Well, most people know what a search engine is, “ya, it’s google, and bing and yahoo too!”. These search engines are most commonly used whenever somebody accesses the World Wide Web with the attempt to either do something (purchasing or communicating), learn something (educating), or to get somewhere (looking up a specific page without knowing the exact URL). (Thanks for the lesson, HubSpot!)
It appears so natural, since everybody does it- but ask yourself, do you know how the ‘Web’ is actually set up and how these processes work? I didn’t. What I learned from MOZ’s Guide to SEO is that the web basically is a really big collection of pages/files which are accessible through a complex set of hyperlinks. These hyperlinks allow users and search engines to navigate their way around the web to discover new content. Now comes the horror- before search engines existed, the only way to find your way around the web was to type in the exact address of the page you wanted (Remember phone books? Yeah, you would need the same thing for URLs if Search Engines didn’t exist. haha.. no wonder that the first one was invented shortly after the Web was published to the normal folks).
During the early 90’s the first search engines were developed and soon many commercial engines followed up. The number of webpages and users had grown to the point where discovering the content you were looking for simply was no longer manageable via a centralized list. (Google itself started in 1996 and was originally called BackRub. It was the first search engine to realize the power and potential of links as a signal of trust and authority.. “what the..”-“later, just wait man!”)
Search Engines do 3 things: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.
- Crawling – This is the process that search engines use to discover new content. They have special programs that visit web pages and follow the links on them to find new pages (these programs are mostly referred as ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’.. makes it easy to grasp. Spiders walk along the web, always looking for what might have landed on it.)
- Indexing – The search engines maintain a copy of the content of all web pages they have visited. This index is stored on a large collection of computers, in such a manner that it can be searched through very rapidly (oh my god, I can’t even imagine how much that is. My brain would probably explode if I would only know 0,01% of that amount).
- Ranking – This is the area of search engines that SEO is most concerned with. When a user performs a search on any search engine, the engine needs a ‘recipe’ (known as analgorithm) it can use to evaluate the pages in its index to determine which are most relevant, and thus determine in which position (rank) they are returned to the user.
Google-Matt here on Youtube gives an awesome introduction to these processes. Kinda mind-blowing.
Now we are consent about what the web is and what search engines do. Talking about optimization, SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines. Why would you want to raise traffic? We had that: traffic → popularity and leads → potential customers → business success. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand. But do not forget: SEO isn’t just about building search engine-friendly websites. It’s about making your site better for people too. In the end, it’s all about content. If the content of a page is good, people will refer to it and the page will be ranked higher on the search engine results.
So how does Ranking work and can it be improved? Luckily, popularity and relevance of pages aren’t determined manually. Instead, the engines employ mathematical algorithms to sort the diamonds from the stones, and then to rank the diamonds in order of quality (popularity). These algorithms often comprise hundreds of variables. In the search marketing field, we refer to them as “ranking factors.” Moz crafted a resource specifically on this subject: Search Engine Ranking Factors.
As one can see from that List of factors, Links and therefore Link-Building plays an enormous role in Ranking (besides coding-language and a bunch of keywords which I first assumed). Game-changer!
What is Link-Building? According to MOZ, Link building is the process of acquiring links from other websites to your own. As we know now, search engines use links to crawl the web; they will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between entire websites. Credibility is achieved and proofed by having other websites than your linking bad to your site. There are two major ways to achieve that. 1) connecting and interacting with industry related site-providers and build bridges/relations, or 2) just producing great content. As we know from earlier sessions, good content has high chances to be shared by people, in other words they generate links from your page to other pages. Search Engine consider content that is shared by people automatically as valuable. (Why would someone recommend a restaurant which isn’t good, right? That’s what I meant earlier by saying “links as a signal of trust and authority”.)
Yo, we managed it successfully to.. well no, we merely scratched the surface of search engines and their optimization. It is a very interesting topic and there is definitely a lot to learn and talk about. I hope you enjoyed the talk about the principles. I will continue my research and go back to the web. Or like the maker’s of TRON would call it: the grid (I liked that movie, virtual bikes are far more stylish than crawlers or spiders. But wait, wasn’t TRON taking place on a hard-drive.. or was it the web? Hmm, anyways..). See ya!