In the ever-evolving landscape of the digital world, search engine optimisation (SEO) has played a pivotal role in determining the online visibility and success of businesses. Through the years, SEO has had many significant milestones, adapting over time to the changes in search algorithms. In this blog, we highlight a few of the most notable shifts and explore the evolution of SEO.

Early Days of Search

In the early days of the internet, search engines didn’t exist as we know them today. Companies like Yahoo and AltaVista operated search engines that acted as web directories for businesses, who slowly began to realise the importance of being placed at the top of them. And so, ‘SEO’ was born, with the first recorded use of the acronym dating back to 1997.

Marketers and business owners at this stage began simple SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing and meta tag optimisation to enhance their website’s visibility. They had plenty of success doing so thanks to far less advanced algorithms.

Enter Google

In the late 1990s, Google changed the SEO game when it launched Google Search, soon to become the most-used search engine on the web. Alongside their revolutionary PageRank algorithm, search engine marketers now had to consider that the number and quality of backlinks would impact their website’s ranking. The move towards more relevant sites and quality over quantity meant changing how they worked, and bringing good content to the forefront of SEO.

Content Becomes King

The next era of search cemented a more user-friendly approach to SEO. As the internet continued to grow and search engines like Google became more powerful, the refined algorithms now prioritised high-quality content. This (mostly) brought an end to the era of keyword stuffing and poor search strategies, as marketers focused on creating informative and helpful websites instead.

Mobile-Friendly Strategies

Advancing smartphones meant that search marketers had to adapt once again. In 2015, Google released the mobile-friendly update – dubbed by some as ‘Mobilegeddon’ – designed to boost the ranking of sites optimised for mobile. As users spent more time searching on their phones, businesses had to ensure their site designs were accessible and user-friendly across all devices.

Machine Learning and RankBrain

In the same year, Google rolled out RankBrain, a machine learning (AI) algorithm that could sort the search results for Google, determining site rankings. More importantly, it was used to interpret the queries of all Google searchers and understand their search intent, which allowed Google to rank sites more accurately, prioritising the most relevant results in their SERPs. SEOs now had to focus not only on traditional keyword research but also on optimising for user intent.


The E-A-T principle was introduced by Google in 2018 and stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust – the three pillars for evaluating quality content on websites.  E-A-T emphasised the importance of establishing your site or business as an authoritative source of information, offering expertise in your industry and ensuring consumer trust. Websites showing these factors would outperform others in search rankings, meaning marketers shifted their focus to building their clients’ online brand and reputation in these areas.

Today in SEO (E-E-A-T)

Today, search is still evolving as we speak. Google has recently begun to upgrade its E-A-T principle to E-E-A-T – adding in Experience. While this isn’t a ranking factor, Google uses these guidelines to assess the quality of content across all sites, helping to determine their ranking. The inclusion of Experience means that now, Google values sites which offer first-hand experience on their topic.

SEO professionals must keep adapting to changes as algorithms are continually updated to offer the best user experience and the best performance for their clients. The rise of AI along with several other advances in tech is sure to impact the search landscape and the work of marketers alike.

For more search insights, visit the It Works blog, or get in touch with the team to chat about our services, today.