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Google Evolved: The Past, Present and Future of Search Engine Marketing

On September 4th, 1998, in Menlo Park, California, two PhD students came together and incorporated what would become the largest influencer on global marketing in recent history. With what began as a pet project, the founders truly believed that they could categorize, index and open up the unruly World Wide Web to the masses. Their brainchild was born and affectionately christened as Google, after the immense amount of information available on the web and the appropriately mind-blowingly large number 10^100, or “googol.”

Since those early days, Google’s authority over the internet and everything related has been unmatched.  In some sense, the number googol doesn’t seem to do justice to an organization that single-handedly revolutionized search marketing and came out the other side of the dot-com bubble as a marketing powerhouse.

Google history evolved

History Evolved

While they may not have known it at the time, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were about to unleash the power of the World Wide Web and change business as it had been known for hundreds of years. A new industry of online commerce was being born, and along with it came everything we’ve come to know from digital advertising to social media marketing. Brin and Page set out to bring the information superhighway to the people, and without a doubt, they’ve succeeded.

A Powerful Reaction

Somewhere between Google’s founding and the Web 3.0 that we know today, a powerful reaction took place to respond to the evolving digital landscape. Businesses were no longer confined by territories and competition was taking place online.

“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” –Isaac Newton

Once foreign ideas such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media began, marketers noticed a shift in customer’s decision making processes away from brick and mortar stores. Crowdsourcing and social media opened the doors to Amazon-style review systems, and concepts such as the Zero Moment of Truth came to light. In order to survive, it was no longer enough to be good – a successful business needed to satisfy every customer more than the alternatives.

Search Evolved

Nearly every industry had to recognize and cope with a new globalized market and changing competition forces. As the web grew, digital marketing concepts and ideas maturated into critical components of a modern business. If companies were machines, search marketing and SEO became the high-quality parts that cause one engine to outperform and outlast another. While some vacillated to adopt, innovators and entrepreneurs jumped on the opportunities to get a leg-up.

To stay ahead of the competition, marketers and businesspeople looked to the authorities in the digital landscape for guidance. Battle lines were drawn between black hat and white hat SEO techniques and people like Google’s Matt Cutts became iconic and were listened to for nuggets of wisdom on outwitting opponents online. New updates to search engine algorithms were pre-announced, giving companies the opportunity to adjust their search marketing strategies and tactics to comply.

Search Engine Optimization may seem like a game of cat-and-mouse.

For many, search engine optimization seemed like a game of cat-and-mouse where the rules were always changing. Because search engine results were initially based on keywords and backlinks, a grey-hat industry of paid backlinks and keyword stuffing metadata boomed overnight, and it flourished for quite some time.

But Google Wasn’t Satisfied

Great care was taken over sculpting the algorithm and over 100 inputs were used in the calculation as the criteria to satisfy the user’s intent. This is what made Google successful. The concept behind the search engine was to provide relevant information related to a search query and the magic then happened when the search algorithm dictated the order and authority of each result on the page.

If companies were going to try and game that system, Google was going to hit back. From their first update titled “Boston,” to the recent “Penguin” and “Panda,” Google strived to eliminate poor or misleading results from its pages. If a company wanted unearned space in the index, it would have to pay for it in Adwords – in the blurred lines between natural SEO and paid listings. It was in this reality that Google flourished as a company, satisfying users and making profits from advertising, which brings us to the present day and beyond…

Looking Forward

To see the future of SEO, we need only remember the past.

For a moment, let’s forget about search engines, web 3.0 and even targeted keywords.  Consider how search engines are evolving and how we no longer have to sift to find the “best restaurants” or information about the life of Isaac Newton. From Google to Siri to Wolfram Alpha, intelligent search is discerning what you want and presenting it in digestible bits of information. In some sense, the answers have already been calculated before the questions are even asked.

Yet, as this landscape continues to evolve, the mission set forth by Larry Page and Sergey Brin has stayed the same. As marketers tackle new hurdles of social, local and mobile, the concept of value creation and delivery has never changed. That core ideal is the premise of Google’s index and ought to be the focus of every business, regardless of the date in history. Your magic lies in the ability to connect value to customers.

Final Thoughts

While the simple concepts of value, delivery and relevancy haven’t changed, the tools to get there have. From mobile phones to Google Glass, whatever technology changes come our way, the onus is on us to compete and adapt in a fluid manner and to always be forward looking. The “best practice” is the one that works systematically and repeatedly.

Concepts of value, delivery and relevancy haven’t changed, but the tools to get there have.

As you focus on attraction (inbound) marketing and either paying for or earning a spot of the front page of Google, for guidance, remember these wise words…

“One piece of advice I give to SEO masters is, don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want, because that’s what Google’s chasing after.” –Matt Cutts (head of Google’s webspam team)

How has your search engine optimization strategy changed over the past few years? Share in the comments down below.

Images via FlickrFlickr and Flickr

This post originally appeared on Verndale’s Digital Marketing Blog.