The timeline of
SEO in Google

History of Google

A new year often brings with it some form of reflection around the previous year. Never ending lists as you “copy and paste” 2018’s unfinished list items onto your crisp, new 2019 list. And, on it goes. Those involved in the internet industry [put loosely] are not exempt from this type of behaviour. And, with all of the changes and updates happening on the internet, it is often that these individuals have already turned their to-do list over a few times by now.

Backtracking on our lists, we have found old notes around “Get to the top of Google by 2000!” and “Review Google’s new updates” as just two tasks which have been copied and pasted through the years.

This is where we will start in comparing then to now!

The beginning of Internet

On August 6th, 1991 the first website was launched live. This website can still be viewed via http://info.cern.ch/. Of course, there is a very big difference with the websites that are common right now. Nevertheless, from that moment on, the flood gates opened and it was a race to the top of the search engine results for websites.

The 90's

The nineties saw the creation of search engines that would assess websites in many different ways. It became clear then, that in order for websites to rank at the top of search results, they would need to begin implementing 'keyword stuffing' – meaning writing content with a lot of reference to keywords. In these content pieces backlinks would be included, where the quality of these links did not really matter, just as long as they were included in the articles!

1998 saw the birth of Google by owners Larry Page and Sergey Brin, which was the same year in which the term “PageRank” was introduced to the world. PageRank was used by Google as a ranking factor. To get a higher PageRank, a website had to obtain links from other websites that also had a high PageRank.

Early 2000

From 2000 Google began gaining a lot of attraction and its usability rapidly started to increase. Some even argue a “Google revolution” as it were. During this time there were guidelines for SEO however, these had no influence on website ranking so no one took it into account when writing web texts or making the websites. These times went in spirit of "quantitative" link building.


One of the first updates from Google is the famous “Florida” update. This update ensured that keyword stuffing was penalized meaning that Google no longer only looked at the actual words used but also at the content of the text.


Voice search arrived on the scene. A surprise for many then as this is an attribute from Google that is only just gaining traction in today’s day-and-age – 15 years later!


In 2005, Google joined forces with Yahoo and MSN to battle spammy links. The no follow attribute was used for this. This meant that a backlink could not give any significant influence to a search engine’s ranking any longer.

This year also saw the introduction of personalized search. This method included search and browsing history in order to make search results more relevant.

Google Analytics was launched in November 2005 (with a very different design than you are used to today).


Search results were made even more relevant with Google Suggest. As the name says, Google provides suggestions of keywords based on historical data.


Clash of the titans as Google gets competition from Microsoft: Bing. Bing's search engine initially operated differently than Google in determining ranked position. For example, websites with keywords in the URL were given priority, more words were looked at if they were in capital letters or pages of large websites.

The “Caffeine” update that took place this year ensured faster crawling and indexation.

Real-time search was introduced in December 2009, including tweets and news. So in addition to the standard SEO texts even more people could optimize content for the search engine.


Google Instant technology: displays the suggestions when you start searching. An update was also carried out in which websites with negative reviews received a penalty.

In this year the importance of social media content increased and commonly shared content earned you a higher position in Google.


The “Panda” update led to an even bigger change around SEO. Strict inspection for bad/negative bulk content, intentionally written for the search engines and not your consumers, meant that Google would punish your site with a lower search rank

(Wondering what our  Laméco website looked like in 2011?)


The “Penguin” update continued this major change in 2012. Websites with high quality content were rewarded and smart tricks were recognized. For example, websites with irrelevant internal links were punished.

This year also saw the “Top Heavy” update implemented whereby websites with lots of advertisements above the fold line were punished. From 2012 onwards, the Google Knowledge Graph was shown in the search results, which shows direct answers and not just relevant links (i.e. a way to learn more about famous people, cities, countries, facts, etc.)

Google Knowledge Graph

In addition to the above updates, the “Exact Match Domain” (EMD) update was also implemented. This directly affected sites that used a keyword in the URL and had non-relevant and bad content on their sites.


This was the year of the “Google Hummingbird” update, focused on the meanings behind words. Long term keywords were thus better understood. The goal of this update was to match search results to the meaning of the keywords and not just the individual parts.


The “Pigeon” update resulted in a greater impact on local search results. Thus, even the "baker on the corner” could profit from this update – hooray!


The year of the “mobile” update! From April 2015, websites that were not mobile friendly received lower rankings. Responsive design was therefore given a prominent role in SEO. Due to the great however, unforeseen, impact this update would have on businesses, this update received different names such as mobileddon or mobilepocalypse.

To see if your website meets the requirements of Google you can test it.

The updates from the recent years

In recent years there have been no major updates such as the “Panda” or “Penguin” updates. We are now mainly dealing with smaller changes that are made more frequently and on a yearly basis (such as the message you see when a website is not secured, or the longer meta descriptions which you perhaps have not yet noticed)

Google remains mysterious about the number of updates they make and about the content thereof, but it can be assumed that there are between 500 and 600 updates per year!

Too many to mention here but we will of course keep you informed of the most important updates

Do you want to know more about Google updates?

Get in touch!