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A Brief History of Link Building, Part I

Posted by Zach Ball on Oct 17, 2013 11:21:33 AM

If you work in the SEO industry, you know that the history of link building is intricate and quite the roller coaster. The actual history of building links specifically for SEO doesn't span a long length of time, however. Link building began with the rise of Google, since they based the core of their search around links, considering them votes of confidence. Therefore, one of the most important factors in SEO became your website's backlink profile - that is who's linking to your site.

Despite the relatively short amount of time involved, because SEO is fast paced and constantly evolving, the history of link building is filled to the brim with interesting stuff. The world of SEO is changing at such a rate that every month is different, more involved and more alive. It's exciting really, but it also means that SEOs and marketers really need to be ready for whatever comes our way, always anticipating what lies ahead. Understanding the history and the movement of SEO will help in preparing for the future of online marketing.

Link building history

The Early Days

It all started in the late 1990s, the good ol' nineties. Google was founded in 1998, basing the core of their search around links. SEOs quickly learned that building links would increase their visibility in Google, which quickly gained popularity as a search engine.

Unfortunately at this time relevance and link quality weren't as strong of factors as they are today - link quantity reigned supreme. While the original goal of links was to create links that helped readers and added context to the content, this eroded as link quantity became a strong SEO factor. As it were, the people who built faulty and spammy links came out ahead. To remain competitive, it became important to have an infalted backlink profile; it became a game of who can build poor links the fastest.

It was an unfortunate era of SEO and by no means useful to search or web users looking to find legitimate information on the Web. But as any new movement develops, Google's systems improved and evolved over time, forcing SEOs to improve and evolve as well. Google began promoting excellence with a focus on user satisfaction.

Google continued developing algorithm after algorithm to keep spammers at bay, working to make the Web a more usable place for those interested in finding legitimate answers and sites. Google deserves a lot of credit because without their efforts, it would be hard to have such a useful and informative Internet.

The End of the '90s SEO Era

In the early 2000s Google unleashed new algorithms that took the world by storm and gave unsuspecting Internet marketing and SEO professionals some serious whiplash. The search engine shook things up a bit (read: a lot) as they tried to find the best ways to provide results. Everyone involved was thrown for a loop every so often, but each update Google set out, starting with Boston, Cassandra, Dominic and more, helped clean up search results.

The Changing Point

These updates continued to happen and confuse SEOs, but the big kahuna came in 2007 when Google changed the search engine results pages to include videos, news, photos and more. This opened a whole new playing field for SEOs to market their brands and increase website traffic. Yay!

But wait, we have yet to get to the mountain of changes that Google and SEOs have endured in the past three or so years. The early history of link building is incredibly important, but the most recent years of SEO work represent some of the most intricate and intense parts of the movement.

Understanding where search engines came from and where they are today serve as great tools to better anticipate the future of search. So stay tuned for what we have coming up next and get ready to not only learn more about how search engines work in today's world, but how people use the Internet to consume information. Trust me, this stuff is amazing.