Today I’m sharing a piece of research that looks back at 16-17 years’ worth of key features and changes to Google, its SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and other search services.
I’ve spent a fair few hours scouring the web for images and dates in an attempt to try and visualize this timeline. The purpose here is to recall technologies of the past and compare those that survived with how they first existed.
Before I begin I’d like to give special kudos to the likes of: seroundtable.com, searchengineland.com, googlesystem.blogspot.co.uk and all those that have contributed to Wiki on the topic. Without you guys and your efforts over the years this would have been a hell of a lot harder. Thank You.
Disclaimer - this is not everything that has ever happened in Google SERPs, it’s a starting point. The dates provided are based on the best I could find at the time.
If you noticed something inaccurate or have a SERP feature you think should be included in this list, just tweet us at @bandertron or @highpositionseo with the hashtag #BackToTheSerps.
Hope you enjoy the post!
(p.s. sorry for the RSI your scrolling finger might endure over the next 5 minutes)
Let us start at the beginning…
Google/Backrub in 1996-1997 (The Stanford University Years)
Whilst studying at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brinn collaborate on building a new Web Crawler called “BackRub” . Web crawling begins in March 1996. The Backrub server remains hosted at Stanford for a year.
Larry and Sergey decide “BackRub” needs a new name. They choose to go with “Google” which is a play on the word “Googol” (1.0 × 10100) to represent the colossal amount of information found on the World Wide Web. The domain google.com is registered on 15th September 1997.
Google in 1997-1998
The more familiar “Google” logo and layout begins to take form and evolve. Google’s index contains around 25 million pages at this point.
Google! goes Beta, with special Standford and Linux Searches still in place:
TIP: Fancy going back in time to experience just how Google looked in 1998? Just search “Google in 1998”
Google in 1999
The classic Google logo everybody remembers goes live on May 31, 2022 and remains the same for 10 years and 11 months (until May 5, 2022) - it is the longest standing Google logo to date.
Google in 2000
- Google breaks the billion page index milestone and becomes the largest search engine in the world.
- Google traffic is growing at 3 million queries each day.
- Google search expands into 13 new languages.
- Google starts to integrate Open Directory Data.
- Matt Cutts joins the Google team.
- Google Toolbar is released. Search is now available straight from the browser.
October 2000 - Most notably, Google AdWords Launches. Originally only available to 350 customers, the year 2000 saw the first text ads on Google Search Result Pages. The “Ca-Ching” begins!
Google in 2001
- Google’s first public acquisition: Deja.com’s Usenet Discussion Service.
- Eric Schmidt is named chairman on the board of directors, then later becomes CEO in August 2001.
- First international office opens in Tokyo, Japan.
- First Google Zeitgeist is published.
A new tabbed interface arrives to give users easier access to the different types of information Google provides:
July 2001 - Google Image search arrives:
If anyone has a screenshot for this please, please let me know @bandertron as I couldn’t find one anywhere!
Paid search results continues to evolve:
Google in 2002
- AdWords shifts from Cost-Per-Impression model to Cost-Per-Click.
March 2002 - Google News Beta is introduced providing a continually updated index of news supplied from around the web.
May 2002 - Google Labs begins. One of the early Labs projects was the first attempt by Google at voice search. It was done via the telephone! This early attempt at voice search was eventually abandoned but returns in 2009 when Google introduces voice search on android. Later on in June 2011 voice search is found in the SERPS themselves.
December 2002 - Froogle arrives, changes names about a million times over the years and then finally settles as “Google Product Search”. No Sorry, “Google Shopping”:
Google keyword shortcuts are introduced to help users navigate between results but is later discontinued in 2006:
Google in 2003
- Google acquires the blog platform, Blogger.
- AdSense is announced.
- Google Grants become available to non-profit charities.
September 2003 - Pages in the supplemental index are highlighted in Google’s search results. This label later disappears in August 2007:
December 2003 - Google launch “Google Print” which later becomes “Google Books”:
Google in 2004
- Launch of Orkut, Google’s first stab at a social network.
- Google stock goes on sale at a price of $85 per share. ($1,207.00 today).
- European headquarters open in Ireland.
- Google Suggest starts as a Google Lab project.
April 2004 - Gmail goes beta and is launched on April Fool’s day:
Google begins delivering users local information in its searches:
Google in 2005
- Personalisation of search results begin by tapping into user search history.
- The first video goes on YouTube (not owned by Google until October 2006).
- Google Mobile Web Search is launched (would love an image if anyone has one).
February 2005 - Google Maps arrives along with Google Earth later on in the year (June 2005):
June 2005 - Webmaster tools is launched!
November 2005 - Google Analytics is released following the acquisition of Urchin back in April 2005:
Google in 2006
- Google Translate launches.
- Google Checkout is the first step towards the whole Google Wallet vision.
- Google acquires YouTube for $1.65 billion.
March 2006 - Google Finance Launches:
May 2006 - Google Trends helps users understand and compare search trends over time:
September 2006 - Sitelinks make an appearance “More results from”:
Google continues to experiment with new SERPs that aim to make better use of space and explore easier navigational elements:
Google in 2007
- Traffic info comes to Google Maps.
- Android is announced.
- Streetview debuts in 5 US major cities.
May 2007 - Google Universal Search arrives in the main Google search result pages; integrating video, news, books, images and local results all in one search result:
Google introduces local information for queries relating to a place, business, or other local information. Later on in the year reviews become a part of local business listings, with top level metrics appearing alongside the result:
Google in 2008
- Google acquires DoubleClick.
- Generation 1 of the Google search app is released in conjunction with the launch of the Apple 3G iPhone.
- Voice search, makes its first appearance via the Google iPhone App.
- The first mobile phone running purely off Android is built.
- Google Chrome is announced in a quirky comic leak.
April 2008 - Froogle becomes Google Product Search:
June 2008 - Google starts to integrate real-time stock information from Google Finance directly in search results:
August 2008 - After an initial experimental launch in 2004, Google Suggest is integrated into main search engine:
Google in 2009
- Google Voice is released.
- Beta testing of YouTube advertising.
- Chrome OS is announced.
- Social Search is introduced via the Google Labs project.
May 2009 - Rich Snippets arrive and start spicing up SERP results:
October 2009 - Google launch the Rich Snippet Testing Tool to help webmasters correctly mark-up their content:
Users are given the ability to control business data within Google Places:
Google maps starts taking up even more SERP real-estate:
December 2009 - Google Realtime appears in SERPs but is later shut down in July 2011 after Twitter pulls the plug on Google’s access to their fire hose:
Google in 2010
- Google introduce the Nexus One.
- Google TV.
- Streetview goes global.
- Self-driving cars.
- New Logo.
- Google Caffeine improves indexing speed.
February 2010 - more local features. Google introduces methods to help users refine searches by location:
July 2010 - With Google Images now getting over a billion pageviews a day Google attempts to monetise Image search by introducing Image Ads:
September 2010 - Google clearly has speed on the mind. Google Instant appears to make searching easier and faster. “search-before-you-type“:
November 2010 - Google launches Instant Previews:
November 2010 - Continuing the local SERP progress made in 2008-9, along comes Google Hotpot:
Another experimental feature appears, The Virtual Keyboard. An aid for searching in other languages:
Google in 2011
- The Google+ project launches.
- Major design makeover for all Google products.
- Google buys Zagat to incorporate within Google Places.
- Google+ Pages come on the scene.
Google introduce new navigation menu:
March 2011 - Google +1 buttons appear in Google search result listings to tie in with personalisation and social metrics:
June 2011 - Google Authorship hits the SERPs:
Google Test Super Sitelink Stack:
Google in 2012
- Android Market gets re-branded as GooglePlay.
- Project Glass is unveiled.
- Google Drive launches.
- Knowledge graph arrives in search.
- Venice Update - Local Universal results.
- Google Now is launched.
- Google Fibre starts getting installed in the US.
- Google Product Search gets another re-brand and becomes “Google Shopping”.
- Google Introduces Knowledge Graph:
Google in 2013
- Enhanced Campaigns arrive on the scene.
- Google Play Music subscription service arrives.
- Google acquires ‘Waze’ to improve Map traffic data.
- Revamp of Google+.
- Gmail introduces new inbox to help users manage and organise their mail.
June 2013 - Google Launches Local Results Carousel:
August 2013 - In-depth articles appear in search results:
August 2013 - Google introduce “Ask Google” for flights, Reservations, Purchases, Plans and Photos.
June 2013 - Google start counting calories:
July 2013 - Google allows you to set a timer within the search results:
Well done, you made it to the end! You clearly love Google SERPs
Don’t forget to tell other SERP lovers.
What’s next..? You tell us! Feel like we’ve missed a vital SERP feature? Noticed a date is wrong? Have an image we could include? Which past feature do you miss the most? Got an opinion on a feature you think Google should introduce?
Leave your thoughts below or tweet us @bandertron or @highpositionseo with the hashtag #BackToTheSerps.
Sources of Information & Images:
Special thanks to all of the following resources. If we’ve missed anyone please let us know!
Great to look back at the Google that started when our careers were so embryonic, it is incredible to think of the Billions and Billions that have been made and also lost during that time through the internet and its infrastructure. I just watched the programme that had the Bebo founders featured, sold out for $870 million to AOL when it was already nosediving to Facebook. Then sometime later to purchase it back for &1 million in that one moment it sums up the internet and Google.