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The History Of Web Design And SEO

As soon as you turn on your computer and open your browser, you are exposed to the world of web design and SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In very simple terms, it is SEO that determines which pages you see when you perform a search on Google or any of the other big search engines. There are various algorithms and other rules SEO has to deal with and this is incredibly complicated to understand. This is why it is a very important and highly skilled profession and it is also why SEO professionals are so very highly paid. That aside, let’s take a look at the history of web design and SEO and how we arrived at the point at which we are today.

The Generations of HTML
To date, we have four generations of HTML, but it is the first generation that really lies at the heart of web design and SEO. This first generation is known as the Hypertext concept. It was actually developed during the 1960s. However, Ted Nelson’s invention took a good 20 years to actually be used. This happened when Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet itself. He used HTML when the World Wide Web started to be used, which was in 1994. HTML, at that time, was the only coding language that actually worked. This also meant that there was little freedom in design. However, if it wasn’t for this first generation of HTML we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The W3C or World Wide Web Consortium was created to prevent large companies from monopolizing web design code. If only one company is able to control web coding and design, the story of internet and web design would have been different. Until now, W3C is still responsible for governing the coding techniques, rules and guidelines up to this day. The W3C also updates web designers to any changes they will make. It is important for designers to follow the guidelines set by the body so that the site will work cohesively in search engines and browsers without errors.

1993 – The Launch of Excite
When the internet was first developed, any information you were able to find online was compiled by hand. It was nothing more than an electronic version of library cards, for those of you who can remember those. The internet was like the world before the discovery of the Americas, a huge world that was almost fully uncharted and dark, with unlimited potential but nobody with the guts to go and find out whether you really would fall off the end of the world if you crossed the horizon. But in 1993, Excite was launched and changed all of this. As such, Excite is the Christopher Columbus of the internet.

Excite, one of the first publicly available search engines, was launched by six students at Stanford University. Excite was created to provide statistical analysis of word relationships as a way to improve search relevance on the Internet. By the end of 1995 the project was a commercial property. Ask.com purchased the Excite.com portal in 2004, and now offers search results through a meta-search tool, which combines results from pay-per-click and natural search results.

This really was the first time SEO was used. The statistical analysis algorithm that was used by Excite is the basis of search engine optimization and much of that still stays in place. It was built upon and grew from there, as you can see, but the roots and foundations are still exactly the same.

1997 – Yahoo
In 1997, Yahoo started to rear its head. Yahoo was long the biggest internet consortium around, providing email, search engines, discussion groups and more. It was they who first started to come up with real ideas to classify the entire internet through SEO. Indeed, in 1997, SEO really became a household term in the world of the internet, but the way it was used is completely different from what we know today. The problem was that the rules that Yahoo had set allowed for “submission spamming”. Almost every page that was found through the Yahoo directive would actually use some form of spamming to get there. New tactics had to be developed, which saw the birth of word lists, multi-language platforms and various other strategies. At the turn of the millennium, we were finally starting to get somewhere.

2000/2001 – Google’s Page Rank System
Between 2000 and 2001, Google totally shifted the goal post with their page rank system.

Google’s PageRank system and new ranking algorithms cut out most of the spam tactics that were extremely successful in the prior submission sites. Contrary to popular belief, Google was not actually the first search engine. Infoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo were all used long before Google launched.

Interestingly, although Google was really one in a long list of search engine players, they took the world by storm. They acted as if they were the first one on the market, as if they set the precedent for everybody else, and their tactics clearly worked. The algorithms they developed quickly took over any existing ones, until arriving where we are today, with Google as the leading search engine and all others being mere copycats.

Web Design and SEO – The Future
So have we now arrived at a point of perfection? Absolutely not. At present, Google is relying heavily on back links to rank their pages, but it is likely that they will change this very soon again. Furthermore, over the past few years, we have seen two very interesting other developments. Firstly, people have become disillusioned with Google, who is now a commercial giant, rather than a public service. Secondly, social media has exploded and a lot of people are using sites like Facebook and Twitter in order to find the information that they are looking for. Google’s first move was to create their own social media platform, Google+, but this hasn’t taken over the world just yet. We will wait and see what their next move is going to be.


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