Today, natural referencing, in other words SEO, has established itself as THE lever for web marketing. He is the only one who is known, at least in name, by your entire professional environment. But for any budding web marketer, it can be very rewarding to go back over the history of this lever, the latter being closely linked with the evolution of the web, search engines and how we use these two elements. So let’s retrace its history, from its beginnings until today, to then conclude on an opening towards the future of natural referencing …

The birth of search engines

We are in 1991, Tim Berners-Lee publishes the first website in the world. It will take 3 years for the search engines to come into existence, aimed at structuring the search since this “World Wide Web” project seems to be gaining momentum. It’s Yahoo which was born first in 1994, then our dear Google will come in 1997.

Training & Co'm

Of course, it will take a few more years for the first bits of what will later be called “Search Engine Optimization” to be created. Between 1997 and 2003, there were no good and bad SEO practices, anything goes as the other would say : Keyword stuffing, questionable backlinks…

But fear not, the search engines (not to say Google) will quickly realize that you have to defend your users from these kinds of practices.

Don’t Be Evil: The beginnings of SEO


Between 2003 and 2005, the web was in full development, causing a radical change in the use of the Internet. Google understands that it is necessary to reframe the methods of referencing sites in order to improve the user experience of its tool.

“Don’t be Evil” was the slogan of Google’s time. The message is clear: bad SEO practices will no longer be accepted by the search engine. The user, understand the internet user, is gradually starting to take center stage in the eyes of search engines. However, Google will still take a long time to develop the complex and strict algorithms that we know today.

ZMOT or “Zero Moment Of Truth”

The evolution of search engines and the sites they reference is leading to a change in behavior among the Internet user. Indeed, the latter is becoming more and more demanding. What could be more logical since everything turns more and more around him. Google then speaks of “ZMOT”, acronym for “Zero Moment Of Truth”. This phenomenon corresponds to the desire of search engines to respond instantly to user needs. If possible, the ultimate goal would even be to get ahead of him on his quest for a solution.

We are between 2006 and 2009, Google is already a real internet giant. It was at this time that he developed several tools that will lead to the professionalization of SEO. We are talking about tools like Google Analytics, which will allow web marketers to target their analyzes much better and thus provide better reports. No more “DIY referencing”, SEO becomes a profession in its own right.

“Content is KING. “


Bill Gates announced it already in January 1996: the content is ROI. This sentence alone constitutes the first command of SEO. Instead of trying all the dubious practices possible and imaginable, put these efforts in quality writing instead. This is what will drive all of Google’s actions from 2010 through today. Natural referencing becomes more complex, its rules more strict: no unique quality content, no good positioning … on the contrary.

SERPs (search results pages) are also evolving and diversifying. Internet users now have a multitude of types of results to meet their demand: Knowledge graph, local results, highlighting social networks, including the birth of Google +.

Finally, the interest of backlinks increases tenfold naturally. Indeed, since content becomes the key to any SEO strategy, the natural sharing of its content gives importance to it in the eyes of search engines.

We are very close to SEO as we know it today.

Google knows you by heart … and it’s scary

The time for keyword stuffing and abusive tags now seems so distant. Our search engine becomes so powerful, so personalized that it becomes terrifying.


The question of privacy on the net has been at the heart of the debate for the past few years. Google’s desire to hyper-personalize searches is good, but it’s mostly causing it to lose the trust of its users. This is how new players have entered the market, offering a less intrusive alternative (Qwant or DuckduckGo).

If the situation is complex for Google, the web marketer can enjoy it. Research becomes completely targeted, optimized for all devices, for every need, for every moment. The profession is getting richer, but the competition is getting tougher. SEO is getting more and more meticulous, optimization is now about the long tail, SMO, netlinking.

In addition to all this, the evolution of practices is exponential with the speed of technological upheavals. The secret of an effective SEO strategy is that it is not fixed, that it adapts day by day.

And tomorrow ?

Let’s leave the crystal balls aside and talk a bit about our lines of thinking for the future of SEO:

1. Search engines will seek to penalize more and more duplicate content. This problem has existed for a number of years and is already facing sanctions in terms of SEO. However, we still see today a significant amount of content copied and duplicated by sites seeming to have nothing to do with possible sanctions for their referencing;

2. Voice search will take precedence over text search. In view of the considerable growth in voice assistants, it is possible to envisage that more than one in two searches will be carried out orally within a few years. This phenomenon will drastically change thinking about the lexical field of sites and give significant importance to tools like Google’s featured snippet;


3. Visual research also seems to be an axis on which search engines are working. The media content of the sites, which is already crucial today, will therefore have to be given even more thought by web marketers.


Despite all these developments that SEO has experienced over the past 25 years, we realize that the search engines have targeted their goal very early and have not changed course since. This goal is yourself, the user.