Beginner’s Guide to SEO : Detailed Overview on How Search Engines Operate
CHAPTER 1 : HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK
Search engines have two main functions: building an index and crawling, and then providing search users with a ranked list of all the websites that have been found to be most relevant to the search query.
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The World Wide Web is a network of documents in the form of web pages and sometimes JPG, PDF etc. Since search a engine needs a way to crawl through all these documents, there is a need to establish the best path, hence crawling and indexing. When it comes to providing answers to user queries, search engines do this by drawing up a list of all the relevant pages, in the process ranking them for relevance. These pages are held together by the link structure of the web, which allow search engine robots to go through the billions of interconnected documents on the web.
How Search Engines Go Through Web Content
Once search engines have found the pages being queried by the user, they go ahead and decipher the code from them, consequently storing the selected pieces in massive databases from where they can easily be recalled later on when needed, following a similar search query. Search engine companies have since resorted to setting up massive data centers across the world to help hold the billions of pages which users need to access almost instantaneously. In fact, one second or two second delay is enough to cause dissatisfaction from the user’s end. As a result, search engines have worked hard to help improve the proficiency with which search results are presented to users according to their search queries.
Simply put, search engines are machines designed in a manner that whenever an internet user enters a search query, it spontaneously goes through its corpus of billions of documents, and in turn, only relaying results that it considers are relevant to the user, depending on the search query entered. Next, it ranks those results according to their popularity. In short, it is relevance and popularity of web content that search engine optimization is mainly aimed at influencing.
How Search Engines Determine Relevance and Popularity of User’s Search Queries
It is equally worth noting that popularity and relevance are not, in any way, manually determined. Search engines employ mathematical equations (algorithms) which help sort through the pages for relevance, consequently ranking them in order of popularity (quality). It is through methods such as patent analysis, live testing, and experiments that search marketers, as one community, have been able to make sense of the basic operations of search engines. This includes the critical components of setting up pages and websites which are able to earn high rankings and significant traffic.
CHAPTER 2 : AN OVERVIEW OF USER’S INTERACTIONS WITH SEARCH ENGINES
The most important element when looking to set up an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience. This is very important because once you grasp exactly what your target market is interested in, you will be able to effectively reach out to them, as well as keep them coming back for more. Simply put, when setting up your online marketing strategy, focus on building for users and not for search engines.
There are three types of search queries which internet users generally make:
- Transactional Queries “DO”: these types of searches involve keywords describing interest in wanting to do something, e.g. booking a plane ticket or listening to a song.
- Informational Queries “KNOW”: these types of searches involve keywords that serve as a hint to finding out more about a subject, e.g. name of a band or the best restaurant within a specified location.
- Navigation queries “GO”: these types of searches involve keywords aimed at helping figure out directions to a particular place from the internet or instructions on how to proceed doing something.
The important thing to keep in mind is, when a visitor enters a search query into the search box and then lands on your website, how satisfied will they be after going through your content? Search engines’ main responsibility is serving relevant results to users. This being the case, take time to figure out exactly what it is that your target customers are interested in and then strive to provide it to them through the content of your pages.
CHAPTER 3 : SIGNIFICANCE OF SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
One of the main reasons why, as a webmaster, you should seriously consider taking advantage of search engine optimization is because it serves as a guarantee to help make your website more appealing not only to users, but also to search engines. As much as search engines have become increasingly sophisticated, they still cannot understand web pages in the same way that humans can. Optimization, therefore, helps the search engines to make sense of each web page, as well as establish how useful it can be to the end user.
Taking time to familiarize yourself with all the abilities and limitations of search engines makes it very easy for you to not only properly build, but also format, as well as annotate your web content in a manner that search engines can easily make sense of.
Limitations of Search Engine Technology
Search engines operate on the same principle, in the process accomplishing their objectives with a little assistance from dazzling artificial intelligence. In spite of all this, search technology is still not all powerful as there are several challenges that have arisen, which limit inclusions and affect ranking.
- Crawling and indexing problems such as completion of online forms, management of duplicate pages, poor link structures etc.
- Problems in matching queries to content
- Making sure content gets seen
- Constantly changing SEO. Many of the SEO tactics which worked in the past can really hurt your SEO today.
CHAPTER 4 : THE BASICS OF SEARCH ENGINE-FRIENDLY DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Search engines are limited to a specific way through which they crawl the web and then interpret content. The way in which you view a website is very different from that of a search engine. Below is an overview of the technical aspects for creating properly structured web pages ideal for both human visitors to the site as well as search engine bots.
- Indexable content – In order to perform best, it is imperative that all of your content is in HTML text format. If possible, provide a transcript for audio and video content, especially if the words and phrases are meant to be indexed by search engines.
- Set up Crawlable link structures
- Employ keyword usage and targeting
- Take advantage of keyword domination
- Understand keyword abuse
- Exercise extensive on-page optimization
- Include title tags and meta tags in your content
- Set up proper URL structures and employ the use of URL construction guidelines
- Include rich snippets and defend your site’s honor
CHAPTER 5 : HOW TO HANDLE KEYWORD RESEARCH
Keyword research is by far one of the most important high return activities in the search engine marketing field. In fact, ranking for the right keywords can either help make or break your site. Taking time to find out as much as you can about your market’s keyword demand. By doing so, not only will you be able to respond to the changing market conditions, but you will also be able to produce products and services, as well as content, which web searchers are interested in or constantly actively seeking. In fact, you will also be able to understand your targeted customers better.
- Understanding and assessing keyword value – Ask yourself, search for the phrase or term on major search engines, buy a sample campaign for the keyword, e.g. Bing adCenter or Google AdWords. Next, using the collected data, establish the actual value of the keyword.
- Understanding long tail keywords in demand
- Familiarizing yourself with keyword difficulty
CHAPTER 6 : HOW CONTENT, USABILITY, & USER EXPERIENCE DETERMINE SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS
One interesting thing about search engines is the fact that they are constantly trying to improve the relay of search results by providing the best possible results after each search query.
Effect of Usability and User Experience
Courtesy of link patterns, machine learning, and user engagement metrics, search engines have been able to take into consideration several intuitions of any given site. Take note, usability has a second order influence on the success of search engine results. In fact, they provide a reasonable amount of benefit to a site’s external popularity.
Signals of Quality Content
- Engagement Metrics
- Machine Learning
- Link Patterns
Fulfilling the above-mentioned intents serve as a guarantee to craft content that perfectly suits your targeted user queries.
CHAPTER 7 : GROWING POPULARITY & LINKS
As a result of emphasis on algorithmic use and the analysis of links, growing of the link profile has become critical to gaining traction, traffic, and attention from search engines. In fact, in search engine optimization, link building is, by far, one of the most important processes to achieve top ranking, as well as online success.
It is, however, important to note that in order to be able to grow your link and popularity, emphasis should be placed on:
- Setting up proper link signals
- Understanding link building basics, such as creating natural links
To do this, it is important that you emphasize on:
- Reaching out to clients to link up to you
- Setting up a blog and then making it very informative, valuable, and most importantly, entertaining
- Constantly coming up with content that inspires sharing and natural linking
- Making your content newsworthy
CHAPTER 8 : AN OVERVIEW OF THE MAIN SEARCH ENGINE TOOLS & SERVICES
SEOs employ the use of several tools and services, some of which are provided by search engines themselves, in a bid to allow webmasters to set up websites with easy-to-access web content. The end results is an access to free data points, as well as unique opportunities to exchange information with search engines
An Overview of Common Search Engine Protocols
- Sitemaps – These include the likes of extensible markup language (XML), Rich Site Summary (RSS), Text Files etc.
- Robots.txt – It is a file stored on a website’s root directory. It gives automated web crawlers instructions on how to go through your site using commands such as sitemap, disallow, crawl delay, etc.
- Meta robots – They create page-level instructions that can be recognized by search engine bots.
- Rel=”Nofollow” – Makes it possible to link to a particular source.
- Rel=”canonical” – This tag helps solve the problem of search engines devaluing content as well as its rankings.
Search Engine Tools
- Google Webmaster Tools – It is characterized by a geographic target, URL parameters, crawl rate, Malware, crawl errors, as well as HTML suggestions.
- Bing Webmaster Center – It is characterized by site overview, crawl stats, traffic, and index.
- Moz Open Site Explore – It is characterized by identified powerful links, strongest linking domains, analysis of link anchoring text distribution, as well as head to head comparison view.
CHAPTER 9 : MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SEARCH ENGINES
Over the years, a number of misconceptions have emerged about the manner in which search engines operate. This has since created serious confusion about what is required in order to perform effectively. Below is an overview of some of these common myths.
They include the thoughts:
- That paid search helps bolster organic results – There is a common misconception that spending a significant amount of money on search engine advertising can automatically improve your organic SEO rankings. Fact of the matter is, as much as search engine companies are spending millions of dollars in online advertising each month, even they cannot get special access consideration from web spam teams. Simply put, the notion that paid search is able to bolster organic results is, and should remain, a myth.
- That SEO is not worth the effort
- That there are smarter search engines
An Overview of Page-Level Spam Analysis
Search engines usually perform spam analysis across individual pages and entire websites (domains). Below is an overview of the key areas where emphasis on such is placed.
- Keyword Stuffing – It involves the littering of keywords on a page with the sole intentions of making the page appear more relevant to the search engines.
- Manipulative Linking – It involves trying to exploit search engines using the popularity of certain links in the ranking algorithms to artificially improve visibility.
- Reciprocal link exchange programs – It involves the creation of link pages in a bid to point them back and forth to one another in an attempt to inflate their popularity.
- Paid links – It involves the acquisition of links from sites and pages willing to place links on their home pages in exchange for money.
- Cloaking – It involves breaking of the guidelines which help showcase the same content to search engine crawlers which human visitors are shown. Sometimes this break in protocol is left to pass since it helps improve the user experience.
- Low Value Pages – As much as it is not technically considered as spam, search engines have a method for making sure that the page provides unique content and value to its searchers. Search engines are seriously against low value pages and use a variety of content link analysis algorithms to screen out low value pages.
Domain Level Spam Analysis
Apart from simply scanning pages for spam, search engines also identify traits and properties from domains that could flag them as spam.
During this, emphasis is usually placed on:
- Link practices
- Site trustworthiness
- Value of the content
How to Know You Have Been Bad
Before assuming you have been penalized, it is important to focus on the following:
- Errors within your site which may be inhibiting crawling
- Changes to the site which may have changed the manner in which you view your content
- Existence of sites which share similar back links with your site
- Any duplicate content
Getting Penalties Lifted
As a webmaster, it is imperative that you fully familiarize yourself with how to proceed in the event that you are penalized. Keep in mind that full disclosure is key to getting consideration.
Apart from that:
- Take time to remove or fix everything that you can.
- Be patient and wait as the review process is usually unpredictable.
- In case you haven’t registered the site, take time to create an additional layer of trust and connection with the search engine team.
- Thoroughly go through the data in your webmaster tools account, which are likely to compromise accessibility issues and sort them out.
- Draw up and send all your consideration issues to the search engine’s webmaster tools service.
Keep in mind the fact that to search engines, lifting penalties or bans is neither their obligation nor responsibility. This being the case, they have a right to either include or reject any site or page, so, be open to any outcome.
CHAPTER 10 : MEASURING & TRACKING SUCCESS ONLINE
Common knowledge tells us that if you can measure it, then you can easily improve it. Take note that in search engine optimization, measurement is crucial to success. Tracking of success should be focused on ranking, referrals, links, etc.
Recommended Metrics for Tracking:
- Search Engine Share of all witnessed referred visits from direct, search, and referral traffic. Emphasis should be placed on these three because collectively, they will help give you a better idea of you progress.
- Search engine referrals with emphasis on the comparison of performance against the market share visibility into potential drops among other things.
- Number of visits as a result of specific search engine terms and use of unique phrases.
- Number of pages that receive at least one visit from top search engines.
These are the most suitable tools for the job.
- Moz Analytics
- Sawmill Analytics
- Unica NetInsight
Choosing an analytics software can be very tough, hence the need to take into serious consideration each and every tool’s provision. Note that Google Analytics has a slight advantage over the rest in the sense that it cross-integrates with additional Google products such as the webmaster tools, AdWords and AdSense.
Regardless of the analytics software which you settle for, it is strongly advised that you insist on testing different versions of the same on your site in order to be able to make conversion rate improvements based on results. In fact, testing pages on your site can also serve as a free tool to test multiple versions of a page header among other things.
Metrics for Measuring
- Search Engine Optimization – It is rather challenging to optimize for specific behaviors of top search engines since their algorithms are not public. Good news is that a combination of the few known tactics have proven to be very useful in data analysis as well as in helping track all of the key variables which help in ranking, as well as in fluctuation of ranking signals. Another good thing is the fact that you can now easily take advantage of search engines to come up with a competitive advantage by structuring clever queries and then utilizing data that the engines have already published.
- Google Site Query- Make sure that you restrict to your search to a specific site. In case you would like to expand the value, simply add an additional query parameter.
- Google Trends – It allows you to search keyword volumes and popularity over a given period of time. Simply log into your Google account and get richer data, including specific numbers.
- Bing Site Query – Restrict your query to a specific site. Using it, you will be able to access a series of queries that show the number, as well as a list of pages in their indexes from different sites.
- Bing IP Query – Try as much as possible to restrict your query to a specific IP address. This is important because it will help make sure that the page is hosted on a shared provider.
- Bing Ads Intelligence – It serves as a guarantee to access a series of keyword research and audience intelligence tools to display advertising.
Applying That Data
Simply familiarizing yourself with the numbers will not help much. As a webmaster, it is imperative that you effectively interpret and apply the necessary changes. Below is an overview of some of the common directional signals to capitalize on.
- Fluctuations in the search engine page as well as in the link count numbers
- Falling in search traffic from a particular search engine
- Falling of traffic from multiple search engines
- Individual ranking fluctuations
- Increment in link metrics without any significant increase in ranking
Congratulations! You have now finished the entire Beginner’s Guide to SEO : Detailed Overview on How Search Engines Operate! You are now ready to begin your journey on the internet as you develop your online presence, create high quality content, optimize your content, engage your audience, and at the same time, avoid common SEO pitfalls.