A brief history of Google, the King of search

As one of the world’s most established digital brands, sometimes it feels like Google’s in with the bricks, what would we do without it. But they’ve just grown out of the terrible teens and hit their 20-year anniversary.

As much as they now dominate the market, they weren’t the first search engine to land on the scene – far from it. Since the launch of the world wide web in the early eighties, there have been many iterations of search engines – from basic crawler-based systems to more intelligent human-powered directories.

On the right is a handy infographic to put the history of Google over the last 30 years into context…

Google evolution concept

Google dominates!

It’s safe to say it’s been a hell of a few years to get the effective search process we, as consumers, experience today.

Despite the many companies who have challenged Google’s dominance, they still hold nearly 80% of the global market share for search engines. This  means they process around 3.5 billion searches per day! 

So how did they do it?

The history of Google, a search King

Let’s rewind. Google actually started off as Backrub, the project of two Stanford University students in 1996. This then led on to the Google product as we know it – a search engine that organised the world’s information to make it accessible to the public.

These two students created an algorithm that would allow them to download the internet and search it for information.

Google did things a little differently to other search engines though. Instead of prioritising financial gain, they prioritised user experience in order to be the most popular tool amongst search users.

In more recent years, they have positioned themselves as the ‘go-to’ place for users seeking a quick answer. From launching their own browser (Chrome), buying over the king of video (Youtube) and holding the mobile operating system market share (Android), it’s hard to avoid using Google products (or for other companies to compete with it…). History lesson over.

infographic showing the history of search engines

Google as we know it today

Now of course, Google is far more than a search engine. It’s become a word in its own right, entering the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2006. We Google things everyday – from the time of the next train to how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

Here at Whitewall, we use it constantly. We have Google news alerts set up for our brands, we use Google Sheets and Docs for collaborative working, we prefer Chrome over any other browser, and appreciate the vast array of plugins that make our working day so much easier. We use Google Maps to help with local keyword research, Google Analytics, Search Console and AdWords to monitor campaigns, as well as Trends, Tag Manager and Gmail…the list goes on.

And we aren’t the only ones. Google has made it easier than ever to sync your life with its tools, so someone else is going to have to do a really, really good job to convince us to make a switch.

Is Google in danger of losing the top spot?

Throughout the history of Google their market share has remained so huge that they probably won’t be knocked off the top spot quite yet (if ever…). But there are a few stumbling blocks in their way.

  • Ad blocking is becoming a huge issue for search engines like Google, and with sophisticated ad blocking software now available to the masses, they might have to step up their game to avoid a detrimental effect.
  • User privacy is another one. DuckDuckGo has this covered and prevents the sharing of user information by default. This causes issues for SEO experts though, as it isn’t possible to track the search terms entered by that particular use who has arrived on your site. DuckDuckGo has seen a 50% rise in search traffic in the last 18 months alone, so perhaps they’re one to put on the watch list…
  • Of course, the rise of voice search could also pose a threat to Google. With Amazon having the advantage here, Google has some work to do. Although we reckon they caught on quickly enough and released the Google Assistant software to rival the Amazon Alexa. Panic over.


The future of search

An increase in searches

Compared to when the internet and search engines first launched, the number of people searching online everyday has Googoloplied (we made that one up!).

With 15% of searches a day never having been searched before on Google, the snowball just keeps on rolling and growing. That means search engines have a lot of work to do to continue to provide relevant information to users.

Information demand

What do we want? Information! When do we want it? Right now – if not two seconds ago!

As consumerism shows no sign of slowing down, the speed in which we want information about products and services is speeding up. We are constantly connected and whether it’s by mobile, desktop, smart watch, tablet, digital advertising screens, or home technology we expect answers to our queries and we expect them now.

And as consumer behaviour changes, search engine algorithms will too. In November 2019, we saw the release of BERT – one of Google’s latest algorithms (and most important in the last decade). BERT focusses on natural language, interpreting search terms more like a human would rather than a robot. This in turn will provide more accurate and relevant search results for users. Your home assistant has no excuse for the lack of understanding now…


What it means for SEO experts

SEO experts will have to continue to monitor the latest trends, keep up to date with Google’s algorithms and adapt their content to suit user searches.

It’s likely we’ll see a heavy focus on natural language (as BERT is already doing) in line with voice search technology. Despite the varying different predictions for how fast voice search will grow, we can be sure that it will be a major factor in SEO campaigns going forward. Ignore it at your peril…

Looking for expert advice on using SEO as part of your placemaking content strategy?

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