Remembering the Old Days of SEO

I’ve been nostalgic lately, thinking about how much has changed in the SEO industry, in the last year, in the last five years. I started thinking about when I got into internet marketing, leaving my days of direct marketing behind for a career on the information superhighway. I thought about the road that brought me here and the many stops along the way.

I started doing SEO back in 2005, working in-house as part of a bigger marketing department. I won’t get too anecdotal about my early experiences, other than to say things were very (VERY) different back then.

During this particular trip down memory lane, I started thinking about the sites and forums I used to frequent, where I cut my teeth on SEO. At the time, I was wide-eyed and wondrous. I wanted to learn it all: black hat, white hat and everything in-between.


Everyone knows that the fastest way to get down memory lane is in a DeLorean

I’m thankful, as I take that trip, that the bones of the things I cut my teeth on are still out there, still as valuable today as they were back then. It’s true that the rush is over, but there’s still gold in them thar hills, especially if you know where to start digging.

ThreadWatch was a discussion-based site started in 2004 by Nick Wilsdon. At the time, it was the who’s who of the SEO biz, with regular posts by many of the industry’s brightest. In 2007, Nick passed the torch to Aaron Wall, who’s kept it intact to this day. There’s nothing new since 2007, but for anyone interested in the history of SEO, there’s 300+ pages of great discussions and insights.

WebmasterWorld was a forum I never belonged to (I frequented a site called SearchGuild, run by Denise Russel & Chris Ridings), but it was (and still is) one of the best repositories of data for anything web related, from how to construct an .htaccess file for canonicalization to the fastest ways to get inbound links.

Back when I started, there was a lot of discussion (even among the experts) about what exactly SEO was. Some people (Doug Heil comes to mind), took it on themselves to champion the white-hat cause where others, (Earl Grey comes to mind) managed to build reputations as black hats. In a lot of ways, the white/black debate made things harder (do you want to make money, or do you want to build a brand?), but it also made things a lot more interesting – especially when the legends of SEO would step into the ring to battle it out, like this epic battle between Doug Heil and Danny Sullivan.

And of course, who can forget the Google updates? Google freely admits to them now, but back in the day, they wouldn’t admit to anything. In those days, people  fondly referred to algorithm changes as the Google Dance. Then people started naming them (Boston was the first named update). Now, Google not only tells us when they update, but what each update resolves, but if you’d like to know more about what’s changed – SEOmoz has this great application that outlines Google’s update history.

Where did you cut your teeth?

Have any stories from the old days you’d like to share? Tell them here, we’d love to hear them!

Sean Enns

Sean Enns is a marketing professional who started in marketing and sales in 1997. In 2004, he began his career in search engine optimization and corporate communications.

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