Webmasters and content providers has started optimizing sites for search engines in the mid of 1990s, as the first search engines were cataloging the early Web. Initially, all webmasters needed to do was to put forward the address of a page, or URL, to the various engines which would send a “spider” to “crawl” that page, extract links to other pages from it, and return information found on the page to be indexed.
The process involves a search engine spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine’s own server, where a second program, known as an indexer, extracts various information about the page, such as the words it bears and where these are located, as well as any weight for specific words, and all links the page contains, which are then placed into a scheduler for swarming at an afterward date.
Site owners started to be familiar with the value of having their sites highly ranked and visible in search engine results, creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. As per the industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase “search engine optimization” probably came into use in 1997. The foremost documented use of the term Search Engine Optimization was John Audette and his company Multimedia Marketing Group as documented by a web page from the MMG site from August, 1997.
Early accounts of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag, or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page’s content. Using meta data to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster’s choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site’s actual content. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags could and did cause pages to rank for irrelevant searches. Web content providers also manipulated a number of attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.
By depending so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster’s control, premature search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages distended with abundant keywords by unprincipled webmasters.
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