Understanding the Search Engine Landscape

The world of search engine algorithms is a secretive affair that requires a certain professional approach. Search engine optimization (SEO) is unique in the sense that SEO consulting providers and its professionals are confronted with lots of secrecy and obfuscation practiced by the major commercial search engines, particularly by Google.

The Emergence of Search Engines

The early days of SEO consulting looked radically different from today. When Architext, the first practical internet search engine, was developed by students from Stanford University in 1993, the algorithm and mechanism were available to anyone who wished to research them. Architext would later become Excite, a major commercial online portal.

By late 1993, three search engine bots were crawling the World Wide Web. It only took a year for commercial search engines such as Alta Vista, Lycos and Yahoo to begin using crawler technology for indexing and cataloging.

It would take nearly three more years before Google operated as a commercial search engine. That is when the PageRank algorithm was born; its first iteration was explained in a paper that also indicated the economic value of quality search results in terms of advertising revenue. From 1997 on, the Google algorithm became the most dynamic and closely guarded corporate secret.

How SEO Consulting Started

SEO consulting started around 2001 when internet enthusiasts figured out that a major portion of PageRank consisted in counting the number of inbound links pointing to single webpages or documents. This would result in the strategy known as backlinking.

Google took notice of the nascent SEO field around 2003 when it began discussing algorithm changes through online postings and at developer conferences. By that time, SEO practitioners had figured out not only backlinking but also keyword stuffing; two SEO techniques that had little to do with quality websites. Google penalized these techniques with a major algorithm update named “Florida.” From that point on, SEO practitioners realized the business need of providing a professional service to clients who wanted to improve their online presence.

SEO Consulting as a Holistic Practice

In the last few years, the role of the SEO consultant has evolved into that of an online marketing consultant who is responsible for the internet branding success of his or her clients. This requires a holistic approach that is no longer focused solely on the secretive Google search algorithm.

Modern SEO consulting sees Google as a major online marketing platform, but not as the only one. The holistic SEO consultant will also consider the impact of social media, mobile search including Bing and Yahoo, marketing through dedicated apps, original content production, paid search advertising, online marketing partnerships, and others including offline branding.

The holistic approach to SEO focuses on the entire online experience. A holistic SEO consultant will not only try to improve a client’s rank on the Google search engine results page (SERP); he or she may launch a Twitter campaign or work with mobile app developers to extend the online reach of the brand.