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The Google Revolution - Search Engine Wars

Oct 12, 2007
SEO has come a long way since 1997, in those days Alta Vista was king and search engines such as Hotbot, Excite and Lycos were well known brands with a large following.

As time went by a new engine started to emerge, it was made popular and pioneered by webmasters and search engine savvy people. In those days most people in the UK were on dial up Internet access with painfully slow speeds.

Search engines such as Lycos and Excite had graphic intensive homepages with animation and unbearably slow loading speeds, add this to slow modems and it could take 10 seconds just to load the main part of the page.

It made search a laboriously slow process, then along comes a new search engine, it has no adverts, it has almost no graphics and just a few text links on the page. It loads quickly and delivers search results quickly.

In fact you could load it, search it, find what you were looking for and then close it before Lycos had even loaded. Little wonder then that Google arrived quietly and then took the world by storm.

It was a revelation, you could find good results quickly and a brand new user experience was fed to a growing mass of internet users. Of course this lovely experience was quickly extinguished when you made your selection, that is because the website you chose had the same problems as Lycos and its fellow search engines, very slow load times.

Big un-optimised graphics and 150k page sizes were common place and so in many respects the joy was short lived. The problem continued for some years and was compounded by British Telecoms refusal to roll out broadband to the UK. In fact the stance adopted by BT probably held back Internet business years in the UK as people continued to lack belief that it was going to become part of everyday life.

Even back then it was difficult to persuade businesses to adopt the internet, selling websites was like selling life insurance, in most cases a terminated phone call and then every now and then somebody who said but what use will it be!

Factor search engine optimisation into the sales process and for the most part people would refuse to consider payment for such a thing. There was no value attached to it back then. In fact even some years later I know of companies who were receiving 40,000 visitors a month who didnt want to pay more than 200 quid a month for the traffic.

Of course in the industry SEO was a bumpy ride, changes in the algorithm constantly undermined a websites stability, spam was rife and black hat ruled the generic world. It was all going to come to a head with Google bringing in stringent changes that laid waste to millions of websites as they fell from the rankings.

Updates such as Florida were cruel and had dual purpose, there is no doubt that Google was trying to improve its system but also it wanted to drive customers to its Adwords advertising platform.

Paid search had been around for a long time but as Google started the drive to a stock market listing it expelled countless business websites from its database and drove them all to Adwords.

Of course by this time businesses had grown to depend on their search positions, e-commerce was big business and losing all your search positions was an absolute disaster for somebody selling online.

If there was a positive outcome it was that businesses for the first time realised how valuable their visitor numbers had been. The client complaining about paying 200 quid a month for 40,000 visitors was now faced with paying between 10k and 30k or more for the same traffic.

They realised what good value they had been getting and all of a sudden there was a realistic price tag put on SEO services, especially reliable ones that delivered results.

Since then the SEO industry has grown at an amazing rate with the commitment by marketing directors to spending their budgets on online marketing. This trend is set to grow further, especially as much of the UK is now finally on fast broadband connectivity.

Search engines such as Alta Vista and Excite have slipped into obscurity as have many of the Internet business who lost and continue to lose profile in Google. However, Google has continued to spread its technology wings and who knows what the next ten years will bring.
About the Author
SShaun Parker has worked alongside Google since it first appeared and has tracked the development of search engine marketing during the last decade, his expertise is why High Position are now such a respected brand.
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