Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Ph.D. students at Stanford University when search engines were just beginning to attempt to provide users with the ability to search the Internet for webpages that were contextually relevant to the keywords and phrases those users were typing into search boxes. The problem was that those first search engines could not tell the difference between a credible and reliable source of information and an unreliable information source. In the real world you are much more likely to take advice from someone who has proven themselves as an authority on a subject, rather than someone who simply has an opinion but no credible expertise.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin realized this and set out to create a way of solving this problem by giving search engines a way to distinguish between pages that have demonstrated credibility and those that have not. Larry and Sergey created an algorithm that scored every page based on the links that were pointing to that page from other webpages. Essentially, every link pointing to a page was a vote for that page as being a “quality” page. A page with a lot of links pointing to it was seen as an “important” page and getting a link from an “important” page that had a lot of links pointing to it would give you more “link juice” than getting a link from an “unimportant” page that did not have a lot of links pointing to it.
Larry and Sergey called this algorithm “PageRank” and they attempted to sell it to the existing search engines, unfortunately no one was interested in purchasing this new technology and so Larry and Sergey released their own search engine, named it Google, and lived happily every after.
Today Google is a multinational Corporation and runs the most popular website in the world along with an incredible array of popular services. Even with all of the tools and the incredible popularity of their Android mobile platform, nearly all of Google’s profits come from their AdWords advertising platform. However, Google’s search engine remains their most popular service by far. For all of it’s complexity, Google’s business model relies on two pillars, Google Search to bring in the traffic and AdWords to monetize.
From the beginning, Google’s mantra was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and this is exactly what their organic search results have done. The organic search results utilize a complex algorithm that consists of over 200 different factors to find, analyze, score and categorize webpages, slicing and dicing their information so that it can be presented in a variety of formats that Google has created to help their users quickly and easily find whatever they are looking for online.
The main feature of the organic search results is that they are “free”. They are supposed to give every webpage an equal opportunity to rank in the search results based on the merits of that page. You cannot directly buy your way onto the search results.
The Birth of the SEO Industry
Soon after Google launched in 1998, a new field of online marketing specialization emerged. It was called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it’s goal was to help websites achieve high rankings in Google and other search engines for specific keywords and phrases that target customers were likely to use when looking for their products and services online. While Google closely guarded the secrets of its ranking algorithm, SEO professionals quickly reverse engineered results to figure out how to manipulate the organic search results and began offering SEO services.
Through a combination of optimizing the information provided by a website and building links to it, SEO gave website owners the ability to climb the rankings and gain massive exposure for important search terms.
Over time, as Google has become more sophisticated in it’s ability to understand and categorize different types of content, the features of Google Search have been continuously expanded. In the next section we will take a look at the different features of Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).