Even if you have been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you know what a search engine is. But do you know how they work? Do you know what a search bot or Search Engine Spider does? The answer to these questions have significant impacts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how your website is ranked on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
A bit of search engine history
Way back in 1990, before most of us had ever used the interwebs, there was the Archive search engine, cutely nicknamed Archie. It was quickly followed by Veronica and Jughead (no idea what happened to Betty or Reggie), and eventually, the ones recognized by a broader audience: Excite, Infoseek, AltaVista, Netscape, Yahoo!, MSN, and Bing...and of course Google, which currently has 77.43% of market share.
In the early days of search engines, you needed to know the exact wording of a website's URL to find what they were looking for. You couldn't just type in "toys for my cat" and generate relevant eCommerce shops and blog posts. If the only cat toy website was www.theonlycattoysite.com, you had to enter that title correctly or you'd be looking at a blank results page.
How do search engines work currently?
Nowadays, Google can turn a conversational query like "best toys for my furry friend," into a list of relevant or connected sites (try that search out, you’ll be surprised at how on point the results are). You probably take that for granted every day, but have you ever stopped and wondered how search engines actually accomplish this? We’ll tell you: They use bots or "spiders" (worldwide web - get it?).
These spiders "crawl" websites and gather as much information as they can, before relaying it to the search engine’s servers. These spiders scour the internet for new web content by checking sites already in their index for updates and links to pages they have never scanned before. The spiders relay that information to the search engine’s servers to index the content and use algorithms to decide which sites match particular search queries.
A Search Engine Spider isn't dumb
A lot of people worry about the keywords on their site because they believe search engines are counting each keyword to determine the site’s relevance and eventual ranking. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective), modern SEO is about much more than just keywords. There are hundreds of optimization factors, everything from title tags and meta descriptions to inbound links and website navigation.
Over the years, search engines have learned how to measure how user-friendly a site is and how worthwhile its content is. When a user types in a query, all Google needs to do is reference its index of websites and decide which ones have the right mixture of relevance, content quality, and authority to display on the results page.
As any website administrator knows, these rankings are not static. Your competitors are adding and modifying content constantly, and the spiders’ work is never done. This is why regularly updating content is so essential. It not only expands the topics and information Google recognizes that you cover, but it also signals to search engines that your site is healthy and active.
Avoiding the wrath of Google’s index bots
Once upon a time search engines were relatively easy to "trick.” Web designers used “black hat SEO” methods to unfairly manipulate a site's ranking in organic search results, keyword jamming being the most recognizable strategy. Search engines have become very good at recognizing this sort of behavior, and when a spider reports consecutive infractions it could result in a penalty.
Penalties can be a slap on the wrist, like a downranking, or worse, a total delisting. Think about that, what would your site traffic be like if search engines didn’t list it on results pages? People could still find it by typing the URL into the address bar manually, but still...
The old SEO adage, "Content is King," is more true now than ever. If Google’s bots see that you’re maintaining a content-rich website, that lives up to the expectations of the searcher, and focuses on SEO best practices -- your site has a good chance of ranking alongside corporate competitors. Risking your ranking with manipulative tactics should never be a more attractive option than simply improving your content.
Another way to get to the top
Google is worth a few hundred billion dollars, and it didn’t get there with charitable donations. The search giant sells ad space just above the search results -- and they look like search results. Customers bid on a search term like "best cat toys" and when someone enters that search query (or a similar one) their ad will appear.
It’s a great way to almost entirely bypass those judgmental spiders, and advertisers are charged for the space only when someone clicks on their ad. If you play your cards right, these Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads can generate enough traffic to earn your site a higher organic (unpaid) search ranking.
There is no guaranteed way to get your site ranked #1. There are hundreds of other businesses vying for that top spot, and the best place to start is simply understanding what everyone is fighting over. With a basic understanding, you can begin improving your content production and eventually think about hiring a top-notch SEO services provider like Pronto Marketing.
We know just about everything there is to know about search engines, bots, spiders, PPC, and the ever-evolving landscape of SEO Best Practices. To start applying some of that knowledge to your site, call us today.