Every religion, industry, or even a family, can trace their roots from their early fathers. Islam has Mohammed, Genetics have Gregor Mendel, and the current British Royal Family has King Edward VII.

SEO, however, has a different story. Its discovery cannot be truly associated to a lone wolf. For one, the industry is too multifaceted to be developed by one human alone. But although the invention of SEO cannot be attributed to a particular person, there are a handful of individuals who were considered pioneers or developers of the field. It is on these “gangsters” that we can credit what SEO is today.

Danny Sullivan—The Self-studied SEO Specialist

Danny Sullivan started in the industry back when SEO was nonexistent. Just like other pioneers, he stumbled on the field upon wondering how search engines rank their results. Being the journalist that he was, he started searching for answers anywhere he could find them. The following year, he compiled them all in his book, “The Webmasters Guide to Search Engines.”

The book paved the way for others to find out what was once a field of imagination, and soon enough, he became a household name. Most SEO pioneers and giants today attribute almost everything they learned to this man and his work, making him one of the most recognized pioneers in the industry.

Jill Whalen—The “Content Keyword” Contributor

Her road to SEO opened when she first fulfilled her calling as a mother of two. Because she wants to help other parents, she set up a virtual parenting website for those who want to share and ask advice about their family lives.

As the website grows, she began to grow curious about how online users can find her site. To find out, she fired up the search engine and started typing in phrases related to her parenting chat room. Upon seeing the search results, she found out the relationship of page content on the keyword phrases typed in search engine boxes.

Simply put, Jill was the one who discovered the importance of inputting relevant keywords and writing valuable content for online users to find you. This discovery continues to influence the field of SEO today.

Eric Ward—The First Website Publicist

Eric Ward’s background was originally in marketing and public relations. But unlike the other gangsters, his start came more as an accident than a deliberate wandering in search for answers. Laid off at 29, he decided to go back to university to further widen his skills set.

One day, in his IT entrepreneurship class, his professor gave them an assignment: build your own imaginary information industry company. Because he has experience in advertising and PR, his business proposal was to become a publicist for websites. He pitched this idea to the US Internet’s vice president, and the latter liked the idea. And after years of hard work and a bit of self-promotion as a “site publicist,” he got his first big client: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com.

To cut the story short, he agreed to become Amazon’s website publicist, or in modern terms, a human link builder. Since then, clients come pouring in, hiring him to ask reputable website owners to link their site. He saw the beauty of what link building can do for a website’s credibility, and it gave him a place in the history of SEO as the pioneer of link building.

Christine Churchill—The Software Tool Distributor

Christine was originally a military woman who was labeled “geek” by her colleagues because of her work as a missile officer which requires her to face computers all day. Thus, it is not a surprise that her boss asked for her help in building a website in time for a conference he would attend in a month.

Clueless about the task, Christine devoured books and other resources related to HTML, and eventually became a self-made web designer—a job that needs her full attention and cooperation. Thankfully, her husband and friend who are both programmers helped her edit tons of web pages by creating software tools. These tools eventually became products of her online company, NetMechanic.

And for other users to benefit from the free tools her programmer connections created, she self-studied SEO and used it to promote their products. And thanks to her background in psychology, she was able to determine the whims of her target market and use SEO to bring it to them, a practice that eventually led to the birth to site analytics.

John Audette—He Who Gave The Name

When John Audette was starting on SEO, there are only a handful of people who study and use it on their websites (the industry does not even have a name!). These people do their SEO in-house. It was Audette who paved the way for it to become an industry in itself by creating a company that specializes in providing SEO services—the Multimedia Marketing Group (MMG).

At first, the company’s role was to put up websites for their clients. Later on, John felt the need to market the websites they are creating. After all, what’s the point of making one if nobody can see it? So he decided to hire Danny (The same Danny mentioned earlier) to teach them the ins and outs of the industry.

MMG’s main headquarters were located in Bend, Oregon that time. John brought Danny there to learn all about Internet marketing. But to make the business more official, John gave the industry a name that eventually stuck through the years to come: Search Engine Optimization. Today, Oregon is recognized as “the birthplace of search.”

The birth of SEO cannot be pointed out by anyone in the same manner that people could not identify who invented the Internet. Just like other inventions, the industry was born out of the necessity of the public to search within archives of web pages different people made across the world.

And with business people taking advantage of the growing market, they started to figure out how to be the first one that online users can find when they need something. Within that process, SEO came to be. And thanks to these people, the industry is alive and well.