The internet has allowed people all around the globe to discover solutions to their problems and access previously unavailable resources.
Search engines are their key tool for this.
They organise the internet ensuring that people can find what they are looking for.
In other words, if the internet was a library the search engine was the librarian, helping each reader to find the most appropriate list of books.
Search engines are answer machines.
Users looking for answers by entering a query into a search engine like Google, get a list of results (websites) from which they can choose from.
The first results are the most clicked: the higher you appear, the higher the probability people will visit your website.
SEO is how companies ensure that their websites are included in such lists and (even more) how they appear higher than the others.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Different websites attempt to appear on specific queries (keywords) at the same time. The search engine determines which pages should appear first by comparing them all.
SEO allows companies to raise their site’s position in search engine results.
One of the first steps in learning SEO is understanding how Google (the main search engine globally) and other search engines work (index and rank content).
Lots of effort goes into ensuring that when you enter a query and hit “Search,” you get relevant, high-quality results that answer your question. Search engines work in three phases.
Numerous web crawlers (thus the term “Crawling”) are used by search engines to look for data that is accessible to the general public on the Internet.
In other words, the crawlers (also called search engine spiders) analyse the Internet in search of servers (also called web servers) that host websites.
Before getting to work, they compile a list of all the web servers that need to be crawled and the total number of websites housed on each server.
In addition to counting the site’s pages, Spiders will investigate any associated connections (pages linked to other internal pages or with external websites). As a result, they keep finding new pages and connections.
They do this regularly and monitor a site’s changes to determine when new content is uploaded, old content is removed, links are changed, etc.
While the exact number of websites keeps changing every second, there are well over 1 billion sites on the world wide web. Today this number continues to change as you read this article.
You can imagine that this is much work.
If search engines can’t “read” your website, you shouldn’t have great hopes for high ranks on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) and consequently traffic. Thus this should be your priority when optimising your site for search engines.
Crawlers have a lot of work to do, as just mentioned. Thus it’s in your best interest to facilitate their efforts whenever possible.
To facilitate the crawling process and increase the speed with which your site gets discovered, you can do the following:
The search engine will visit each page discovered during crawling to analyze and understand its content.
Information identified by the crawlers needs to be organised, sorted and stored so that the search engine algorithms can process it before being made available to the end user.
This is Indexing.
At this stage, search engines extract the headings and other texts out of each URL, then store and organise the information on their servers. Even when your site’s content has been indexed, search engines will repeat this process of crawling and indexing your content over and over, so their index remains up to date.
Note that search engines don’t store all the information on a page in their index. They only keep things like: the date of creation/update, the title and description of the page, the type of content, associated keywords, inbound and outbound links, and many other parameters that are needed by their algorithms to define relevancy and quality.
It’s simple: if your site isn’t indexed, it won’t show up in search results.
Having a larger number of indexed pages increases your site’s visibility in response to users’ queries.
Visibility means appearing in the search results, which implies inclusion at any place in the result pages, not only on the first page. Of course, the first page is the most desired one. Indeed, the #1 result in Google gets 27.6% of all clicks. SEO is optimising your website for search engines so that it ranks higher in the results of such engines.
There are two options:
The third and last stage is for search engines to determine the relative importance of each page when determining their position in the SERP (Search Engine Page Results) in response to a user’s query.
The algorithms used by search engines to determine their rankings make this possible.
These programs utilise rules to determine the user’s intent and provide relevant results. Rules and judgments are made according to the data in their index.
Search engine ranking algorithms have developed and become more complex over time. Once upon a time (around 2001), all that was required was to match the user’s query with the page title, but things have changed.
Nobody knows what criteria Google uses in its ranking system, although it considers more than 255 factors. Judgments are made not only based on what is written on a web page but also on a wide range of factors taken into account by machine learning and computer programs. Here is a simplified process of how search engine ranking factors work:
The first phase is to deduce what a user is looking for.
They dissect the user’s query (anything people type into a search engine is considered a search term) into many meaningful keywords for analysis. If you typed “How to make a negroni cocktail” a search engine would infer from the terms “how-to” that you were seeking instructions on creating a cocktail, and it would return links to websites containing negroni cocktails recipes.
By including eCommerce websites and online shops in the search results for “Buy refurbished…” search engines understand that you likely want to make a purchase. They have been able to group similar terms using machine learning.
They know that “how to replace a light bulb” has the same meaning as “how to change a light bulb.” They are so smart that they can even understand misspelt words, recognise plurals, and get the essence of a question from its natural language form (either verbal or written in the case of Voice search).
The second phase is to use the page’s index to determine which pages most likely contain the desired information.
This is the most important step for search engines and website owners. To keep their customers happy, search engines must quickly deliver relevant results, and website owners naturally want their sites to be among those displayed. And it is at this point that effective SEO techniques may start to influence the verdicts being made by the machines.
These are the most important considerations in the matching process:
Content and title relevancy: how well do the page’s contents and title match the user’s query?
Content type: how well is the content relevant to the user’s query? If a picture is what the user is after, that will be provided in the search results.
Content quality: content must be complete, helpful, informative, and neutral and present both sides of an argument or situation.
Website quality: the quality of a website matters. Those websites that do not adhere to Google’s quality guidelines will have their pages hidden from search results.
Publication date: to provide the most up-to-date results for news-related searches, Google additionally considers when the article was first published or updated.
Page popularity: has nothing to do with how many people visit a website but with how other websites see the same page.Search engine crawlers are more likely to find a page that has received “backlinks” from other websites than a page that hasn’t received any links from anyone. This method is described as Off-Page SEO.
Language of the page: search results very based on the user’s language. Consequently the website needs to match the search query language to show.
Webpage speed: websites that take less than 3 seconds to load have a modest edge over those that take longer.
Device type: if a user searches for a mobile device, they will be sent to a mobile-optimized version. Consequently it is very important to have a website optimised for all devices.
Location: when a user types in a query like “Italian restaurants in London” the search engine will return results that are relevant to their location.
That’s just a part. As previously mentioned, Google’s algorithms account for more than 255 parameters to provide satisfactory results for its users.
Ranking well on the first page of search engine results is crucial if you want to get visitors from this source.
Statistical evidence shows that consumers often only explore the first five results of a webpage.
If your website is on page two or three of search results, you can forget about getting any clicks.
A deeper understanding of how search engines function can allow you to optimise your site for higher visibility and more visitors.
To conclude, major search engines like Google work hard to provide only the most relevant results for consumers’ searches.
Small robots, referred to as “crawlers,” are used to do this task. Web pages and other online resources are “crawled” by these bots to evaluate their content. This is what we call crawling.
They submit the sites to Google’s index if they like what they see.
An enormous catalogue of all the web pages the spider has uncovered is what we call the index.
Search results are limited to just those pages that have been indexed.
Once a page has been added to Google’s index, it is compared to others to assess its relevance to a user’s search.
When determining a page’s ranking, Google considers a plethora of signals. These may be broken down into two categories: on-page and off-page elements.
The components on your website and web pages that affect search results are known as On-page factors. The following are a few notable examples:
Off-page factors are external elements that affect your page’s rank. These indicators focus mostly on your website’s authority. Google prioritises authoritative websites and ranks them higher than less popular sites. The popularity and number of inbound links are two of the most important factors in establishing a website’s authority and credibility. Domain authority score is determined by unique algorithms developed by Ahrefs and Moz, two vendors of SEO software. To help you better understand how to implement an SEO strategy for your website, here is a brief summary of the processes involved:
Select your target keywords.
To start an SEO plan, you must first do extensive keyword research. It’s important to identify all the appropriate search phrases that your demographic use. Please make a note of useful search phrases when you come across them. Each term on this list should have an estimated monthly search volume and ranking difficulty. This information may be found in the databases of popular SEO keyword research tools.
Develop content that is optimized for these terms.
Discovering your intended keywords is the first step in creating content that is tailored to them. Specifically, this means using search engine optimization best practices to provide material of a high quality that also answers users’ questions.
Set Google’s Search Console to keep tabs on your rankings.
Google Search Console is a tool for monitoring and improving a site’s visibility in search engine results. Useful information is provided, such as the number of indexed pages, the percentage of pages with mistakes, the rankings of individual pages, and the volume of traffic such pages get. Your SEO progress may be monitored using the data gathered. Generally, if a page’s rankings decline, it’s time to make changes.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. SEO targets unpaid traffic rather than direct traffic or paid traffic.
Understanding how search engines function is crucial if you’re doing SEO.
On-page SEO refers to all the page ranking factors you can manipulate or optimize on your website. These elements can include the content on your product and service pages, blog posts, landing pages, and microsites.
For instance it encompasses title tags, meta descriptions, heading structure, content, image optimization, accessibility, and overall website performance.
Off-page SEO includes all page ranking factors beyond your website.
For instance, ‘backlinks’ (or ‘inbound’ links) are links on other web pages that direct back to your website. When your site has lots of backlinks from credible sites, they can benefit your search rankings because these pages can pass on some of their authority to you.
Technical SEO is all about improving the technical aspects of a website. Making a website faster, easier to crawl, and more understandable for search engines are the pillars of technical optimization.