I remember my first online account; it was AOL in 1991. It had many limitations, particularly in search, and limited to only within their portal. At the time, the other online services commercially available were Prodigy and CompuServe; some offering more content than others. They all offered an email account.
Using the AOL dial-up, I discovered a way to access the www and came across Archie, the first index portal on the internet. This was mind blowing. It listed hundreds of links to websites. This was the moment I knew the internet had the potential to change the marketing landscape.
In 1994 Yahoo Search was the king. Others like Infoseek, Altavista, WebCrawler, Lycos, Looksmart & Hotbot were coming on the scene and finding their audience.
Back then building html websites (web 1.0) was the norm, and when finished, they would be submitted to search engines for indexing. It was simple, they all needed web site listings to list.
Fast forward to 1998. Google makes its splash, simple, uncluttered and fast. Google developed an algorithm which ranked pages using citation notation (any mention of a website on another website counted as a vote toward the mentioned site). This still holds true today, but is only a small portion of what Google uses for site ranking. To receive a top rank today, google checks word & site structure, inbound and outbound links, authority and much more. In addition, Google updates their algorithm regularly integrating new technologies.
Globally, Google is the most popular search engine with 65% market share, Bing with just under 16% and Yahoo 8%. However, these figures only represents desktop search.
Search has evolved from indexing by category, keyword, auto complete to voice command. Just recently it was announced that search via handheld devices is usurping desktop devices. With the advent of handheld devices, mobile search has exploded. Google owns a whopping 91% mobile/tablet share. So this might be a good time to check how responsive your site is.