How To Do For SEO, Part 2: Understanding Search Engines

Nearly half of customers turn to Google before deciding what to buy and where to buy it. Understanding how Google and other search engines work can help you choose which search engine optimization strategies to use.

This post is the second payout in my "SEO How-to" series. In "Part 1: Why Use It?" I dealt with the importance of SEO for e-commerce. In this article I explain how search engines work.

Your products can be of the highest quality or at the lowest prices. Your business can be superior to its competitors in dozens of ways. But unless it sends real signals to search engines, your site will not rank high in organic search results, to drive shoppers.

Search engines use sophisticated software that is supported by large networks of data centers. Search engines crawl websites to index pages for quick download and then return search results based on relevance and eligibility for the query.

… unless it sends real signals to search engines, your site will not rank high in organic search results to drive shoppers.

Crawl and Indexing

The web contains trillions of pages. Search engines use search bots – also known as bots or simply bots – to find and store all pages they encounter.

When a crawler hits a page, it records the rendered HTML and catalogs the content. When they melt the page, crawlers detect links to other pages and the process is repeated.

However, some web pages cannot be crawled.

For example, if the product X page does not have inbound links and is only accessible by typing its URL into the browser bar, Google and other search engines will probably not find that page. It will remain unknown until another already indexed page links to it.

Search results

Much of SEO involves the algorithms that search engines use to rank organic results.

An algorithm is complex software. It is so complicated that even the people who develop it struggle to understand it all.

As a marketer, much of what we know about search engine algorithms stems from their patents, the news they release and search result data aggregated over time across the web.

Hundreds of factors determine the ranking of each page. Primary factors are the relevance of the content to the viewer, the searcher's experience on the page and the quality of other websites that link to the page. These factors indicate their respective relevance, technical aspects and authority.

  • Relevance is based on comparing the content of your page with a searcher's query and interests. Search engines evaluate every word on the page and how they relate to each other and to other pages on the site. So search engines know that a page is about, for example, a bass guitar, not a fish.

Consumers tend to blame the search engine for delivering them to lousy websites, rather than blaming the site itself. Thus, search engines try to return results for websites that are user friendly with relevant content.

In addition, search engines use personalization to improve relevance. For example, based on past searches, a search engine would probably know if a searcher is interested in fishing or music. Customization signals also include a searcher's location, including public information.

  • Technical SEO includes page speed, navigation, accuracy and usability – especially on a smartphone.
  • Autoritetssignaler Consider the quality, size and relevance of the sites that link to a page. A link from, say, The New York Times is much more authoritarian than from a little-known blog. Links from quality sites that are topically relevant provide more value. A link from a leading music review site to a bass guitar page gives more authority than, for example, a recipe website.

Think of each link as a voice of value. The more websites that link to your page or page, the more valuable it is likely. This is Google that was founded more than 20 years ago. The algorithm is still an important factor in organic search rankings.

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