Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results,[6] creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase "search engine optimization" probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term.[7] On May 2, 2007,[8] Jason Gambert attempted to trademark the term SEO by convincing the Trademark Office in Arizona[9] that SEO is a "process" involving manipulation of keywords and not a "marketing service."
As of 2009, there are only a few large markets where Google is not the leading search engine. In most cases, when Google is not leading in a given market, it is lagging behind a local player. The most notable example markets are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the Czech Republic where respectively Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, Naver, Yandex and Seznam are market leaders.
However, while bidding $1,000 on every keyword and ranking #1 for every relevant search sounds nice in theory, most businesses have to play a balancing game between ranking higher and paying too much for clicks. After all, if it costs $17.56 to rank in position #1, but you can only afford to pay $5.00 per click, bidding $1,000 on a keyword to guarantee yourself the #1 position would be a great way to bid yourself out of business.

SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective, such as paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of designing, running and optimizing search engine ad campaigns.[56] Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search.[57] A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate.[58] In November 2015, Google released a full 160 page version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to the public,[59] which revealed a shift in their focus towards "usefulness" and mobile search. In recent years the mobile market has exploded, overtaking the use of desktops, as shown in by StatCounter in October 2016 where they analyzed 2.5 million websites and found that 51.3% of the pages were loaded by a mobile device [60]. Google has been one of the companies that are utilizing the popularity of mobile usage by encouraging websites to use their Google Search Console, the Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows companies to measure up their website to the search engine results and how user-friendly it is.

On October 17, 2002, SearchKing filed suit in the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, against the search engine Google. SearchKing's claim was that Google's tactics to prevent spamdexing constituted a tortious interference with contractual relations. On May 27, 2003, the court granted Google's motion to dismiss the complaint because SearchKing "failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."[68][69]

Engagement with the social web means that customers and stakeholders are active participants rather than passive viewers. An example of these are consumer advocacy groups and groups that criticize companies (e.g., lobby groups or advocacy organizations). Social media use in a business or political context allows all consumers/citizens to express and share an opinion about a company's products, services, business practices, or a government's actions. Each participating customer, non-customer, or citizen who is participating online via social media becomes a part of the marketing department (or a challenge to the marketing effort). Whereas as other customers read their positive or negative comments or reviews. Getting consumers, potential consumers or citizens to be engaged online is fundamental to successful social media marketing.[20] With the advent of social media marketing, it has become increasingly important to gain customer interest in products and services. This can eventually be translated into buying behavior, or voting and donating behavior in a political context. New online marketing concepts of engagement and loyalty have emerged which aim to build customer participation and brand reputation.[21]
Look at your short- and long-term goals to choose whether to focus on organic or paid search (or both). It takes time to improve your organic search rankings, but you can launch a paid search campaign tomorrow. However, there are other considerations: the amount of traffic you need, your budget, and your marketing objectives. Once you’ve reviewed the pros and cons, you can select the search strategy that’s right for you.
In 1998, two graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed "Backrub", a search engine that relied on a mathematical algorithm to rate the prominence of web pages. The number calculated by the algorithm, PageRank, is a function of the quantity and strength of inbound links.[22] PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfs the web, and follows links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are stronger than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random web surfer.