In a competitive online market, Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is one of the most important skills that a marketer can have. It is the most effective and influential in driving traffic from search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. Let’s start with the basics of SEO and its benefits for your business. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is SEO?
- Why SEO is Important
- Google Rank And How Google Search Engine Works
- What is a Google Algorithm?
What Is SEO?
All the actions taken, on a website or off a website to rank higher on search engines results page is called Search Engine Optimisation.
When we try to find any information, product, service, business or brand online, we generally go to a search engine and type whatever we are looking for to get a list of search results relevant to our query. For Eg. If you type “Digital Marketing” on google, you get the following results:
This is where search engine optimisation comes into picture. SEO helps in improving your ranking for a keyword and getting noticed by your target audience.
Almost everyone, in time of need, have searched for services, products, information, businesses and brands on search engines like Google. Google has made finding information online easier for consumers.
More importantly, it has also made it easier for marketers to reach their audience. Understanding this opportunity can help or break your online business.
Let’s assume you want to find a Car dealer to purchase a new car. Before search engines became mainstream, you would have to rely on newspaper ads, classifieds and word of mouth to find a dealer near you. You just have to search for “Car Dealers” and you will instantly get a list of car dealer websites to contact. Similarly, you can find information on your favourite products by providing a few words of query on Google or a similar search engine.
The task of the search engine is to give you the most relevant results for the query that you have on what is called a search result page. The exact terms that you search for on Google are called keywords.
The results on the search result page are as expected because all the results are relevant to the user’s keywords or phrases, in this case, “Car Dealers”. Note how the search results also take into account the location from where the search is made. In this case, Madhya Pradesh, India. Pretty simple, right?
But how does Google identify and decide that one website is more relevant than other?
To provide people with the most relevant results for every query, Google makes use of algorithms (a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations especially by a computer) that helps Google decide what websites are relevant and which ones are useless.
How does auto.ndtvindia.com become more relevant than autoportal.com?
Why are these particular websites on the first page of google search results page for “Car Dealers”?
Understanding these questions will help us understand how Google and other similar search engines work.
Hence, once you understand the parameters that help websites rank on the first page, you can then leverage this knowledge to rank your website better on search engines. Basically, what you are doing is ‘Optimising’ your website to improve ranking on search engines.
Google algorithms keep spam, fake and irrelevant content away to maintain the quality of search results, which it keeps a strict watch on. Google algorithms are also updated regularly and new parameters are introduced every now and then.
Why SEO Is Important
Google has put years of development time into refining the search engine results page (or SERP). And it has been successful at it. Why? Because 91.5% of the users click on the first page of the search results on Google. It means that 91.5% of the users find relevant content on the first page itself. Do you ever remember going to second, third or fourth page of a search results page on google? Probably never or rarely, right?
Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is important because:
- 91.5% of the users will click on the first page on the Search Engine Results Page. This makes it clear that if your website is not on the first page, you are losing 91.5% of potential customers.
- Ranking on top increases trust because users trust Search Engines. The digital world is filled with scam, spam and fakes. Ranking on top tells your customers that you are authentic and trustworthy, which in turn can boost sales.
- It increases your brand awareness if utilised to target generic keywords. If you are selling wordpress themes, and you start ranking for “premium wordpress themes” on the first page, your brand gets an amazing push with new people finding out about your website or brand on a daily basis.
- Drives more traffic to your website. More traffic means more potential customers. More traffic also boosts social media interaction and following, which in turn again helps your website rankings.
- SEO can put you ahead of your competition if leveraged the right way. Looking at how your competition is ranking ( More on this later) helps you understand and beat the competition.
- The incoming traffic from search engines is Free! No explanation necessary here.
- SEO helps improve your search engine ranking.
- SEO helps you optimize conversions. Certain intent keywords like “buy wordpress themes” can direct extremely targeted traffic to your website and can boost conversion rates by a huge factor. This is because the people searching have a buying intention.
- It can increase revenue of a business.
Now even if you are pretty new to SEO, the above points should make sense. If they don’t, don’t sweat because we will be learning more in the blog posts following this one. Just keep in mind that SEO is extremely important for your website and can increase revenue, awareness and social media follows.
Google Rank And How Google Search Engine Works
We learnt that driving traffic and optimising conversions is extremely important. An understanding of how Google search engine works will enable us to find out how websites are ranked on SERP. Out of more than 70 trillion websites on the internet, how exactly does Search Engines find the websites and their SERP rankings for their respective particular keywords?
Here’s an overview of how Search Engines rank websites:
- Crawling: Almost all search engines have crawlers that visit web pages on a website and go through all the links available on there. All the content and the data that the crawlers come across are sent back to the search engines servers. These web crawlers discovered publicly available pages. The search engine Google uses web crawler that is called a ‘googlebot’ . When crawlers visit a website Then look for links for other web pages to visit and if those webpage have more links these crawlers will browse through all the pages until the whole website has been crawled. These crawlers pay special attention to new sites, changes to existing sites and dead links.
- Indexing: Indexing is a process of adding your website pages to Google search. All the crawled web pages are stored with the information gathered in the crawling stage. Once the information has been consolidated by Google servers, All the information about the websites web pages are stored just like an index in a book.
- Processing: The index contains information about different words keywords contacts and their location on the web page. When a user searches for a query relevant to that particular website at the most basic level Google’s algorithms lookup the search terms in the index to find the website and display the appropriate results.
- Relevance: Many websites for web pages may contain the same words which requires Google to sort similar pages through relevancy.
- Results: Finally the pages sorted in the order of relevance which best match the user’s query are displayed on the Search Engine Results Page.
So for example if someone creates a website that contains information on various health products to reduce weight, The website is still new and is not listed in any of the search engines.
To index the website or in other words to add the website to a search engine, to be shown whenever relevant keywords are searched for, One has to submit the website to search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing etcetera (More on this on following posts). Even with the most high quality and complete information, the website may not rank on the top of any of the search engine results page. But once the website has been submitted and the crawlers have begun going through the websites content and indexing the website, one can go about optimising the website to improve rankings on SERP.
This enables new businesses to get up and running and acquire customers through search engines and gives us a very basic idea of how a search engines work.
What is Google Algorithm?
Google algorithm is a set of rules that Google follows to rank the websites it indexes in order of relevance while also linking them with their relevant keywords. Through all these years Google has changed and updated the Google ranking algorithm to consistently improve the search engine results page. Let’s go through these algorithms and changes to understand what parameters Google appreciates in a website that aims to rank higher and what it doesn’t.
The primary goal of Google is to make the life of a search engine user extremely easy. To a user, Google wants to provide the most relevant (and useful) search results and to solve the query in the shortest possible amount of time.
Moreover to make search results more relevant and useful Google persistently keeps changing its algorithm about 500 to 600 Times every year. Most of these upgrades are minor but once in a few years Google releases a major change or update that makes a marketers life tougher.
Since 1998 there have been four major changes in Google’s algorithms the first one was Panda, the second was called Penguin the third was Hummingbird and The Fourth was rankbrain.
Each of these updates have minimised spammy links on the search engine results page and promoted high quality websites.
When Google started, it used to crawl index web pages and use factors like keyword density to rank the websites. Google was very crude back then and it assumed that if a webpage mentioned a particular keyword multiple times it would be relevant to that keyword.
So for example if a website has Search Engine Optimisation repeated many times it would show up in the top of the search results page. But soon people and market is learnt this and started to stuff keywords on their web pages.
Consequently, a Google algorithm was developed and the journey towards finding more relevant and high quality websites started.
But you don’t have to worry about it if you stay clear of spammy content, bad SEO practices like keyword stuffing and always work towards a better consumer experience.
Let’s have a brief look at the Major Google Algorithms changes.
- Panda: The Panda update has been one of the most important updates by Google yet. Once Google realised that many websites contained plagiarized content on their webpages, It started penalising low quality or thin content and started promoting in depth, original content.
- Penguin: This update focused on spammy backlinks and keyword stuffing. Marketers who paid spammy websites And stuffed a relevant keywords on their websites to rank on google search results page by heavily penalised.
- Hummingbird: The Hummingbird update surprisingly had nothing to do with page ranking. Instead in focus on understanding the users need or intent. The Hummingbird update also enabled conversational English to be used on Google Search.
- Rankbrain: The latest algorithm rankbrain is not actually an algorithm but a tool that makes Google’s algorithm more accurate. The rankbrain update leverages artificial intelligence to better the search engine results page. This update was primarily was released because Google did not understand 15% of the search queries as these were queries never received before. Google rankbrain and artificial intelligence increased the interpretation rate of these new queries. Since its release rankbrain has been the most important ranking factor in search result rankings.
This was a conceptual guide. It is important to know the working of a search engine before we jump into actually optimising our website. In the next part, due sometime in the next 10-15 days, We Will have a look at the two major categories of SEO, On-site and Off-site. We will also learn how SEO can help you as a marketer.