Search Engines: How they Work

Setting up a website that looks amazing is the basis for your company or brand’s online presence, but it’s of no use if your audience can’t be sure of finding it. This is why it’s crucial to understand the importance of Search Engine Optimisation and how search engines work.

In recent years, SEO has evolved rapidly. At the onset it was pretty basic, involving the repetition of a relatively small number of keywords on your site. Today, it’s much more sophisticated and takes into account the user experience as well.

What is SEO?

The definition of SEO describes it as a means of affecting a website’s visibility in a search engine’s unpaid results. These are referred to as “organic” or “natural” results.

There’s an important distinction between organic results and “pay per click” results – a term used to describe a different option known as Search Engine Marketing, or SEM. This process occurs when a website pays a price per click to appear at the top of a certain search engine’s displayed results.

Evolution of SEO

Digital marketing in general evolves quickly and SEO is no exception. It has moved on significantly from the days when its basic concept relied on repeating specific keywords. The two factors that now define a web page’s position are its relevance in web positioning and its authority – another term for its popularity.

The relevance relates to the website’s connection to a search and how effectively it answers the user’s question. The main goal of search engines is to provide users with a good service in terms of offering useful pages.

Websites can actively improve their relevance by using SEO techniques. The key is making sure the search engine understands the website’s content. This can be achieved by the use of keywords, URL optimisation, reducing loading times and improving the overall user experience.

To improve the authority of a website, SEO techniques are used to achieve the goals such as enhancing links that redirect to your page, increasing social media presence, attracting more users to actually click on your site when it appears in the results, and increasing the number of mentions in the media.

Web crawling

Another aspect of SEO is the web crawling process. Search engines have a number of computer programs called web crawlers. They scan the internet to find the servers hosting websites, gathering information from billions of webpages and organising it in the search index.

They visit each website and ascertain information, such as how many pages they have and whether it’s text, videos, images, or any other format such as html or javascript. This is a continual process which also tracks when a website makes changes, such as pages added or deleted, or links updated.

The information is organised by indexing. When the crawlers find a webpage, the system takes note of key signals, such as keywords and website freshness. They keep track of it in the search index. The Google search index contains billions of webpages and is more than 100 million gigabytes in size.

When optimising a website for search engines, your primary concern is to ensure the web crawlers can access it correctly. If they can’t “read” your site, you won’t achieve high rankings or attract a great deal of search engine traffic.

Top search engine

All websites have one goal and that’s to attract quality traffic. Search engines and SEO are the most effective means of attracting potentially interested visitors and when webmasters began to realise this, SEO was born as they competed to achieve the highest position in the search engines.

There are many search engines and each one uses a different formula – hence the results will differ between the search engines. As the most popular option, Google has an estimated 1.6 billion unique monthly visitors, equating to 84.91% of the market, as of January 2018.

Search engines love high quality content and Google in particular ranks pages highly if the content is of excellent quality. Google seeks to index every piece of information found on a domain.

Packing as many keywords as possible on to a page to try and improve SEO no longer works today and this type of page doesn’t even come close to the top of the rankings.

This is because the algorithms change constantly to ensure the search engines achieve better results, so they figured out this type of page wasn’t any use to visitors. Understanding how algorithms work is the first step towards learning how search engines rank websites.

Other search engines

Behind Google, the second most popular search engine is Bing, with 400 million unique monthly visitors. While there are similarities between Google and Bing in their SEO ranking factors, there are also differences and this should be considered when optimising a website.

Bing seems to give higher ranking to top brands, as Google does. However, Bing seems to favour older websites that have more official domain names, rather than the newer, commercial websites favoured by Google.

Sites with more backlinks seem to rank highly with both Google and Bing. Both search engines give a good ranking to sites with relevant and high quality content, although Bing appears more likely to reward audio, pictures and videos.

SEO strategy

Search engines are constantly evolving, and it’s important to be aware of any changes so that you can modify your SEO strategy.

Also keep abreast of the most popular search engines, as these change over time. Previous popular search engines included ASK Jeeves and MSN. However, ASK Jeeves’ market share has been in decline for several years. In January 2015, it was just under 0.4%. By January 2018, it was down to less than 0.1%.

The importance of SEO to a business can’t be over-emphasised and it’s crucial to make sure your website has the correct content for the best ranking. Here at The Cornwall SEO Co, we understand the immense importance of SEO and how it positively impacts on your business. To benefit from our experience and expertise, please contact us for details of how we can help you.

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