Remember when you used to search for things on Altavista? Or Netscape?
Those days may be long gone, and you may not be able to remember anything before Google and Bing existed, but the long history of search has contributed to where we are today. The SEO strategy you are building now is built on the foundation that those out-of-date technologies created.
Taking a look back at the history of search will give you a better appreciation of where things stand today, and it will be an interesting exercise. Here’s a look at the evolution of search:
Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, and he didn’t invent search either.
The earliest days of search were classified by exacting phrases, or what some refer to as “query search.” You couldn’t enter a question or a few keywords and get back results that were related to the same keywords. Instead, you had to enter an exact title to get the page you wanted to show up in your results.
One of the earliest search engines — the one many consider to be the first search engine — was known as Archie. It was introduced in 1991, and it operated on the same exacting principles.
Search engines quickly evolved since these narrow requirements for search queries were too precise for most users. People could not find what they needed in most cases without having to comb through dozens or even hundreds of pages of results.
New search engines focused on faster indexing and smarter search results.
The history of search can be broken down into six eras, with query search being the first. Following query search was demographic search.
Demographic search was largely the result of the introduction of pay-per-click advertising. Specifically, demographic search focused on day parting and language targeting. Those search results helped PPC advertisers target specific markets, which helped websites make more money.
Most of the other changes that evolved over time for search were also the result of the demands of PPC advertising.
Though it may seem that mobile search has become the primary focus in the past few years, it has actually been around since the mid- to late-2000s.
Mobile search started out slow, and it didn’t really explode until about four years ago. However, it began to be a focus long before then, and marketers started looking at ways to reach more customers on smart phones and other mobile devices.
Search engines responded to the growing use of mobile devices by prioritizing websites that were optimized for mobile in search. Other changes were also made to accommodate mobile users such as the way the results appeared.
Much bigger changes have been made since those early days, and more changes are certainly in store. Mobile search has already overtaken desktop search, and the number of mobile users is only expected to grow.
Siri was once a novelty, but there are now many voice-activated search options.
You can use Siri, Amazon Echo and Cortana from Windows 10 to search using voice commands. Bing powers each of those voice searches on the different devices.
More voice-activated assistants are likely to be introduced as personal devices are designed to be more intuitive and convenient. We can imagine a future in which all our electronics are activated by voice controls instead of buttons.
Cookies have long been used to gather data about individual users to provide more tailored information. Now, we have entered the era of intent-based search.
Instead of looking at what sites users have been to, we are trying to make judgments about what users need or want based on their Internet activity, their demographics, their search terms and more.
Intent-based search is designed to provide individual search results that are actually meaningful to the individual. Intent-based search delivers better results for PPC campaigns since it provides users the information they actually want (in theory).
Intelligent search is the era of the future.
Intelligent search will go beyond basic keywords and the data on the page. It will try to understand what users really want or need when they are searching with the same intelligence as a person.
Artificial intelligence is already starting to be used in some of our personal technology, so a future in which it plays a role in search is not too far off.
Pretty soon, your search engine may know what you want to search for before you even put in any search terms. For some, that may be exciting. For others, maybe a little scary.
Looking at the history of search, you can see how quickly changes have been made. Changes that took years before can take months now. What this shows is that you can’t simply focus on the current status quo, but you must look toward the future so you can always be moving with the times.