If you were alive and conscious in the 1990s, you may remember the compact discs that ISPs used to distribute for people to “get online” through their services. If you used AOL, for example, it’s likely that they’d force you to set their homepage to aol.com. Why wouldn’t they? Soon, Internet users realized that they could easily change their homepage to something different with a couple of clicks. The main idea here was the introduction of the term “portal” to refer to that starting point that would lead you to get connected and access what was known as the “information superhighway”.
This brings us to the idea of search engines. Your ISP’s home page could work as a starting point to browse web pages and contents on the web, in a similar way to that of sites such as Google or Yahoo!. And then we’ll start talking about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. What does the “optimization” mean? What is it used for? SEO is a remarkable tool for every online marketer and we’re going to take a quick look at several tips that you can use to improve the positioning of your website within a search engine’s results.
How do search engines work?
Search engines today work as portals on the Internet. The term refers to the way people look for information on the Internet. Users are usually interested in certain types of information, such as shopping, booking flights or other commercial matters. In the early days of the web, users started to depend on search engines. Said engines don’t understand about aesthetics, taste, or colors; but they do understand texts and content. A search engine doesn’t really care about logos, effects or pretty designs. Some parameters can be taken into account, such as the average duration of a visit to a page on a website or the bounce rate, but in the end the important aspects are those that are quantifiable or mathematical. To understand what a search engine does, we must talk about three things: crawling, indexing and relevance algorithms.
The search engine crawls the web to find a large number of pages. In order to be relevant, the engine should have access to the biggest amount of content. In Google’s case there’s Googlebot, a “spider” software that relies on hyperlinks to jump from one page to another, and as it navigates through the hyperlinks it saves these results on an index. If a website has several outgoing links, each one of those goes to a different site, and each one of those has dozens, hundreds or thousands of outgoing links as well. The crawler gets to the homepage, follows the first outgoing link, there it starts following the first link it finds, and starts jumping from one page to another in order to discover all the different pages on the Internet. If your website doesn’t have any back link or incoming addresses, it is going to be quite hard for the crawler to find you.
Thanks to the crawling bot, search engines already have huge indexes. With all of the indexed information, the search engine has to decide which of all of those pages is the most relevant one. Here comes the issue of search algorithms, which provide the best results according to a user’s search query. Users can search through keywords or phrases and the server uses a series of algorithms to determine which result is the most relevant. It delivers an answer based on that algorithm but it is not necessarily the correct answer nor what the user is looking for. An algorithm is basically a set of advanced mathematical formulas that orders a set of results and shows them according to what the user searched for.
The essence of SEO positioning is that our website should be among the first results when a user searches for a keyword or a phrase on the search engine. These different formulas and factors are practically unknown. There are several factors or different aspects that influence the results and the weight of each one of the variables. As a consequence, you should not trust any SEO expert that tells you that they can put your website on the first place of the search results, since nobody really knows for sure what those factors are. Your best shot is a trial-and-error learning experience.
Google is the biggest search engine there is right now and the algorithm is constantly changing, since the importance of each variable is permanently being updated. Basically what they do is optimize duplicated or redundant content and then they update their specialized algorithms.
How does SEO positioning work?
We’re talking about improving the organic or natural positioning of our site by leading it to appear among the top places within the search results. Even though Google is the biggest search engine today, it wasn’t the first one. Before Google there was Altavista, Lycos and Yahoo! But we’re going to focus mainly on the potential that Google has to achieve optimum positioning. Google has about 30 trillion URLs on its index. That’s a lot of information! According to Google’s official blog, the servers of Google index 20,000 million pages every day.
Digital Marketing can be thought of as techniques meant to generate audiences and monetize those audiences. You have traffic generation and you have monetization. The main object of SEO is to generate traffic to your website. The main advantage of search engine positioning is that it can be a practically unlimited source of traffic. The key here is volume. If a user is watching a music video on YouTube and the user gets to see an ad featuring a brand new car, that’s a bit ridiculous. But if we choose the correct keywords to lead those users to our website, then we will have succeeded. Of course, this has a cost. Search engine optimization is not free. Well-done SEO is profitable and more economical than other traffic sources.
If you create a campaign on Facebook, for instance, and your ads are effective, the cost of advertising might be lower but it won’t be proportionally lower according to the amount of exposure. If the optimization is done effectively, the traffic can increase and the return on investment can be directly proportional to said growth. Your traffic can then grow proportionally without additional costs.
However, web positioning can be ephemeral and the algorithms can change overnight. Some of the keys to obtain stability are good content, update frequency and a good amount of incoming links to our website.