Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The History of Search Engine Optimisation

Written by Adrian McLean
Monday, 07 April 2008

Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most effective ways to improve the volume and quality of traffic to your Web site. Through the use of keywords, Search Engine Optimisation increases traffic by improving the way a site ranks in search results every time someone does a search for those particular keywords. In theory, the higher a site ranks among search results, meaning, the earlier the site is mentioned among these results, the more Web users will visit that site. Hence, a higher rank leads to higher traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation traces its roots back to the mid-1990s at a time when the first search engines began cataloging the Internet. In the beginning, webmasters simply submitted their URL or their pages to the search engines and a spider from the search engine would crawl the URL or page looking for links to other pages. Once these links were tracked, the search engine would then index the information and store it in the server of the search engine. Once there, an indexer program would extract words, links and other information from the page and give weights to specific words and links.

It wasn't long when site owners realized the power of having search engines rank and display their pages. They quickly concluded that, the higher their Web sites were ranked, the more valuable these sites became when it came to attracting visitors. By July 26, 1997, the phrase "Search Engine Optimisation" was first recorded. It appeared on a Usenet message on that day.

During the early days of Search Engine Optimisation, search engines depended on algorithms that webmasters provided, including, meta tags and index files in engines. But webmasters often provided unreliable data on keywords the keywords in meta tags were often inconsistent, incomplete or inaccurate ' which led to irrelevant sites constantly appearing in searches.

Since search engines depended on webmasters, they also often suffered from manipulation and abuse, especially since many webmasters stuffed their content with keywords to improve Search Engine Optimisation. In response, search engines created more intricate ranking algorithms that assessed other factors that webmaters could no longer manipulate. One of the factors measured was "prominence," as measured by a program called Backrub, which was developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, graduate students from Standford University. Search engines also began measuring the quantity and "strength" of outbound links through the PageRank program using a complex formula.

In 1998, Page and Brin, creators of Backrub, founded Google and Search Engine Optimisation was never the same again. Google combined Backrub, Pagerank and off-page factors such as hyperlink analysis to overcome manipulation and create reliable search rankings.

Today, search engines assess a broad range of factors, which they refuse to divulge, in ranking algorithms. According to spokesmen, Google measures no less than 200 different signals. Meanwhile, the two other leading search engines, Yahoo and Microsoft's Live Search, have their own ranking algorithms which they likewise refuse to disclose.

Search Engine Optimisation is still a evolving science and new techniques are emerging every day. What remains constant, however, is the effectiveness of Search Engine Optimisation in helping Web sites flourish.

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