Did you just throw up in your mouth a little bit? A lot of people are intimidated by SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. They think it’s a very technical subject that requires mystical powers. Some have had a bad experience with someone claiming to be an SEO Expert. While it’s true that learning about SEO doesn’t happen over night and there’s a lot of noise out there from people promising this and guaranteeing that, with a little bit of knowledge and some common sense, even the average person can start doing things that will impact how well a website ranks. Let’s start this series of posts by first understanding how a search engines works, and how people interact with them.
How Search Engines Work
First of all, let’s not kid around by pretending Google’s not the 800 pound gorilla in the room. There are a few other key search engines to have on your radar, but for the most part I’ll be referring to Google here. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google’s founders, first presented their concept for a large scale search engine in their thesis paper back in the late 90’s while attending Stanford University.
Technically speaking, a search engine preforms four key tasks; crawling, indexing, determining importance, and serving up the familiar search results. Search Engines attempt to seek out and identify each of the interconnected pages that make up the internet. It does so with automated bits of software called Robots (bots) or Spiders. Using the link structure of the web, these bots crawl across billions of pages and look at code for hints about what a particular page is about, and then indexes them in vast databases to be recalled later.
But what are the search engines really looking at? In the early days a search engine didn’t go much further than making sure the keyword being searched for actually showed up prominently on a web page. As people got wise to this and began developing tricks, search results suffered and today search engines use sophisticated algorithms that measure hundreds of different signals to determine a pages relevance and importance to a keyword. It is these two things that search engine optimization attempts to influence.
People interface with search engines by typing in a keyword or phrase related to the information they are seeking. Search engines then hunt through the vast amount of pages their bots have crawled and indexed, finds pages relevant to the keyword query, and determines each pages importance in relation to other similar pages…all in a fraction of a second. This importance is really no more than a popularity contest determined by the number of other relevant pages that link to yours. If an already high ranking page links to yours, a search engine assumes that your page must also have valuable content which improves your page rank.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how a search engine works, we can begin to look at all the things you can start doing to improve your individual web pages (on page) and build links that point to those pages (off page) to increase the traffic coming to your site from search engines. In next week’s post we’ll dive into how you can get started by covering topics like analytics, keyword research and tools available to do so, understanding competitiveness and more!
If there’s any SEO related topics you’d like to chat about let us know in the comments section below, on Facebook or our Twitter page. If you’ve got a handle on this jump ahead to the next post on where to get started.