Search engines are the heart of the world-wide web, their objective: to deliver relevant content for users when they search for it. It is a digital entity that ranks top quality websites based on complex algorithms written by search engine developers.
The early days of search engines started with the evolution of the first website on the web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. As websites started populating the internet, there was a pressing need to scan these websites their content, authenticity, and function for users. Cataloguing these digital pages required algorithms for structures and accessibility. Thus, search was based on keywords found within the content as well as few basic optimization techniques such as backend optimization.
The world saw a breakthrough with Yahoo in 1994, with the evolution of an ingenious search portal that could index pages based on smart algorithms and deliver those pages to the user in a simplified manner.Users would search for a plethora of things on the internet, and it soon became a need for everyone to be on the web. The year of 1997 saw Google enter the search engine seen with a simple screen that had their name and a search bar. It put Yahoo on the back-seat way before anybody could contemplate. At that time, web masters and techies would use any method, be it keyword stuffing, tagging, generating excess backlinks and every other black-hat technique.
Google and Yahoo had to come up with better stringent algorithms to rank high quality digital uploads and penalise the low-quality ones. Google took a stand and came up with a think tank that incorporated superior content as a mandatory rule for websites, it also incorporated penalising websites with keyword stuffing, cloaking and illegal backlinks, this improved page indexing by a mile.
Google launched PageRank as a means to accurately rank websites with inbound links and advertising based on content, with AdSense. It also launched the Google Analytics tool to monitor critical site metrics. 2009 marked the development of the Google Caffeine algorithm that helped Google index pages faster as well as provide fresh results.
Google introduced an algorithm update in 2011 to improve search results as well as rankings, it was Panda. This update focussed on penalising sites and their rankings based on user experience. A negative user experience (users leaving the site and not happy with the contents on its pages and greater bounce rates) was treated as a low-quality website and it was punished, while a positive counter-part (more traffic towards a site with fewer bounce rates) was rewarded with better ranking on search pages. It also focussed on quality content word count, & content queries.
Google analysed various other parameters from 2011 – 2012 and launched another update in the form of the Penguin. This algorithm worked on the basis of Guidelines set for Webmasters based on W3C standards. Backlinks served as a backbone for sites to gain high ranking in search engines. If greater numbers of links point to your website, it is considered to be a high quality one, but people started cheating by getting links from link farms to navigate back to their digital pages, and thus penguin was designed to penalise all those who would practise this black-hat technique.The latest algorithm, Hummingbird isn’t a penalising algorithm, but a means for users to focus their search on conversational lines rather than keywords. This enables users to read quality content as this algorithm removes irrelevant data or content such as spam. This algorithm also focuses on better link building and mobile enabled sites.
A new initiative for faster viewing of webpages on mobile devices was announced on Oct 7, 2015, with the support of various other web giants such as Twitter, CMS platforms such as WordPress and more. This is an open source initiative with HTML code and AMP java script and it resolves issues of slow load times. This technology can optimize a site from 19 seconds to 5-6 seconds as it consists of specific set of code that should be included in the webpages. The core parameters would be focused on minimal java script and Google AMP cache. AMP can be deployed distribution, content and Ad Delivery, it is going to take a while for webmasters and websites to incorporate this technology.
SEO rules need to be followed whilst designing and uploading digital pages on the web. A site should be created keeping a user in mind, it needs to be simple as well as functional for the reader to navigate. A site that has greater downtimes due to maintenance issues can lag behind in search engine rankings.With SEO rules being stringent in the present, it is imperative for content to be original and coherent. Facts and figures need to be correct and serve as an important informative tool for users.
Millions of users use the web on mobile devices and they need valuable information to be available on the fly and thus responsive sites need to be developed so that they can be viewed on various mobile devices and platforms. Updating a site with new content on a regular basis drives better indexing probabilities and user engagement with lower bounce rates.
Social Media sites have been major drivers for websites to be viewed through various channels. Thus, social media icons need to be added on webpages for greater exposure on a global platform. Social Media giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, YouTube, etc. have becomes social search engines for getting to know individuals, organizations and brands online. Social media shares may or may not affect search listings, but they surely are positive takeaways for your site
In 2016 Google rolled out Google RankBrain algorithm where Google uses machine learning technology to deliver most relevant search results. Machine learning was focused on intention behind the keyword searched instead of just focusing on the Keyword. This helped Google to deliver the much advanced result.
The 2017 will mark new trends in SEO with a Schema Markup that would make Search Engines identify and index your page easily and find results easily. Using hybrid techniques like mobile usage, PPC ads, etc. need to be incorporated to break-down silos. Google has been researching with SERP’s to increase characters in meta-descriptions and titles as well.
2018 have seen more than 3200 updates but every update rolled out in 2018 was with minor changes.
In 2020s AI is playing a big role in delivering search results & is getting smarter. Artificial intelligence is even responsible for selecting the next song in auto play that you might like to listen.
Google has experimented with search snippets or people also ask (suggestions by Google) to make the search results more human & conversational.
Check out complete History of Google Algorithm Update.