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Google’s SEO algorithm has become one of the most important ranking factors in modern search engine optimisation (SEO). First introduced by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1996, the SEO algorithm is a system used by Google Search to rank web pages in its search engine results pages (SERPs).

From its inception, though, the SEO algorithm has undergone several significant changes which, in turn, have influenced how SEO works today. In this article, we will explore the evolution of Google’s SEO algorithm and how it has changed over time.

First Generation: 1996-1998

The first version of the SEO algorithm was simple and based on the concept of link popularity. In this version, Google ranked web pages based on the number and quality of links pointing to a given page. Pages with more high-quality inbound links were deemed to be more important than pages with fewer or lower quality links.

Second Generation: 1999-2002

In the second generation of the SEO algorithm, Google began to incorporate additional factors into its ranking process. In addition to link popularity, Google began to consider the relevance of a page’s content to a particular search query, as well as the content’s overall quality and the authority of the site hosting the content.

Third Generation: 2003-2008

The third generation of the SEO algorithm saw the introduction of several new ranking factors, including the age of a domain, the location of the search, and the diversity of the links pointing to a particular page. Google also began to use machine learning techniques to improve its ranking algorithms, including the use of neural networks and natural language processing.

Fourth Generation: 2009-2013

In the fourth generation of the SEO algorithm, Google continued to refine its ranking factors, placing a greater emphasis on user experience and social signals. Google began to consider the bounce rate of a page (how quickly users leave a page after landing on it), as well as the number of social shares and likes a page receives.

Fifth Generation: 2014-2019

By the fifth generation of the SEO algorithm, Google began to place a greater emphasis on mobile optimization, given the growing trend of mobile search traffic. Google also introduced the concept of “semantic search,” which uses natural language processing and machine learning to better understand the intent behind a user’s search query.

Sixth Generation: 2020-Present

The latest version of the SEO algorithm continues to prioritize user experience and the quality of content. Google has also introduced a new ranking factor, known as “page experience,” which includes metrics such as page load speed, mobile responsiveness, and the presence of intrusive pop-ups and ads.

How has Google’s SEO Evolved?

Ultimately, it’s clear that Google’s SEO has undergone several noteworthy changes and updates since it was created in 1996. Here are some of the major changes and milestones in the evolution of SEO:

  • Original SEO algorithm: In the early days of Google, SEO was the primary algorithm used to rank web pages. It was based on the idea that the more quality links a page has, the higher its importance and relevance.
  • Toolbar SEO: In 2000, Google introduced Toolbar SEO, which was a publicly visible SEO score displayed in the Google Toolbar. This allowed website owners to see their SEO score and led to the emergence of link trading and other manipulative tactics to boost SEO.
  • SEO updates: Over the years, Google has released several SEO updates to improve the algorithm’s accuracy and combat spammy practices. Some notable updates include the “Florida” update in 2003, the “Penguin” update in 2012, and the “Mobilegeddon” update in 2015.
  • Deprecation of Toolbar SEO: In 2016, Google officially announced that they would no longer update Toolbar SEO, effectively deprecating the public SEO score. This was done to discourage link trading and other manipulative tactics and encourage website owners to focus on creating high-quality content and building natural links.
  • Integration with other algorithms: Today, SEO is just one of many algorithms that Google uses to rank web pages. Other algorithms include RankBrain, which uses machine learning to interpret search queries, and BERT, which helps Google better understand natural language queries.

The SEO algorithm has come a long way since its inception in 1996. With each new generation, Google has continued to refine its ranking factors and incorporate new technologies to better understand user intent and deliver more relevant and high-quality search results. As the search landscape continues to evolve, we can expect further changes to the SEO algorithm in the years to come.