The Journey of Search Part I: Keyword-y Beginnings

Search behaviour changes as much as search engine algorithms do. One day, pages with as many keywords as possible rank high in search engine results pages; the next day, search engines like Google consider the practice of populating web pages with multiple keywords as spam. This five-part feature will discuss how far “search” has come from humble (and keyword-y) beginnings to virtually becoming human in its own right.

To get this ball rolling, here’s where it all began: the stage of search Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, labels as Search 1.0. Back then, a website’s prominence was determined by the number of keywords it had—literally. If you wanted to promote your shingle roofing business, simply mention “shingle roof” over and over.

You may think this is Google as a kid, but it isn’t. The most popular search engine on the World Wide Web isn’t the first search engine in history. Lycos and AltaVista, for instance, predates Google by two years. These search engines were known to use Search 1.0, ranking webpages based on keyword population.

Today, “keyword stuffing,” as SEO experts today call it, is highly discouraged and considered a black hat practice. Besides, who likes reading “shingle roof” 100 times in a paragraph? However, Search 1.0 would later serve as the springboard for Google to become one of the most iconic search engines in history. That’s coming up on Part 2.

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