Search Engine 101: The beginnings

Posted on February 2, 2012


Of the countless number of contributions that Stanford University has produced for society, search engines should rank at the top of the list.

The Stanford’s dorms were where Jerry Yang and David Filo created a directory and searchable index of web pages in 1994 that they called “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” (later renamed to Yahoo!). Two years later, Larry Page and Sergey Brin began their PhD research project — a new type of search engine that would determine search results by analyzing the relevance of the website in the scope of the Internet as opposed to counting how many times the search terms appeared on the site. They, too, would give it a funny name — Google.

Now, the two search engines are Internet heavyweights, playing a vital role in how people consume and navigate through online content.

Knowing and understanding the brief history of search engines — specifically looking at the beginnings of Yahoo! and Google — provide valuable clues into the best practices of SEO.

Examining Yahoo! and pre-Google search engines gives light to the misconception that overloading with certain keywords and search terms alone will optimize content for search engines. In the original “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” in 1994, that was very much true, and much of it remains true today. Keywords, meta data and URL constructions are all key components of SEO, which we will soon cover.

But today, largely thanks to the innovative vision of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, search engine results also key into the websites’ presence. Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines use complex algorithms to compile search results — too complex for me to tackle in my first few days on here — that look to quantify websites’ Internet presence and importance by looking at the content, who else is linking to the site and how fresh the content is.