Search Engine Optimization Explained

Whether we like it or not, search engines control our financial futures on the Internet. This is why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important for any business that has a website and conducts business through their website. Search engines drive traffic to websites based on a number of factors. If you have not appropriately optimized your website to gain first page search engine results, the search engines can end up sending business to your competition.

There are alternatives to search engine optimization. One option is that you could invest a large budget into branding yourself with traditional marketing methods, while promoting your domain name. Branding is very important. For example, most people will search for “UPS” or “Fedex” before they would search for “package shipper.” This is a prime example of strong branding at work. Another option is to utilize pay per click (PPC) advertising. Your fortunes are still tied to a search engine, but you’re paying to get your ad shown to searchers who use particular keywords. In many cases, PPC advertising can offer a good return on investment, but only if you really know what you are doing. If you don’t know how to properly utilize PPC, learning how to do it right can be hard on your budget.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of improving your organic (not paid) rankings in the search engines. Search engines such as Google and Bing use algorithmic equations to determine where your site will appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs). These equations take many factors into consideration – 200 or more, in the case of Google. Search engine algorithms will consider which factors are most important in making your site more appealing to those search engines. SEO utilizes the knowledge and understanding of these factors to result in higher rankings within the organic results. In short, if you are not on the first page of the SERPs, you can plan on spending money on traditional marketing methods, PPC marketing, or SEO. You may even want to invest in all three as part of a unified marketing plan to promote your business and reach your customers wherever they are when they are ready to make a purchasing decision.

So how do search engines determine where various sites and pages rank in their results? It is not done by how visually appealing your site may be. It is not done by how technologically impressive or savvy your site is. In fact, search engines cannot see any of this. The answer is the content itself. Google and the other search engines look at the amount of useful information can be found on your website. They also look at your users’ experiences, and want to keep them coming back for good, relevant results. Good search engine optimization not only tells the search engines that you are relevant for the keywords you want to win, it also helps you provide useful information and a good experience to your visitors.

Search engine optimization creates a balance between the user experience and the mathematical equations needed to tell the search engines about the information their user will discover when visiting your site. For example, let’s say you have created an incredible website about new red convertible cars and you know that everybody who visits your site will buy one. This is exciting, but can Google and the other search engines crawl your content? Is your site popular on the Internet and in social media? Are other sites linking to it? If you can’t answer “yes” to all of these questions, you are losing valuable opportunities to grow your business and your website will practically be viewed as nonexistent. In this scenario, you need professional SEO advice.

A History of Early Search Engines

Early search engines and search engine optimization began in the early 1990s and lasted through to the early 2000s. According to Search Engine Land, at this primitive stage, many tactics were used that would be considered “spammy” today. In order to generate high search rankings, marketers promoted keyword stuffing, excessive tagging, and often spammy backlinks. Typically, it would take several months for major algorithm updates to be completed, which allowed black-hat SEO tactics to remain effective over long periods of time. SEO today is vastly different from the way it was back then.

The first true search engine was Archie, created in back in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal. Archie combined a script-based data gatherer with a regular expression matcher for retrieving file names matching a user query. Essentially Archie became a database of web filenames which it would match with the user queries.

The web’s first robot came in 1993. Matthew Gray launched the World Wide Web Wanderer. He initially wanted to measure the growth of the web and created his robot to count active web servers. However he soon upgraded the bot to capture actual URLs. His database became known as the Wandex. Unfortunately, his bot caused servers to lag by accessing the same page hundreds of times a day. Even after he fixed this software, webmasters questioned the value of bots.

By December of 1993, three full-fledged bot fed search engines had surfaced on the web: JumpStation, the World Wide Web Worm, and the Repository-Based Software Engineering (RBSE) spider. JumpStation gathered info about the title and header from Web pages and retrieved these using a simple linear search. As the web grew, JumpStation slowed to a stop. The WWW Worm indexed titles and URLs. The problem with JumpStation and the World Wide Web Worm is that they listed results in the order that they found them, and provided no discrimination. The RSBE spider, however implemented a ranking system. Since early search algorithms did not do adequate link analysis or cache full page content, if you did not know the exact name of what you were looking for, it was extremely hard to find it.

Yahoo! Directory

In April of 1994, David Filo and Jerry Yang created the Yahoo! Directory as a collection of their favorite web pages. As their number of links grew they had to reorganize and make the directory search-able. What set the directories apart from The Wanderer at the time was that they provided a human compiled description with each URL. As time passed and the Yahoo! Directory continued to grow, Yahoo! began charging commercial sites for inclusion. Around this time, directory submission became an important aspect of search engine optimization – an approach that has now been obsolete for years.

Brian Pinkerton of the University of Washington released WebCrawler on April 20, 1994. It was the first crawler which indexed the text of entire pages. AOL eventually purchased WebCrawler and used the technology to provide search results. Then in 1997, Excite bought out WebCrawler, and AOL began using Excite to power its NetFind. WebCrawler opened the door for many other services to follow suit.

Inktomi entered the ring in 1996 with its search engine Hotbot. Inktomi brought greater scalability to the table, paving the way for larger search engines to flourish. It also brought customized ads. AOL, among others, became licensees of Inktomi’s software and service. In 2003, Inktomi was purchased by Yahoo!


Larry Page met Sergey Brin at Stanford in 1995. A year later, the two began collaborating on BackRub, a search engine with the unique ability to analyze the “back links” pointing to a given website. This meant that it delivered more accurate results than its rivals, as they were less easy to manipulate. In 1998, Page and Brin founded and launched Google. Eventually, as some webmasters and black hat SEOs learned how to use back links to their advantage, Google began incorporating many new factors into their algorithm, and updating it on a regular basis.

Google also began creating new products and services. Some stemmed from their purchases of other companies, such as Urchin, a web traffic analytics company, whose service was renamed to Google Analytics. This free service has proven to be indispensable to anyone who wants to find out what is going on with their website and work out ways to improve it. Because it constantly worked to update and improve its algorithm to deliver relevant results – and continues to do so today – Google became the dominant search engine in the United States, and has established a strong global reach.


Microsoft launched the search engine that evolved into Bing in 1998. Back then it was called MSN Search; in 2006, it became Live Search. Originally, it relied on Inktomi for its search results. After changing over to Live Search, however, Microsoft began powering its own searches. Live Search officially became Bing in 2009. That same year, Microsoft made a ten-year deal with Yahoo in which its Bing search engine would power Yahoo’s searches. While still overshadowed by Google, the search alliance of Bing and Yahoo hold about 20 percent of the current search market.

Search Engines and SEO as a Team

A good search engine optimization strategy may focus mainly on Google, but takes Bing and Yahoo into consideration. It’s worth noting that these websites attract somewhat different demographics; therefore, a proper approach to SEO takes into consideration the audience you are trying to reach. It’s these kinds of details that can make a difference in your Internet strategy. Despite common beliefs, there is no overnight miracle to search engine optimization. Getting to the top of the SERPs takes knowledge, patience, and hard work.

If you’re ready to see your site go to the top, contact our SEO professionals at today to discuss your search engine optimization campaign!