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Here’s an overview of how search engines work. We will focus on Google, the most dominant search engine. Google receives approximately 70% of all searches. Google generally displays three types of search results when a user goes to Google and conducts a search query. Queries – often referred to as keywords – are words that a user enters into a search engine. The first type of results that Google displays is ‘paid search’, which is the top three results and the results to the right column. This means that businesses have paid for this premium placement through a paid search or pay-per-click advertising.
The results immediately following the paid search results are known as the organic or natural search results. These results are influenced by SEO and cannot be bought. Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of making your website relevant to the search queries that your target audience uses to find you online. This allows Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to match your website to specific search queries. Often you will see the local results, which are generally businesses located within a certain mile radius of your geographic area. Local maps are ideal for brick and mortar businesses such as dentists, doctors, and restaurants etc. The results directly below the local results are also SEO, organic or natural search results. These results can be influenced to reach a larger geographic area, based on the location of your target market. These results are largely influenced by the Search Engine Algorithms. For example, Google has over 2oo ranking factors that it takes into consideration when determining which results are displayed for a user search.
You can benefit from the organic/natural traffic for free if you do it yourself, excluding the time commitment. The key is ensuring that your website is optimized by finding the right keywords to target your audience and employing key techniques on and off your website to get found online and achieve high rankings in the search results.
Google alone is made up of over 60 trillion individual web pages at last count. It is the goal of search engines such as Google to provide users with the most relevant search results to match their query. In order to do so, the search engines use spiders known as ‘bots’ to crawl and index websites based on their topics. Hence ensuring you optimize your website for the terms and topics you want to show up for is paramount to getting found online.
After a website and its pages have been “crawled”, the search engines put these pages into categories (called indexes) so that they can return the best results to match the user query. This is one of the main reasons ongoing SEO is important – because each time search engine spiders crawl, if your website has been updated with fresh content it will be re-indexed.
The major search engines change their algorithms frequently, so staying on top of your SEO is an ongoing process. Each of these algorithms places different amounts of importance on things like keyword density, meta tags, links, indexes, and unique content. What works today may not work tomorrow, so ongoing SEO efforts are essential to gain rankings, and to keep them.
In closing, search engine optimization is all about making your site relevant to the search engines for the keyword searches that are most related to your business. SEO is not advertising. The idea behind SEO is to provide your audience with great content that they find useful and valuable.