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Google is 20 – How Google shaped the internet

by on September 24, 2018 in Business, Google, Latest News, Lead Article, News you can use, Nuggets

Google is 20 – How Google shaped the internet

How One Company Changed the Online World

Today, Google has become synonymous with search. But its role in shaping our online world and the whole concept of digital marketing runs far deeper.

When a company’s name becomes so strongly linked with its product or service that it becomes a verb in the general lexicon, it is a sure sign that something special has happened. We talk about hoovering the carpet, even if we are using a different brand of vacuum cleaner. And we refer to googling something online.

Today, when a business sits down with an SEO consultancy firm to discuss ways of improving search results, it is Google that everyone has at the forefront of their minds. How can you improve your keywords to attract the Google bots? What are the implications of the latest update to the Google algorithm? How does Google measure authority and relevance? The list of questions goes on, and while other search engines exist, optimising for Yahoo and Bing is invariably considered as an afterthought.

Changing the way the world searches

Like so many of the best ideas, Google was born almost by accident, the result of a PhD paper by two students at Stanford University. It went live on 04 September 1998, and initially, there were no expectations that it would compete with the major search engines of the day, such as Alta Vista, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves.

Of those three pioneers, only Yahoo remains. It swallowed up Alta Vista in 2003, while Jeeves went into retirement in 2006. The point about those early search engines is, to put it simply, that they were not very good. That’s no crime in a sector that is in its infancy, but Google was to them as the Ford Model T was to other cars of its era. It took internet search forward an evolutionary step.

In the days before Google, indexing was a haphazard affair, relying on labour-intensive manual work to source websites and create directories. To get a site included meant either paying money or relying on blind luck. Google, on the other hand, opened up the internet to everyone. Suddenly, getting ranked on a search page was something that the site itself could control, by optimising its content for specific search terms. And so the concept of search engine optimisation was born, and a whole new industry created.

More than just a search engine

Search might be the concept that made Google famous, but, like most companies that rise to the top, it had more lofty aims. While Alta Vista will always be remembered as the site that would send you to sites that provide an answer, Google has taken things a step further.

Ask it the best route from London to Manchester, and it will not send you to a site that can tell you. It will simply give you the answer on Google Maps. Ask the latest football score, or the weather forecast, and it will do the same thing. In many ways, it has taken the concept of search to its logical conclusion. Why send you to someone who can give the answer, when you can simply give the answer yourself?

Looking forward

This concept of providing solutions and answers directly as opposed to a list of sites that might be able to do so was a foreshadowing of the voice search phenomenon that has proved to be more than a fad, and is here to stay. Right now, virtual assistants are still new technology, much as web search was in 1998. One thing is for sure, 2038 will be an interesting place.

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