Many of you may have heard of this term before, but what is SEO and how exactly does a search engine work? These are only a few of the questions we will get through in this week’s post about SEO basics.
What is SEO?
SEO or rather Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic to your website from the “organic” searches on search engines. The term “organic” refers to all results that come up without having to pay for features such as Google AdWords.
AdWords are found in the right hand column or above organic searches in a slightly different colored block. See an example below of the differences between the two when searching for wireless internet.
The green sections represent AdWords and the red section represents organic (or ‘natural’ searches. The aim of Search Engine Optimization is to have your website appear as close to the top of the red section as possible.
How a Search Engine Works
A search engine has two main functions – crawling and building an index, and thereafter providing answers by calculating relevancy and then giving results.
Lets first take a look at crawling and indexing.
To make things simpler, imagine the World Wide Web to be a large city railway system. Each stop along the way is its own unique webpage, PDF, JPG or other file type. What search engines now need to do is “crawl” their way through each stop, by using links. Note that these spiders can only read text and not images.
Search engines make use of “crawlers” or “spiders” to get through many billions of interconnected documents. Once these pages have been found, the crawlers will then sort through all the code and store or index select pieces in massive hard drives, which are later retrieved when needed for a search.
Search engines have built data centres found all around the world to store these momentous amounts of data, and who can blame them? After all, when you perform a search you are expecting results in less than 2 seconds, and any delay can cause great dissatisfaction to the user.
Their second function is to provide answers.
At the end of the day, a search engine is basically an answering machine. When you type in your search term, the engine will firstly find all content relevant or useful to the search query, and then thereafter they will rank those searches in order of perceived usefulness.
To a search engine, relevance means more than simply finding a page with the right words. As the years have gone by, search engines have devised better ways to find more helpful results that searches would find more valuable to them.
So how exactly do Search Engines Determine Importance?
Search engines will interpret importance as popularity- the more popular the website, the more important the content is considered. This way of thinking has been successful thus far as the more search engines implement and refine this technique, the more satisfied their searchers are.
Popularity and relevance aren’t determined manually, instead search engines devise carefully calculated algorithms to help sift through all the content and find what is most valuable to the searcher and then present it to them. These algorithms are comprised of hundreds of components, in the search marketing field we refer to them as “ranking factors”.
Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO is and how a search engine operates, next we will take a look at why search engine marketing is necessary.