2010||Year round||Statistics||52% of the companies are estimated to spend more on SEO, 39% Spending about the same, and 9% Spending less.|
|2011||February 14||Notable update||Google launches the Google Chrome extension "Personal Blocklist", as part of countermeasures against content farming.|
|2011||February 23||Notable update||Google launches Google Panda, a algorithm update aimed at combating content farms by rewarding high-quality websites and diminishing the presence of low-quality websites in Google’s organic search engine results. Google Panda is initially known as "Farmer." The algorithm also combats keyword stuffing.|
|2011||SEO tool launch||Ahrefs launches. It is a toolset for backlinks and SEO analysis.|
|2012||February 28||Literature||Content Strategy for the Web is published by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach.|
|2012||April 24||Notable update||Google Penguin launches as a Google algorithm update. It is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines.|
|2012||May||Product launch||Google unveils the Knowledge Graph, a new visual interface that provides popular facts about people, places and things alongside Google's traditional results. This constitutes a major shift away from interpreting keywords strings to understanding semantics and intent. The Knowledge Graph would become popular in knowledge representation and knowledge management applications widely across search engine, biomedical, media and industrial domains.|
|2012||July 26||Product launch||Moz launches MozCast, the "Google weather report". The tool, available online at mozcast.com, tracks the "temperature" of changes to Google's search algorithm and rankings on a day-to-day basis, helping provide better context to search algorithm changes beyond just the biggest ones.|
|2012||September 10||SEO tool launch||Backlink is founded as a SEO firm offering website optimization, search engine optimization and social media internet marketing solutions.|
|2012||SEO tool launch||Kerboo launches as LinkRisk. It offers link audits, SEO, content marketing, and link building.|
|2013||June 27||Literature||Google Semantic Search is published by David Amerland.|
|2013||August||Notable update||Google Hummingbird launches as an update, helping to combat keyword stuffing.|
|2013||October||System launch||Google App Indexing is launched for a limited set of publishers. It is a system that allows searchers to click on listings in Google's search results, taking them into apps on their Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. |
|2013||November 28||Literature||SEO Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know about SEO and Nothing More is published by Evan Bailyn.|
|2013||SEO tool launch||Serpstat is founded. IT offers a tool for keyword research, PPC analysis and competitor research.|
|2014||Notable update||Google releases "Pigeon", an algorithm update whose goal is to improve local search rankings.|
|2014||September||Bing||Notable update||Bing launches update aimed at combating keyword stuffing.|
|2014||September||Spamdexing||Google targets private blog networks (also known as link farms) with manual action ranking penalties.|
|2014||October 5||Notable update||Google launches Penguin 3.0, a new algorithm update aimed to penalize those sites who use black hat link building tactics to build unnatural links to manipulate search engines. The update affects 0.3% English Language queries all over the world. Black hat link building tactics are methods used to direct people to a site by exploiting website loopholes, enabling a site to rank higher than it should through "organic" search means.|
|2014||November||Notable update||Google adds a "mobile-friendly" label for search results that are optimized for such platforms, where text is readable without zooming or horizontal scrolling, and links are spaced well enough so that there’s a reduced chance of mis-tapping.|
|2015||February||Notable update||Google announces a change, with a mobile-friendly test that allows webmasters to view potential issues and make changes before the rollout.|
|2015||March 16||Notable update||Google introduces a new penalty algorithm to decrease the likelihood of doorway pages ranking in search results. Doorway pages are low-quality pages, optimized to rank well for specific keywords that act as a door between users and content.|
|2015||April 21||Notable update||Google introduces search engine algorithm update so-called ‘Mobilegeddon’, which makes website mobile friendliness a ranking signal in searches.|
|2015||April||Notable update||Google introduces mobile update. Since then, non-mobile-friendly websites would start getting lower rankings. This means SEO is no longer about keywords and content, with responsive design as new factor.|
|2015||May 1||SEO tool launch||Rank Tracker launches. This tool automatically tracks the users' daily keyword positions movements across all major search engines.|
|2015||May||Background||Mobile search surpasses desktop search.|
|2015||Background||2015 is known as the Year of Mobile, the point at which mobile searches overtake desktop search for the first time on Google.|
|2015||October||System launch||Google RankBrain is announced. It is a machine learning (AI) algorithm initially used to try to interpret the 15 percent of searches that Google has never seen before, based on the words or phrases the user has entered.|
|2015||November 19||Guidelines release||Google releases the full versions of its search quality raters guidelines (QRG), a 160-page-long handbook that it previously only gave human evaluators to rate websites. The guidelines help websites understand what qualities Google Search would like to see in websites, although ratings made by raters based on these guidelines do not directly change search engine rankings. The release follows a leak in October 2015 of the same guidelines Two important pieces of jargon that gain currency in the SEO world due to these guidelines are: YMYL (your money or your life), a term for websites that offer information or allow people to take actions that have the potential to negatively impact the end user's health and wealth (examples include sites related to e-commerce, financial advice, medical advice, and legal advice), and E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trust), factors that are important to Google Search for ranking sites, and even more important for YMYL sites. The guidelines are described as "160 pages of wonderful SEO knowledge."|
|2015||Standard development|| According to a study, the top-ranking factors for search engines and their algorithms (including Google’s core algorithm) are ranked in order of importance as:
|2016||March–June||SEO contest||Apex Forum SEO Contest is held.|
|2016||September 13||Literature||SEO for Growth: The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers & Entrepreneurs is published by John Jantsch and Phil Singleton.|
|2016||December 27||Literature||Digital Marketing For Dummies is published by Russ Henneberry and Ryan Deiss.|
|2017||January||Notable update||Google introduces an algorithmic change called the “Intrusive Interstitial Penalty” in order to “punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience.”|
|2017||March||Notable update||Google introduces update informally known as “Fred”, which would have a major impact on the SEO community.|
|2018||June||Market distribution||As of date, Google accounts for over 72.47% of all global desktop search traffic, followed by Baidu at 13.47%, Bing at 7.64%, and Yahoo! at 4.74%.|
|2018||July||Notable update||Google announces that from then on, page speed would be a ranking factor for mobile searches.|
|2019||January 26||Spamdexing||XRumer is released is a piece of software made for spamming online forums and comment sections. "It is marketed as a program for search engine optimization and was created by BotmasterLabs."|
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