Understanding Search Engines
In our last post, we introduced you to the language of SEO consultants. But what next? What do SEO companies actually do? In basic terms, an SEO consultant helps your website becomes more visible to search engines.
But what does it mean to be “visible” to search engines? How exactly does a consultant make you visible? In order to answer those questions, we need to take a look at how search engines work.
Search engines operate in two steps; gathering information and providing results:
1. Gathering information
Search engines’ main job is to gather and sort information for your consumption. To gather the information, search engines crawl the internet with something called a “bot” or a “spider.” It’s the term used for the software that search engines use to read your site. After the search engines crawls your site, it will then sort through all of the information on your site and file it away for later use. This process is known as “indexing.”
Search engines can’t see anything that isn’t in the code of your site. Sometime, look up the source code for your website. (On most browsers, you can view it by right clicking on any web page and selecting “View Page Source.”) There you’ll find the page title, the meta data, the alt tags for your images, the text of your page, etc. Search engines look at all of that data and then organize and record it in their indexes so that it can be helpful to users later on.
Your SEO consultant will help search engines crawl your site better by submitting something called a “sitemap” to Google and other search engines. It basically tells them, “Hey, there’s a cool new website! Go take a look at it!”
2. Providing results
When a user submits a query to a search engine, the search engine sorts through its index to pull only the related results. It then ranks them according to a number of factors using an algorithm. The algorithm uses the information from what the search engine knows about the various relevant websites.
Your rank is dependent upon the user’s query. You will often hear people talk about “being #1 on Google.” This is shorthand for saying that they are the first result on Google for a query containing specific keywords. When an SEO consultant asks you about your keywords, this is what they mean.
No one except the search engines’ developers really know for sure the weight that search engine algorithms place on the different factors. However, generally speaking, the more helpful and relevant your content is to users’ queries, the higher you will rank.
Trustworthiness is another important factor. Search engines track their users’ movement, watching which results they click and how long they stay on those pages. The more people who visit your site and stay on your site for an extended period of time, the more helpful search engines will perceive you as being. The more they perceive you as being helpful, the higher you will rank over time.
Search engine ranking is where the majority of an SEO consultant’s effort is focused. An SEO consultant will make sure your website is user-friendly to encourage lengthy visitor stays, will ensure that your on-page content is optimized for technical search engine ranking factors, and will then help you continue to develop content in accordance with those factors.
Hopefully this posts takes some of the mystery out of search engines and the work of SEO consultants. Do you want to learn more about how you can rank better? We’d love to chat! Drop us a note!