Search engines like Google are a ubiquitous part of the modern world, with Google actually added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2006 as a verb. Billions of people around the world intuitively know what “to Google” a word means, and as a consequence, the way we interact with each other and the world around us has been forever changed.
Appearing on the top results of search engines can make or break a startup business or website, and conversely, it’s almost impossible to succeed as a new business these days without making sure that your website will show up in search results.
However, while many may think that the science and technology behind search engines is an obscure and arcane science, it’s a rather ingeniously simple process that can be understood and even manipulated by the average person.
The process of refining and manipulating your search results is known as search engine optimization or SEO, and it is a critical part of running a business in the modern world. Before you can ensure your website or company has optimal SEO, it’s important to understand the mechanics of how search engines work in the first place.
Entering the Information Age
Although many people take it for granted that they can type a search query into Google and get millions of relevant and interesting results, this technology didn’t always exist. What information you had access to used to depend on your geographical location and status in society, and not everyone could find and read the same books or documents.
All of this changed when the internet was introduced, putting the cumulative mass of humanity’s collective knowledge at the fingertips of the masses. In addition to the greater amount of information available, one of the most defining and exciting aspects of search engine technology is how it ranks information we see, giving us the results we were looking for seemingly instantly.
Page Ranking Techniques
At its heart, Google and other search engines can be understood as ranking systems that use a form of artificial intelligence and algorithms to determine what information to show you. While many people might think that Google ranks pages based on how many people have clicked the link or viewed the page, or simply searches web pages for keywords, the way it works is slightly different.
The way Google ranks results for relevance is based on how many links there are to a given page, which are known as backlinks. In addition, Google analyzes the popularity and authoritativeness of each backlink and assigns values to each one.
This PageRank algorithm was developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were studying at Stanford and was trademarked by their company in 1998. Only 8 years later, it had revolutionized the world so much that it was part of the lexicon of the average global citizen, and obtained its dictionary entry. Few people have changed the world in such a dramatic and useful way, and the PageRank algorithm continues to evolve and affect the way businesses, people, and institutions interact with the world around them.
What is SEO?
Surrounding this algorithm, an entire industry has sprung up, known as Search Engine Optimization. This can be understood as the science or art of manipulating search results to make sure certain results come up higher on the ranking than they would have naturally.
SEO is something that all companies do, whether intentional or not, and can be understood as simply a more technologically advanced form of marketing for the modern world.
To put it simply, search engine algorithms base their results on backlinks or the amount and quality of links that interact with a given page. Therefore, the best way to achieve SEO is to find ways to acquire more links to your page.
This is often easier said than done, but with effort, assistance, and creativity, backlink networks can be built that will help a page rise in the results. Some of the methods used to build links to a page are:
- Reaching out to popular blogs or news sites to be featured
- Running a popular and successful social media page that people interact with frequently
- Making sure that your website utilizes strong and consistent keywords
- Contacting an SEO professional for assistance
The goal of SEO is to drive organic traffic, which is mainly achieved by presenting interesting, authoritative, and compelling material. If your content is engaging and truthful, more people will be likely to link to it or discuss it, which will attract more attention from search engines.
The best way to achieve SEO is to present authentic and creative material that naturally and organically attracts and appeals to consumers.
When all this is taken into consideration, search engine technology becomes less of a mystery. These results have a massive impact on the way we interact with the world, but they can be understood and manipulated by the average person, which is a major component of success in the globalized, digital economy.