The Basics of Search Engines and SEO
Are you confused by how search engines work? If you are then this is a problem because it makes you susceptible to bad advice regarding search engine optimisation, and this is something you need to watch out for.
In this post I’ll be explaining some simple concepts regarding SEO that anyone can understand. Let’s get into it.
There are Three Basic Search Engine Concepts
Relevance. What does this even mean? It means that this is the first thing a search engine deals with when looking at a web page. Does your search query match up to that web page? That is basically what the search engine is asking once you’ve typed your search engine query in, and Google’s crawlers can start looking for relevant web pages.
There are a number of things Google looks at to determine if a web page is relevant to your search query:
Title used in the web page. The title will tell you what the rest of the content is about.
Semantic analysis of the content. This is the general relevance of the content used in the page so the words and phrases used to give a general indication of what is in the content.
Text used in links to the page. The text you use in the link is also an indicator of what the content is about.
Third party pages linking to your website. If there are third party pages based around your topic linking to your page then this is great relevance Google picks up on.
The topic contained on the site. The web page will do better if it’s related to the topic that the site is about.
User behaviour to the content. The way a user responds once they click on your content is an important indicator used by Google. If a user clicks on a link to your page but clicks off it immediately then it’s a bad sign.
Relevance and its Impact
It should go without saying that you’re not going to rank for a search query if you don’t have content that is relevant to the search query. Find out what keywords people are searching for and then create content based around these keywords.
Make sure that you have content on your web pages that supports the search query. Create a keyword rich title and make sure the content is also strong.
Another factor that search engines use to determine where to rank a web page is importance. The way that Google primarily determines importance is via links and this is what they use to determine where your website will rank in search results.
Importance and its Impact
Importance is a valuable factor in determining where your web page will rank. If your web page is being linked to by other sites, especially those that are already an authority on your topic then Google will deem your page to be important. Therefore it will rank higher.
You need to make sure that you create great content that is valuable to readers. However, it’s not enough to just create the content. You need to market it so it gets in the hands of the right people.
Importance isn’t always as interesting to determine as popularity. For example if you type in a search query like, “What is the hottest music?”, then it’s obvious that popularity is going to be a factor in where these pages rank.
Popularity is a powerful ranking factor in trending topics such as breaking news, and this is where social media is going to be important. Social media is a great indicator as to how popular something is and important in determining where a web page will rank. The more interaction, engagement and shares a social or blog post receives the more popular Google will perceive it to be.
Popularity and its Impact
There are a number of ways to create content that will become popular. The easiest way to explain how to do this is to create something that will cause an emotional reaction in the reader. If you create an emotional reaction then people are far more likely to share your content.
Additional Search Engine Concepts
This is based on the idea of changing search results based on what the users want. For example someone searching for wildlife in Egypt is going to want a different result than say someone in Singapore.
This concept is called localisation and there are also other ways to segment users into groups:
Personalisation. If you’ve been to a particular page recently then Google will use that information to promote the page to a higher ranking.
Google+ connections. Google+ connections are used to alter rankings. If someone you follow shares or +1s something then its ranking can be promoted for you.
Time of day. Time of day means that a user is probably looking for different things. For example a search at 8am means a user is probably looking for breakfast rather than dinner.
Time of year. The same is true depending on the time of year. If it’s winter then the search results are going to be different than what they would be in summer.
Other recent search queries. It may link together previous search queries. For example if you searched for hotels and the previous search was Berlin then the search result may include hotels in Berlin.
Segmentation and its Impact
Make sure your content is tailored to your audience. The more your content is tailored the more likely it is to rank for certain keywords. For example if you’re running a restaurant in Glastonbury, Somerset, then make sure that this information is on your website, along with the different types of food served such as Italian or tapas etc.
Make sure that there are other things related to the points mentioned above clearly stated on your website as well. It will help rank your website.
Diversity is important for search engines. What this means is that if a web page ranks well for relevance and importance, for example in third place in search results but is very similar to the first and second results, then it will still show a different result in third spot.
This is because of the need for diversity. If a searcher doesn’t like what they see in the first and second place then they don’t want to see the same result in third place.
Diversity and its Impact
You need to make your website stand out in different ways.
Some of the ways you can do that is by looking at other businesses in your industry and promoting yourself in a different way. You can establish yourself as an authority within the same industry but in a different way.
Quality is important because this is what provides a reader with value and this is something that Google looks at. You can have a web page with an optimised title which is relevant and important or popular but if the content is poor quality it won’t rank well.
Quality and its Impact
Make sure that your website is full of quality information. Make sure the information is useful, check spelling and grammar and make sure it’s optimised. Your site needs to be so good that others will talk about it and want to link to it. This is the benchmark to determine the quality of your site.
Trust is important for Google. You may have a site that is relevant and authoritative but if it violates search engine guidelines then it is going to be pushed further and further down the rankings.
Trust and its Impact
It’s important that you make yourself familiar with what Google considers to be a trustworthy website with unique content. This is the easiest way to know what to avoid so you don’t get penalised by Google. Take a look at our recent blog post explaining all about the Google algorithm updates and how to fine tune your website so it meets these guidelines.
It is a good idea to get others to look at your site and give feedback and another great way is to establish relationships with leading figures in your industry.
These are the basic concepts you need to know if you want a good understanding of SEO and how it works at a fundamental level. Has this helped to improve your knowledge of SEO at a fundamental level? Do you think it will benefit you when you work with an SEO company?
Let me know in the comments below.