New to SEO? If you want your blog to get noticed, you must have at least some understanding of the fundamentals. We have put together five questions and answers that cover all the basics. If you are just now getting your feet wet in the blogosphere, or if you just want a quick SEO refresher, keep reading because this post is for you.
Question 1: What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO refers to the process of increasing your site’s visibility in search engines. In other words, SEO says “Here I am!” and “I have the answer!” to Google, Bing and Yahoo (just to name the top three). Activities in the SEO process encompass everything from your site’s technical architecture (how it is constructed), to the words on the page (on-page SEO), to the way other sites link to it (off-page SEO). In this article, we are focusing exclusively on On-Page SEO.
Question 2: Why is SEO important?
Most of the traffic on the internet is driven and directed by the Google, Bing and Yahoo. Think of search engines as the roadways and GPS of the web. From a site owner’s perspective, they provide traffic—specifically, people who are looking for what you offer. Obviously, if they cannot find your site or know what content it contains, you will miss out one of the most powerful tools you have for drawing visitors to your site—perhaps even the most powerful. This is particularly the case for bloggers who, unlike retailers and corporations, do not usually have off-web advertising or brand recognition.
Question 3: Why can’t Google et al. figure out your site without SEO?
Search engines are getting smarter all the time, but they are not all-knowing and still need assistance from humans. The right SEO makes it easier for them to find you and your content. The wrong SEO, or no SEO at all, makes finding you a game of hide-and-seek, with a greater emphasis on the hiding rather than the seeking.
Question 4: How does searching work?
Short answer: queries, results, and rankings.
Queries are the words that are typed in the search box. Results are what the search engine returns and they are displayed on search engine results page (call the SERP) in order of ranking. The higher a site’s ranking, the greater amount of traffic that is driven to it. A quick word about why ranking is so important: Almost 60% of all searches end up clicking the first result.
Question 5: What exactly do search engines do?
Three things: crawling, indexing, and ranking.
Crawling is done by automated bots called spiders. In fact, some people call it spidering. (I know, pretty cool, huh?) The job of the spiders is to acquire data about a website. This means scanning the site and putting together a list of everything it finds there. This includes page titles, images, keywords, and basically anything else it can get its spidery little hands on, including links to other sites. Spiderman then adds all the links it found on your site to a list of places to go next.
And so on. And so on…. until it starts all over again. The process really never ends. It is important to note, however, if it’s too difficult for the spider to find content, it will eventually give up. I mean everyone runs out of patience at some point, I don’t care who you are.
Remember the old days when people actually visited libraries to find and read actual books? No? (You millennial, you.) Well, I do. Every library had a card catalog (we’re talking original paper index cards) with one card for every single book in the library, including information about the book including author, topic, the number of pages, where to find it amongst the stacks and so forth.
To apply this analogy to our discussion, the internet is like every library in the entire world. Indexing is the process of creating the card catalog—the difference being a ton more data. I mean a ton. Each search engine has its own bots and its own vast amount of data, stored in huge data centers scattered throughout the world, each of which has a huge number of petabytes worth of drives.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo et al. each have their very own complex, closely-guarded, and patent-protected ranking algorithm. These algorithms check your search query against the index to find results to determine their “relevancy.”
So how does the algorithm decide what is relevant? It’s hard to know. Again, it’s all very hush-hush. Cloaked in mystery. We’d tell you, but we’d have to kill you. That sort of thing.
Initially, sites were ranked based on how many times a particular keyword was mentioned. SEO experts figured this out of course which led to the obnoxious practice of “keyword stuffing.” In response, most of the search engines tweaked their algorithm to determine site relevance based on how many other sites linked to it. This, however, led to the even more obnoxious practice of creating millions of spammed links across the internet. Algorithms were then further tweaked by assigning links a value based on the “authority” of the site in question.
In other words, attempting to influence rankings through SEO is difficult. The search engines are continually updating their algorithms to prevent anyone from bumping up their site ranking through practices that diminish the user experience.
So those are the basics. Welcome to the wacky and wonderful world of SEO! We’ll explore this topic in much more details in future posts.
In the meantime, happy blogging!