What Is SEO and How Has It Changed Over the Years?


Many business owners will hear the phrase ‘search engine optimization (or SEO) from friends in the business community or even competitors and may consider it a route to increasing sales, but understand  what is SEO? Alternatively, a business owner may have tried ‘SEO services in the past and found it either didn’t work as well as expected or was working but no longer as effective – this article explains what SEO is and why ‘new’ San Diego SEO is working better than ever.

I had worked in search engine optimization and ranking website market before it was even called SEO. Here are the changes in SEO since the start of the new Millennium and what you should be looking for in the SEO services your SEO Agency offers or provides.

We take a look back at SEO through the years and explain what SEO is today and how best to utilize it for our website.

SEO in 2000

Back at the start of the Millennium, the ‘big’ search engines that most people used were Lycos and Excite. Of course, back then, a tiny percentage of the UK population had access to the Internet, and those that did had a slow ‘dial-up’ system.

Websites were one or two pages with essential information to allow them to load quickly (within 20 seconds). SEO practices back then were to ‘hide’ as many keywords on a page as possible, so the website was found for those searches without making the page look too spammy for visitors.

In 2002 Google launched something called ‘AdWords,’ which was predicted to be the death of SEO, as people could pay for prominence on the number 1 website for starting internet searches.

In 2003, Yahoo purchased Inktomi, AltaVista, and FAST, which was the end of all of the ‘smaller’ search engines. Google started to stamp down on ‘spam’ practices and websites. At the same time, Google realized that ‘AdWords’ would not kill off SEO and that, in fact, the ‘natural listings’ encouraged visitors back to their search engine platform. Google started to recognize ‘professional SEO’ experts and promoted good SEO rather than spamming SEO.

2004 saw the first website ‘banned’ from the Internet as Google took action against websites spamming them. They also took legal action against the “SEO Company” responsible.

To rank a website in 2006, you just needed links back to your website, so buying links/link exchange was all the rage. Most websites had a web page listing companies and associations (I am still amazed how many websites continue this practice).

Between 2004 and 2008, Google, now the only real “player” in the search engine world, started taking action against poor linking practices and companies and tightening up on spam and buying links. The ‘Noughties” ended with all “naughty” SEO practices being practically stamped out, as Google concentrated on ranking websites based on their content and relevance to the search.

SEO in 2010

Between 2010 and 2015, we started to see search engines take notice of ‘Social Media sites, and soon the results were filled with Twitter tweets’ in the results.

Videos and images were added to the search results with the Google ‘Caffeine’ update.

Google introduced “personal search results” with the websites shown in the search results based on your previous searches and websites you had visited before. This caused a ‘bit of a stir in the SEO world as customers claimed their websites were “top of Google” for any search they did relate to their industry, just because they had visited their website many times before, so Google, of course, fed them back the website for all relevant searches. This can still be an issue until you show them the new ‘Google Incognito search.

The focus on ranking websites was on being found for BIG keywords. A ‘Plumber’ in Bristol would want to rank for that search, so that was the focus.

Google ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’ updates figuratively killed off ‘link exchanges with huge penalties for websites with irrelevant links pointing towards them. At the same time, Google introduced “no follow links” to allow websites to provide relevant links to other websites and information without penalizing either party. It was the start of “safe linking.” Quality and relevant content were now the keys to ranking in search engines.

A report by the ‘Office For National Statistics’ in 2014 stated:

Thirty-eight million adults (76%) in Great Britain accessed the Internet daily, 21 million more than in 2006 when directly comparable records began.

Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 24% to 58%.

74% of all adults bought goods or services online, up from 53% in 2008. Clothes (49%) were the most popular online purchase in 2014.

Of all adults in Great Britain, 67% are aware of Internet storage space services, but the take up of these services to store data is much lower at 35%.

In Great Britain, 22 million households (84%) had Internet access in 2014, up from 57% in 2006.

Fixed broadband Internet connections were used by 91% of households.

The UK was now (almost) internet savvy, and the usage of mobile phones to visit websites was huge.

SEO 2015 and Onwards

The most significant change to the search engines in 2015 was the ‘penalization’ of websites that were not “mobile friendly” – a mobile-friendly website has different information for the smaller screen to make it easier for the user to read and understand. In ensuring that users got the best experience, Google started ranking mobile-friendly or responsive websites (where the website automatically changes its size and format to fit the screen) higher in the rankings.

The UK population was using their mobile phones for local searches, and local companies could finally gain an advantage over the large corporates or ‘national’ companies on the Internet.

The introduction of ‘semantic search, where Google brings back websites in the results not based on the keywords, but the content on a page, again changed how SEO agencies looked at working on websites. Ranking for the ‘Big’ keywords, such as ‘Plumber Bristol,’ became less critical as internet users became savvier with their searches. ‘Long tail keywords, and as many as possible, started to grow website visitors and, more importantly, conversions.

How it helps the businessman?

SEO applies the rule of keyword research. Keyword research implies that it is necessary to identify relevant and accurate keywords concerning the internet users’ inputs in search engines. Identifying keywords also reflects the common keywords received and monitored by the search engines monthly. The critical point is to have keywords with high searches but low or medium competition levels.

  1. SEO recognizes online articles’ role in absorbing many searchers and skimmers on the web. The Internet is reckoned as the virtual source of ideas and information. With this, online articles should be free of errors considering the grammar aspect and should be qualitative and original. These articles are used in both off-page and on-page optimization.
  2. SEO uses social media to enhance promotional mechanisms concerning products and services. Social media, i.e., Facebook and Twitter, are used in optimization to establish numerous potential consumers. In the SEO concept, fan pages are the channels that can generate more relevant links going to the main website.
  3. SEO executes effective strategies in link building. This is a core point about traffic production as the primary determinant in the search engine ranking of the websites. There are various SEO link-building methods, such as link wheel, blog commenting, site submission services, and social bookmarking, to name a few. All of them are moored on one thing – to have quality and natural links going to the main website.However, if you don’t have the time or the resources to do those yourself, there are plenty of link building services available that can help you build quality and natural links to your website.

SEO in 2023

As we venture further into 2023, the landscape of SEO continues to evolve, centering around user experience, with factors such as loading time, interactivity, and content stability under the umbrella of Core Web Vitals becoming integral. The rise of mobile use has led to the implementation of mobile-first indexing by Google, meaning the mobile version of your website becomes pivotal for ranking purposes.

Semantic search has grown significantly, with search engines prioritizing a deep understanding of search intent rather than just homing in on keywords. Amid these advancements, link building maintains its significant role in the SEO ecosystem. In this context, the focus has shifted towards quality rather than the sheer quantity of backlinks, pushing websites to earn high-quality, relevant backlinks for better SEO results.

SEO link-building services have become increasingly important in this evolved SEO environment. These services help businesses navigate the complexities of creating a well-rounded link profile. They craft strategic plans to gain quality links, develop standout content that attracts links, and foster relationships within the industry for future link opportunities.

SEO Helps Businessmen Generate Profits

All things are interlinked clearly. SEO builds and produces traffic through the interrelated methods mentioned to achieve a common goal – website ranking on the top page of the search engines. Being on the entire page implies business sales, as most people using search engines have found the products or services promoted on the ranked website. So simple, SEO ranks websites and website converts a business investment into ‘big profits.’



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