Search Engine Basic Concepts

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Dec 19, 2017
Baffled by search engines and how they work? Not technical in orientation? Unfortunately, this make you susceptible to bad SEO advice, or sets you up to potentially be taken by a bad SEO firm.
This post will provide a layman’s level explanation of the basics of search engines. Let’s dig in.
The Basic Three Search Engine Concepts
This is the basic first question that a search engine has to deal with when looking at any web page. What’s it about? Search engines want to know this because it helps them respond to user search queries with pages that are relevant to that query.
There are many signals that can be used to determine the relevance of a given page. Some of these include:
  1. The title tag of the web page. As you would expect, the title for any document should be a leading indicator its contents.
  2. Semantic analysis of the content. This is not tied as much as it used to be to specific keyword phrases, but the general relevance of a page is analyzed based on the words and phrases used.
  3. Anchor text used in links to the page. The text you click on in a link also acts as a label for what you would expect to find once you get to that page.
  4. Topic matter of third party web pages containing links to the page. If lots of pages about automobile topics link to your page selling a used Ford Mustang, that’s a good thing.
  5. Topic matter of the site on which the page resides. Your page about selling a used Ford Mustang will do better on a site about used cars then it will on a site about water parks.
  6. How users respond to the content in the search engine results pages (SERPs). If everyone that clicks on a link immediately jumps back to the SERPs and clicks on something else, that could be a bad sign.
There are other potential signals that you can think up without too much trouble, but by now, you should get the idea.

Impact of Relevance
You simply can’t rank on given search terms if you don’t have a page relevant to that search query.
Learn what types of search queries are used by people who are looking for products or services like yours. Make sure you have pages for each major variant of these, but don’t over do it.
In addition, make sure the content on those pages in consistent with the title tag and create strong content to support it.

Search engines also try to determine how important each of the pages relevant to a particular search query are. This is how they determine which page should rank first, which one to rank second, and so forth.
Historically, the main driver of this factor has been inbound links. There are many who believe that social signals are a big player here, but I’m not one of them. Personally, I think that links remain the primary driver of importance calculations.

Impact of Importance
Creating great products or great content is incredibly valuable for many reasons. For one thing, people with web sites may choose to link to yours if they believe it to be important.
However, it isn’t enough to simply create fantastic stuff, you do have to tell the world about it. Basic PR and content marketing techniques are very valuable in getting the word out, and can lead to people engaging with and sharing your content.

For certain types of queries, importance isn’t as interesting to determine as popularity. For example, for a search query such as [hottest movies], it’s a clear request for something that is the most popular.
Popularity is also be a powerful factor for trending topics, such as breaking news. This is a place where social media signals could be an important factor, as lots of social shares of a particular news article is something that the search engines might pick up on and use.
As with relevance, user SERP behavior could be a strong indicator as well. A search engine could try ranking news articles in a particular order and based on user click patterns adjust that order.

Impact of Popularity
There are many things that can cause something to become popular, but one of the best ways to do this is to develop content that will create an emotional reaction in the viewer.
If you can create images that “tell a story,” that by itself can help make a page on your site more popular.
Videos can also be quite effective.
Creating popular content is an art form, so you will need to have a strong creative bent to succeed at this, and even then, you will need to test many different things and evolve over time to find a winning formula.

Drafted from: SEW