How Search Engines Work


You see it and use it multiple times throughout the day, but do you know how it works?

Surprisingly, many webmasters severely lack knowledge about one of the most important aspects of the internet – the search engines! We all know they exist, we know people use them, and we know that they drive traffic to our websites. But few people actually carry an understanding about how they work. If you can educate yourself about the way search engines function, you’ll be more capable of optimizing your site properly. Search engines send automated “bots” to “crawl” the web through hyperlinks.

Without external hyperlinks to your website, the bots really have no way of finding your website. It’s still possible that they’ll discover your site eventually, but without some kind of effort on your part, it may be unlikely. Only about half of the existing pages on the internet have been crawled by the search engines, if that gives you any indication of the importance of backlinks.

Once the bots crawl your website, it becomes indexed in a huge database along with all the other indexed pages on the internet.

There are literally billions of pages stored in this database. Yet, as you’ve probably noticed, it takes barely a second or two to get results after performing a search.

When searches are made, the engine quickly scans through relevant documents and provides results based on the most accurate possible matches.

Generally a match is determined by the presence of that particular keyword on the webpage. Thus, on-page optimization is extremely important. Google and the other search engines will provide differing results depending on whether you type the phrase as-is (purple umbrellas), in quotes (“purple umbrellas”), with the + symbol (purple + umbrellas), or other variations. After the SE has found matches for the search query, a special algorithm scans each of the results to determine relevance to the keyword phrase. Results are provided to the user in order from most relevant to least relevant. So what can you learn from this information? A few things:
1. Your page must be relevant to the search term (listing the keyword several times throughout the course of the website, on-site optimization)
2. You need external hyperlinks (backlinks) pointing to your website to act as a “gateway” for the bots to access your site. As far as relevance goes, Google and the other search engines take all of these into consideration:
a. On-site optimization
b. Age of the domain (the older the better)
c. Page Rank (PR)
d. Alexa ranking (the ‘popularity’ of your website based on the amount of traffic it gets)
e. Number of backlinks, particularly from high PR authority websites that are related to your website (if you have a blog about real estate, a high PR link from a real estate website will be more valuable than a high PR link from a website about dog grooming)
f. Linking structure of the website (easy navigation)
So looking at all of these factors, you can see why Amazon.com would take the #1 spot for “buy books” rather than your three-week-old Blogger blog with 4 backlinks.

The article comes from an ebook – SEO for Busy Marketers is an ebook which can be found here.

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