What is a Search Engine

By 2011, almost everyone in the world has used a search engine at some point or another. A search engine revolves around a fairly simple idea.

Let’s say you want to read about Scottish Terrier puppies. You could hop the the world wide web and start reading away, the problem is that you need to find material for you to read. By entering the term “Scottish Terrier puppies” in a search engine, the engine will scavenge the web for you and return all the results it can find regarding the topic you entered. It will direct you where to go to get the information you are looking for. It’s just like going to the library. You would use the computer system to instruct you where to find the categories of books you are looking for.


How Search Engines Work

The world wide web is a global network consisting of hundred of millions of web pages, all maintained an created by a vast array of programmers, developers, and users. To find information about a particular topic, most people use a search engine to discover new web sites and pages. When you key in a search term or query into a search engine, the search engine sends out crawlers or spiders to find web pages relating to the topic you entered. The crawler specifically looks at the particular information that make up that web site, and presents the results in a order or relevance base on what it thinks you are trying to find.

By correctly choosing what information is on your web site, this is how we can optimize your results when users query information that your site can provide.


Good SEO Practices (white hat seo)

Good SEO practices are to:

Offer Quality Content

The absolute best thing you can do to get high rankings in a search engine is to design and provide quality content. If you create quality, high-end, and informative content, the rankings will pretty much take care of themselves. Think about it, how many times to you click on a link and enter a website, only to spend 3 seconds and back out because the content was insufficient or un-interesting. Give you viewers a reason to go there.

Write Easy-To-Read Text

Just like you favourite novel, magazine, newspaper or blog, understandable text always trumps hard to follow, mis-spelt and grammatically incorrect text. Proof read your work and have others examine it for mistakes, punctuation, spelling and point of view.

Stay Organized Around the Topic

When people visit your site, they are visiting it for a reason. Either advertising, a search engine query, referral, word of mouth or promotion has brought them to your site because of something that intrigued their interest. Because they sought you out, it is important to offer content that will satisfy that initial intrigue. Stay with the program and focus on material related to your subject. Viewers can feel quite distracted when a page .

Create Content for your Users, not Search Engines

If you create your content for search engines, it is likely to not make your reader to happy. Create your website to make the viewer happy, and the search engine will follow suit. Remember, search engine rank you on how many people visit and how long they stay on your page. The longer the average page view is, the higher the ranking.

Give People a Reason to Come Back

A website is like watching the six o’clock news. If they ran the same stories night after night, you’d stop tuning in. Your website should offer fresh, dynamic content.


Bad SEO Practices (black hat seo)

Bad SEO practices are to use:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing sucks. It makes the content almost impossible to read from a users perspective. Keyword stuffing is the act of writing actual text, but filling it with way too many keywords. Keyword stuffing usually involves overfilling a paragraph with useless adjectives, adverbs and other over-descriptive text. Search engines do not like this practice.

Matching Text/Background Colours
An old way to trick a search engine was to put white text (keywords) on top of a white background. To the viewer, it would appear as a blank page, but to a search engine, it would be loaded with keywords tricking the search engine into believing that site was something it wasn’t. Search engines have gotten smarter, and this no longer fools them. In fact, you can be penalized and have your ranking lowered for trying to deceive them.

Link Farms
A link farm isn’t actually a ‘real’ website. It is real in the sense that it is a page living on the internet, but it doesn’t actually house any content in and of itself. It is simply a page, which usually contains hundreds or thousands of links, designed to increase the links search engines see leading to your page. Search engines do not like this and will penalize you for this. If anyone ever offers you anything that can increase your ranking in Google, it is usually from link farmers.

Be Cautious of People Promising High Rankings
There is a world full of scammers out there, who will take advantage of the not-knowing. While there are legitimate companies out there that offer proper and real search engine optimization, many of them are scams. Good content and networking is all you need to get high in Google’s ranks. If you can organically direct viewers to your site, search engines will reward you accordingly. Be leery of anyone who offers you a better spot on any search engine.

Respect Search Engines
Not counting organic referrals, search engines are your best tool for getting people to your site. Plus, the more people Google sends your way, the more it will compound and take you even higher in the rankings. Google, and other search engines, will penalize you for trying to trick them. They may lower your ranking, or even black list you completely. If you don’t show up on Google, you virtually don’t exist. Best practice is to keep them happy and they will keep you happy in return.


What You Can Do

Things you, as a website owner, can do are to:


A blog can be a great way to generate page views. Blog, short for web log, is like a journal, diary, press release or recent news section. People use blogs to share their thoughts about various topics, post announcements, advertise special events or promotions, and to share media. The best part about a blog, is that is appeals to new and existing readers. People will keep coming back to your web site, over and over, to see if you have anything new to say. Each time they visit your web site, it can increase a search engine’s view on how important or valuable your site is.

Update Often
Just like a blog, frequent updates can help generate return visits to your site. Not only that, but it is important to not let your content get stale. Readers will tire quickly of viewing the same content or design time after time. It may be extra work, but it’s worth it.

Get Others to Link to you
Search engines view the world wide web as, well, y’know, a web. Through some connection or another, every web site is connected to the next somehow. The main concept behind this idea is linking. If anyone with their own website likes or recommends your web site, they may link to you. These links are deemed an important factor through a search engine’s eyes. And for good reason too. If someone has taken the time to link to you, they are putting the recommendation public with their name attached to it. Other web sites owners will usually only link to another site if they feel that the content has some value or relevance to their content. A search engine uses links to realize what good content is. The more links to your site, the better or more important google will value it. If a lot of other web sites are linking to you, you probably have something valuable to offer.

Include A Web Address in your Advertising
A spin off the the last concept, getting others to link to you, can also be used with your current multimedia advertising. If you are running a radio commercial, print ad, or more importantly, online advertising, make sure to include your web site address. Not only will it educate potential viewers that you have a web site, but almost always the advertising company will, in some way or another, link to your site through their web site. An advertisers web site is typically a heavy traffic site, and to have them link to you, will tell a search engine that your site is also important.

Get Involved in Forums and other Public Areas
Just like real estate agents, hair stylists, or non-profit charities, the more involved you are with your community, the more exposure you will get. Being involved in local communities, online forums or help sites, and comment postings can help increase traffic to your site. It ‘gets your name out there.’ Also, when responding to a comment or blog, include your web site address in your signature to generate yet another link to your web site.

Convince Others to Review Your Business/Website
There are a lot of great review sites on the world wide web, such as Yelp or Google Places. Having viewers rate your site will help increase the value and once again, get your name out there on the internet. The more times a search engine see’s your name while crawling, the better.

Post A Newsletter
Besides being a great way to keep your clients updated with whats going on with your business, a weekly, monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is a great way to keep your website current and add related content that may help your ranking.

Social Media
I won’t lie, social media takes work. But every day, more and more people are being referred by social media. I am constantly discovering new products and services through my friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Social media is a great way to network, advertise and get your voice out there. At the very least, I recommend getting a Facebook page. If you feel a little more ambitious, there are also blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Digg and many others.


What Web-Masters Can Do

Responsible web-masters should use:

Google Places

Google places works in conjunction with Google Maps. It literally puts your business on the map. A place page can be subtle and minimal or it can be informative and extravagant. A place page generally contains a map showing your location, phone number, address, business hours, description, services/products offered and more. Not only is it helpful for people trying to locate you, but can really help with your search ranking.

Title Tags
Title tags are the small descriptions you see in the top of the browser window. They give an overall summary about what that page is about. They can be compared to chapter titles in a book. Search engines need that general description to properly index a page. Some analysts believe the title is the most important part of optimizing your website.

Description/Keyword Meta Tags
Meta tags are not visible to the viewers, but are embedded into the code that makes up a webpage. They are simply a list of keywords that tell the engine what that page is about.

Once upon a time, meta tags were considered a very valuable tool in indexing websites, until web masters starting abusing them. On a page that was about cats, web masters would put keywords like running shoes, fireworks, New York City, etc. This fooled the search engine into presenting a cats page when the user search for New York City. It didn’t take long for search engines to stop using this method of indexing. There is debate as to whether meta tags even provide any type of function anymore, but since no one knows for sure, it is always a good idea to put them in, just in case.

Improve Structure of URL’s
A url is the path of links to a particular web page. Think of them as navigating in your file system. You would have My Computer, My Documents, etc. Improving the structure simply means to use easy to understand and logical language. An example would be changing


Make Website Easy to Navigate
Although most search engines catalogue individual pages, they do consider how that page fits into the overall site. Your home page, or index page, is usually always the most visited page on your entire web site and should contain and easily understandable navigation menu. Creating a user friendly navigation system will help search engines index your web site.

Use A Site Map
A site map is a list of pages included inside a particular web site that is used by viewers, and search engines. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for web design, or a web page that lists the pages on a web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion. This helps visitors and search engine bots find pages on the site.

Use Alt Text for Images
Since a graphic or image on a website has zero text on it, a search engine has no way to tell what the picture is about, as they can not interpret pictures. This is where alt text comes in. Alt text is a small caption of text you can add to an image to tell the engine what the photo is about. But make sure to tell the truth, as a search engine will compare the alt text to the rest of the content on the page.

Submit Your Website to the Two Major Search Engines
Search engines don’t just find your site by accident – they need to be told you exist. At the very least, your webmaster should submit your web site to the two major search engines: Google & Bing. Once these engines are told about the existence of your web site, they will regularly crawl and index your site to be used when a user queries specific keywords.

Key Links
Google: www.google.com/addurl/
Bing: www.bing.com/webmaster/submitsitepage.aspx


Common Rules of SEO

“No matter how good your site looks, it’s wasted if your online audience is too small.”

“There is no guarantee for good rankings. Google’s algorithm is always changing. Be careful of anyone promising top results.”

“Good rankings do not happen instantly. It may take 6 months, 12 months or more to rank well in one or more search engines.”

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