Search – the New 411
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away called Stanford University, Google was born and the word Search took on a whole new meaning. Google redefined the way we seek out resources in the vast and confusing warehouse called The Internet.
Google’s search efficiency turned its name into a commonly used verb. How do we find something now? No one says “Oh yeah, search for that on the internet and see what you find.” Instead, they say Google It.
If You Build It, That Doesn’t Mean They Will Come.
The Internet has given everyone a worldwide reach. Someone selling the simplest widget can now reach about 3 billion people instead of only those within delivery range. The only thing between your website and someone willing to buy your widget in West Michigan, or the East Coast, or on Endor is their ability to find your home page.
There are nearly 2 billion websites live on the internet so how do you make sure you’re not sliding down the list of search results, sinking below the weight of 500 other sites with similar widgets? Or just the word Widget in their titles? With Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo’s search tools are all examples of search engines. There are others too, such as Ask or Duck Duck Go. For our purposes, let’s continue with the warehouse description for the Internet.
The Internet warehouse is full of row after row of shelves filled with products, and a robot retrieves the items that people request. Teddy bears are over there, and rubber snakes are on the other side of the building. And, there are lots of other items in between.
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All of the items are listed in a database by name. However, product names can be deceiving and some manufacturer could produce a leather-jacketed, eye-patch wearing bear named Snake. Robots only do what they are told and might bring out Snake, or could retrieve a rubber snake named Teddy. To help with that, the items in the warehouse also have detailed descriptions.
You tell the robot you want a teddy bear. The robot then scans its database for items that appear to be teddy bears. Fuzzy – check. Two ears – check. No legs – un-check. Rubber – un-check. Each of the descriptors is also given a score. Round Head – 2 points. Perfectly round head – 3 points. Paws – 2 points. Four paws – 4 points.
The robot scans the descriptions and features and then gathers up all of the items that match your request for “teddy bear.” Since there are lots of different bears, the robot needs a way to bring you the best of the bunch so it also puts them in order by score.
The teddy bears that are the closest match to the description with the highest scores come out of the warehouse first. Then come the teddy bears that match the term, but have lower scores. Then come the items that just match the term teddy bear, with five legs, missing eyes, and torn seams.
Sometimes, the teddy bear manufacturers don’t put together detailed descriptions and the robot brings their bears out last. Or, not at all. Beautiful teddy bears sit in the warehouse because they are only listed as Teddy, while other, lower quality bears fly off the shelf because their descriptions get them noticed and give them higher scores.
Think of SEO as your website’s name, description, and it’s score. Widget – check and 2 points. West Michigan Widget – 2 more points. When people search for widgets, the same things happen. The robot, or search engine now, goes looking for widgets and your website’s SEO that it is near the top of the list.
This IS the Website You’re Looking For
Hopefully, that explains why SEO is so important. Search engines look at a website’s characteristics before returning their list of choices. The text on a website’s homepage, blog posts, links to and from the website, and much more all contribute to the site’s SEO ranking and how far down the list it sits, waiting to be noticed.
You must focus on good SEO practices to ensure that search engines deliver your website on the first page of results. Working the word Widget into the front page text 20 times does not help to drive your site further up the list, by the way. However, clear, well-written content that’s refreshed often will.
There are lots of other important pieces to the SEO puzzle besides great content. If your site is consistently far down the list of search results, pages away from number one, consult with someone knowledgeable with Search Engine Optimization and start moving your site back into view.
SEO is a science with a little art thrown in for good measure. Kind of like fighting Darth Vader with a lightsaber.
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