[SEO Manual Chapter 2b]



Search engine optimization operates in the search engine world, so it is important to have a decent understanding of search engines — especially Google.

One of the amazing things about Google’s search dominance is that it came relatively late to the search engine game.


The Internet

ARPANET, the precursor to our current Internet, officially launched in 1969 with a link between UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute. During these early years, the Internet consisted of files that were retrieved with file transfer protocols (FTPs).

The first rudimentary search engine, Archie, came into use in 1990 – even before the widespread launch of the web. Archie was followed by Gopher, Veronica and Jughead, all of which only looked at the document titles. More importantly, these search engines only searched one site or server (the server on which they were installed).


The Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, with the introduction of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTML provided the language for creating web pages, while HTTP provided the protocols for delivering web pages across the Internet. But the web did not become publicly available until April 1993.

The first web robot was created two months later, by MIT’s Matthew Gray. He used this web robot (World Wide Web Wanderer) to generate an index called “Wandex.”

The first “full text” web crawler came out in 1994: the WebCrawler. The WebCrawler allowed users to search for specific text on any web page and became the basis for search engines today.

Web crawlers were the necessary ingredient for search engines. Without web crawlers, search engines and SEO could not properly emerge. Lycos, the first commercial search engine, also launched in 1994, the same year as the first web crawler emerged. It was quickly followed by Altavista, Excite, InfoSeek, Inktomi, Magellan and Northern Light.

Ironically, the most popular search portal during this period was not actually a web-wide search engine. The Yahoo! search engine only operated on its own growing directory of websites. Yahoo! eventually used its early dominance to acquire Inktomi (in 2002) and Overture/AltaVista (in 2003). They also gave Google its first major introduction.


Finally, Google

In 1996, Google founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) started working together on BackRub. By 1998, they patented PageRank, the link analysis algorithm that formed the backbone of their search engine.

Yahoo! partnered with Google in mid-2000, allowing Google to run Yahoo’s organic search results. Later that year, AdWords started offering CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertising on their search engine results pages (SERPs).

Sensing the potential of Google — though perhaps not fully — Yahoo! offered to buy the entire company for $3 Billion in 2002. Google rejected their offer and the rest is history (albeit fairly recent).

Over the rest of the decade, Google continued to develop the most popular search engine on the Internet today. Much of the growth was internally developed. But a sizable portion also came from strategic acquisitions:

  • Purchased Applied Semantics, creators of AdSense in 2003.
  • Purchased Urchin Analytics, which eventually became Google Analytics, in 2005.
  • Purchased YouTube in 2006.
  • Purchased DoubleClick ad network in 2008.
  • Purchase AdMob (which specialized in mobile advertising) in 2009.

Google continues to be dominant search engine today, although it does have competition. On the global front, Baidu has become the top search engine in China, the biggest and fastest growing market in the world today. Yandex has claimed strong market share in Russia.

In the U.S. and English-speaking world, Google also faces a revamped competitor: Microsoft’s Bing.


What about Microsoft?

Microsoft actually launched MSN Search back in 1998, about the same time as a small startup called Google started operating. Because Microsoft was busy making buckets load of profits from other channels, however, MSN Search was not among the top priorities for Microsoft at the time.

Initially, MSN Search relied on 3rd party services, such as Inktomi, AltaVista, Looksmart and Picsearch. It wasn’t until 2004 that Microsoft started to provide its own self-gathered and delivered search results.

In 2006, Microsoft launched Windows Live Search to replace MSN Search. This was part of its “Live” branding line. In turn, Windows Live Search was rebranded and relaunched in 2009 as Bing.

That same year, Microsoft negotiated a 10-year deal to provide all search engine services for the now-struggling Yahoo. With the revived and expanded Microsoft search business, Google finally has a decent competitor willing to invest in providing users with a better search experience.




Next SEO Manual post:  The Purpose of Search Engines Today


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