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SEO Game Changers – Search Engine / SEO History

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 11 years and 326 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

SEO History and Game Changers

There is a misnomer in search marketing and SEO that things change all the time. I think I stopped consuming SEO blogs and news sites on a daily basis about 2 or 3 years ago when I decided enter full time consultancy with no one else’s safety net. There was no extra time for anything accept a low information consumption diet. I had to develop unflinching confidence in the work I was doing to execute on various strategies based on my understanding of how search engines have historically worked, and the assumption that they will continue to function in basically the same manner for some time to come.

SEO ChessThis is from a conclusion that there have only been a handful of changes that affected how I conducted my business. I learned from both blackhats and search engineers both to come up with a strategy that fit my ethical code while indulging my competitive nature and hunger for success. I am convinced that the cat/mouse dynamic between blackhats and engineers has helped to form the current state of information retrieval based on strong needs to stay relevant in certain areas that were exploited solely for capitalistic monetary gain.

I’ve found some great posts and articles about search history and how search engines have evolved over time, but not many mentions of how search optimizers have changed their strategies over time. There are a few good resources listed below, but none quite summed up the changes that affected what I like to refer to as the “SEO mentality”. I’m hoping to create a fairly comprehensive document for Market Motive Internet Marketing Training (where I’ll be discussing this shortly with legendary SEO’s Greg Boser and Marshall Simmonds, to help add to the increasingly comprehensive body of SEO training we’ve developed over the past two years (Over 40 Videos now!).

I learned what SEO was in about 2002 – shortly after offpage factors started to strongly determine relevance. I spent several years and thousands of hours on forums reading, learning, an interacting and teaching to figure out how search engines worked. When I made the choice to work for myself at home after another great year of learning and consulting at We Build Pages (with Jim Boykin – one of the sharpest SEO’s I’ve ever known), I decided it was time to start doing. I built sites, and strategies for myself, using consulting money to fund development of website projects, and parlaying to thinks like being able to even afford the insane cost of living in the SF Bay area. It was based on the unwritten understanding of the changes that are mentioned below, and not listening to a lot of the SEO garbage that is spewed all over on the interwebs.

When I started doing – I realized that not much changes with SEO in terms of strategic execution. It is a pretty logical art and science of determining risk to reward ratios, and implementing strategies in a sequential fashion following certain established rules based on intended outcome. I’ve developed a playbook and these SEO rulesets by understanding the HISTORICAL GAMECHANGERS in SEO. Feel free to add some on twitter with #seogamechangers

I’ve been taking a mental inventory of these game changes for a few months, and here is what I have them broke down to:

  1. Onpage factors (1995 — 1999)
  2. Offpage factors (2000)
  3. Florida update (2003)
  4. Fresh Crawl/ Everflux (2004)
  5. Sandbox effect (2005)
  6. Duplicate content filtering (2006)
  7. Human editorial (2006)
  8. Onebox/ Universal Search (2007)
  9. Paid linking handling (2007)
  10. No follow (2008)
  11. User data validation and segmentation (2009)
  12. Brand Mentions (update Vince – 2009)

Some of my dates may be a bit off, but for the most part these are the major factors that affect my actionable SEO Strategies. These are the major changes that contribute to the hurdles, filters, and challenges of ranking a site on a search engine.

I’d love to hear from other folks on the things that you think should be included in the list. There are MANY minor things that full under these categories, but after revisiting most and asking twitter, I think this is pretty comprehensive, as things like local search 10 pack, personalization, geotargetting all fall under one of these other areas (even if the dates aren’t exact). Please let me know if you can think of anything I missed. I’ll try to watch the comments on the post closely for once:) Please post any great resources, or suggestions for adding/updating to the list.


More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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  • john andrews

    It really doesn’t matter if you missed anything that no longer has significant influence because anything you didn’t experience yourself no longer matters.

    I immediately checked for a few things I recall from 2003-2005 and they were not listed (semantics especially, in 2004).

    Fact is, the mainstream SEO world was so focused on links in 2004-2006 that many otherwise significant factors were minimally discussed. A site with no links would show those factors at work, but a site impacted by significant link building efforts would not provide a clean enough platform for seeing the changes.

  • nalin

    Very good post. thanks for sharing information.

  • Brett Pringle

    Noticed the SEOBook link is not working in your resources list ;)

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  • Dharmesh Shah

    I like the rational, reasonable “people fundamentally act in their self-interest” way to look at SEO.

    And, I’d agree that the fundamentals don’t change that much. It’s more like climate (which changes very slowly over time) than weather (which changes all the time).

    Look forward to future articles in this arena. This nuanced side of SEO is where the action is going to be in the upcoming years.

  • Rebecca Kelley

    FYI, Rand didn’t write the “SEO Since 1999,” that was a YOUmoz entry that got promoted to the main blog. The author is a guy named James Svoboda.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    It is a very interesting progression when you lay it out like that. It will be interesting to see how the next ten years look for that time line.

  • Lee Odden

    For 2010 what about the growing efforts towards engines rewarding sites that implement their structured data schemes?

  • Mat

    Some interesting links there for me to take a look at, i will as soon as i can grab a second.

  • Charlie Ellis

    Kudos for the Four Hour Work Week shout out! Been doing my best to live that angle for a while now…

    This post got my gears spinning more about the future of SEO rather than the history…there’s clearly an evolution here…and although search may not fundamentally change anytime soon, I’m really curious to see how ranking factors will shift in the coming years.

    You killed it bro. Love the timeline.

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  • imilinaga

    google always update their algoritme i think, thats why i love seo , agen tiket pesawat | bisnis tiket pesawat | usaha tiket pesawat im glad to find this articel was very helpfull todd, i get reference frm your blog to write a articel on my blog called jasa seo | jasa seo toko online | cara meningkatkan penjualan toko online | jasa seo murah | jasa seo profesional | pakar seo thanks for sharing todd