Total SEO Tips Part 1: How Search Engines Work
Before we dive into SEO, let’s start with Search Engines
Crawling and indexing are two things that enable search engines, especially Google, to give you the results you need
Search engines only have one goal in mind and that is to give you what you want. Next time you type in a query and receive websites that are of little or no use to you, take it from me that they genuinely feel bad. It’s similar to any other company in a capitalistic world; they want to give you the best results so that you keep coming back to use their service. Google is competing with Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, and others to provide their users with a beneficial search experience to keep them coming back for more.
Let’s say you open up a new browser tab and type a query into Google. In this case, you’re hungry and in the mood for some pizza. What do you do? You do what a majority of searchers do and type in “pizza near me” to bring up a list of pizza places in your area. The reason Google is able to provide a list of these locations is because they have indexed web pages and have made an educated guess that you will be satisfied with the results.
What is an indexed web page?
Good question! An indexed web page is one that is in Google’s archive. Believe it or not, when you search for something on Google you’re not actually surfing the web. You’re surfing Google’s index of the web. The way they index pages is by using web crawlers, or spiders, to follow links from one site to another. This interconnectivity of websites enables spiders to read all of the content on your site and categorize it based on many factors: keywords used throughout the site, reputation and relevancy of backlinks, how fresh your content is, and more. So when a person types in “pizza near me,” Google takes an educated guess that the websites they give you will satisfy your intent.
How Pages Are Ranked
Google has three ranking factors that it takes into consideration when providing websites to satisfy your query:
- Relevance – Which are essentially the keywords used throughout your website. If you run a pizzeria and the word “pizza” is not used at all in the meta or header tags, or used throughout the body of your content, then there is little chance that you will be ranked for the specific keywords. The days of black-hat SEO are in the past so keyword stuffing will only get you penalized. There is a common expression in the digital marketing world, “Create content for users before search engines.” What this means is that search engines know when they’re being taken advantage of and will dish out penalties faster than you can imagine.
- Popularity – All things remaining equal, the higher number of QUALITY backlinks you receive will enable to beat out your competition. To continue with the pizza analogy, if you are featured on a reputable recipe website for having the “Best Pizza Recipe in Philadelphia,” then Google will assume that your establishment is of better quality than your competitors. It’s important to keep in mind that the quality of backlinks is far more important than the quantity. Two high-quality backlinks will outweigh fifty low-quality ones every day of the year. If you are fortunate enough to obtain quality backlinks, that website is essentially vouching for your business by telling Google, “Hey, this place is legit. I’d like to personally vouch for them.” However, the road goes both ways. If you have a number of bad backlinks (a.k.a. Toxic Links) then Google might think that your website is toxic as well.
- Location – This is more for a Local SEO campaign as opposed to a national, but it is worth taking into consideration. If you are trying to rank for “pizza place in Philadelphia” but you are located just across the Delaware River in New Jersey, it is almost guaranteed that you won’t rank for Philadelphia, all things remaining equal. That being said, it is possible to slowly expand your radius outward, but it is nearly impossible to jump from one city to another.
Similar to servers in a restaurant, search engines want you to have a pleasant experience
As you go about your searches, pay attention to each website you encounter. Maybe it’s because I’m an SEO nerd, but take a look at the websites that pop up and ask yourself, “Why did this website come up before that one?” Then I encourage you to go to each of those websites and take note of some of the concepts mentioned above. Are the keywords in the right place? Do they seem spammy? Is the website tough to navigate? Is their physical location where they claim it is? Once you start asking these questions and find the answers, you can begin to formulate a strategy to get your site to the front page.
Continue with Part 2: Interacting with Search Engines