Monday 18 November, 2013
On September 27th 2013, Google celebrated its 15th birthday. Fifteen years ago on that day, two Stanford graduate students founded the company and named it after googol, the mathematical term for 1 followed by a hundred zeros. At the time, no one could’ve imagined that it would one day be not only the biggest and most important search engine, but also a verb that’s in your dictionary.
How did they get from there to here? They did it by taking an innovative approach that aimed at giving the best user experience possible. Google was created to actually help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Keywords and Databases
Search engines at the time didn’t use the complex algorithms they use today. Keywords and search terms were compared with keywords and search terms stored in their databases. The search engine would bring you the websites most closely associated with the search terms. It was totally based on keywords so the results weren’t always relevant.
Google figured out a better way by adding links to the equation. Search results weren’t just based on keywords but also on how many links were coming back to a site and from where. A site with more relevant backlinks came up higher in the results. This was the beginning of the kind of algorithms marketers fall over themselves trying to crack today.
Google didn’t invent the wheel but just made it turn better. Upon its releases in 1998, it was already superior to other search engines and it didn’t take long for internet users to figure this out.
Build It First, Sell It Later
Google also took a unique approach to running its business. The philosophy was to build it first and monetize later. Instead of looking for profits at the beginning, Google spent time growing its brand. So, while other search engines were slathered with ads, Google was clean. It sought only to deliver the right search results. By the time it began to monetize, it was a world-renowned brand so monetizing was easy.
Forget about Stickiness
The early search engines cared a great deal about stickiness. They wanted you to stay on their site. Google didn’t. In fact, at one point around 2002, it started putting links to its competitors on the bottom of their search results pages! It’s as if they were saying, ‘Think you can get better results somewhere else? Try it.’
Google did this because it knew it was good and that you’d come back. The company also managed by ignoring stickiness to predict the way people would surf the web in the future. Today we spend less time on websites and with smartphones this trend is only accelerating.
Many would say that Google effectively killed bookmarks. It made it so easy to find the site you wanted and was so fast that there was no more need for them. You can just enter the site you want into Google and it will bring it straight to you.
Finally, the reason Google grew to the top is the same reason why it’s probably going to stay there – it’s a company that believes in constant innovation. As web surfing trends change, Google changes with it, updating its algorithms hundreds of times each year and developing smarter search technologies. Here’s to another 15 years.