Yesterday we discussed briefly what Search Engine Optimization is. Today, lets shift gears & learn how it works.
Worth repeating is this: SEO can make or break your online business. Although there are far more advanced techniques and methods used nowadays to improve search rankings or SEO, however, fundamentals should suffice here. There are more than a handful of search engines, Google stands the predominant market leader. So when one talks about SEO, he/she is most likely referring to the optimization for Google. Yeah, you cannot just optimize for every engine there is in one go; you need to target Google, Bing, etc. separately. This matters because each search engine has been developed differently than others. Before you know how to optimize your site for Google, you ought to know how Google works. And nobody knows EXACTLY how that Big G works, assumptions are best served here but they must be tried and tested to be backed up.
There are theories, official guides on how Google works but they are as specific as Google has been. Lets get how Google works out of the way:
How Google works
It all begins from crawling. Google has a great deal of web crawlers (Googlebot is a popular among them), which have been programmed to go from one page to another, following links and downloading them to Google servers. This process of going from one page to another to discover new pages and update old ones is called as Crawling.
The act of crawling, in SEO context, never ends. Because there are millions of webpages being published every day; and that rate is rapidly growing. It’s practically very costly to try to crawl all of the web in one go. It’s a continuous process, requires maintenance and has to be kept up 24/7. The act of downloading crawled/new pages to a register (INDEX) is called indexing. INDEX grows at a very ferocious pace & is used for future reference.
This part is the most important of whole process. SEO is technically influencing or manipulating this part, for good or bad dependent upon this. Webpages once crawled and indexed are ranked. The idea behind Google is that “not all webpages are equal; some are high-quality, others pure spam & so on.” Consequently users searching webpages cannot be expected to find all pages equally useful. Therefore ranking determines the pages most useful to end users.
To see a further detailed version of this “How Google works”, go ahead & read the detailed version at Dekho Geeko.
How SEO works
SEO is about knowing how Google works, which factors it considers & why it ranks some pages better than others. Then… using that knowledge to best optimize your site, so it is ranked better. You are basically helping Big G; and they ask for it. They ask us to submit XML sitemaps, solve 404 errors, canonical redirect 303 pages, add meta descriptions and what not.
Know that Google, first of all, does not search the web! It searches its INDEX. The same INDEX it cultivates by crawling through 1000s of pages hourly. Since this INDEX is constantly updated, 24/7, it contains pages published in last 5 minutes. This methodology is used, because WWW (Web) is nearly impossible to search through.
What are search signals
Search signals or ranking factors are interchangeably used to refer to elements/factors that Google looks at to rank web pages. There are more than 200 ranking factors. For example, how fast your webpage loads is popularly known to be a factor; likewise number of times your targeted keywords is there.
No one knows exactly what those 200 factors are. Google doesn’t disclose the list publicly most probably as it gives it an edge over its competitors. However SEOs or SEO analysts test certain factors of a page, form theories and publish their findings. Most of these techniques are used by them to gain search rankings.
That’s all. That’s how Google works. That’s how SEO works. It’s full of mysteries, guesses and tests. In upcoming posts, we will delve a little deeper to XML Sitemaps and meta descriptions.