What is SEO (and How Search Engines Work)?
Last Updated on January 19th, 2020
Frustrated with my struggles with a start-up business, I used Google to find out how I could improve my business. (No, I didn’t see the irony at the time.) Following through on various links in the search results, I came across my first sighting of the term SEO in an advert similar to this one: “Professional SEO Services.”
My first thought was a rather dull-witted: Huh? My next one was one of complete shock: Oh, my goodness! These escort agencies are getting more brazen by the day. Just as well they can’t spell properly.
The next few adverts read: “Number One SEO Company in Australia” and “SEO Experts from $50 per hour.” I was gobsmacked. No way! There can’t possibly be so many shameless escort agencies making the same typo.
After all, O is nowhere near X on the keyboard.
Yes, this was my brainless introduction to the term SEO. Today, I understand it better, well enough to utilise search engine technology to my advantage.
What is SEO?
SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimisation, the process of improving or optimising a website’s page in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) results. The phrase “search engine optimisation” came into use in around 1997 as the first search engines had begun indexing the early World Wide Web in the mid-1990s.
How do Search Engines Work?
To try to make a fairly long story short, or in this case, a complicated process simpler, search engines—using complex algorithms—“crawl” the web adding website URLs to their index or database. When a searcher types in a search term into their browser, the search engine responds by offering the “best sites” available from its index to match the search phrase. For those who prefer this in diagram form:
Yes, the search engine crawler (also called a “robot” or “spider”) works over time to take regular ‘snapshots’ of the World Wide Web (every 3-4 days) stored in its index, so that when a searcher types in a search query, quality search results are available from that storage index. Note: the millions of results you get within a few seconds of entering your search terms do not come from a crawl of the Internet at that particular second; the results are generated from the search engines’ index, information stored 3-4 days previously.
Google has put together a page to explain How Search Works.
While this amazing technology is not only helpful if you’re the searcher, it is also worth gold if you run your own business, and you want to be searched (and found). To switch metaphor, search engine technology benefits you as both the hunter and the hunted.
Of course, being found on the “first page” of search results doesn’t just happen, and the quest to do so has generated a billion-dollar industry called SEO. The good news is that you can improve your chance of enjoying a slice of the SEO pie.