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Website SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

noun: search engine optimization; plural noun: search engine optimizations

1. the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

If you are a business owner with a business website, this article and future articles in the series are ones that you SHOULD read. You may not feel interested in the topic, and you may feel that you are comfortable leaving the technicalities of SEO to your web designer or marketing specialist, but the truth is that if you want to make the most of your business site, you need to be interested, and take an active role in the optimization of your site. You certainly do not need to master all of the technical details, but you should at least have a firm grasp of the basics of SEO. That is the aim of this series. It is not to provide an in depth technical understanding on every aspect, but to provide basic information on the aspects you should understand, which will provide a general understanding.


Having a basic familiarity of SEO will benefit you:

  • by protecting you from making mistakes that will be detrimental or even disastrous to your business
  • by allowing you to better understand the role of different parties in SEO (business owner, web designer, web developer, marketer, copy writer, etc)
  • by making it easier for you to communicate with the various parties involved in SEO – you will be better equipped to provide the information they need to do their jobs

This will be the first article in a series about website SEO. This article will begin where I think it logically should, and that is with a discussion about the basics of search engines themselves. This discussion will include a brief history of the search engine from it's inception to present forms, a basic explanation of what a search engine is, and a basic explanation of how a modern search engine determines results. A fundamental understanding of the search engine, is important, because with that understanding, it will be easier to comprehend the reasoning behind the various SEO techniques and practices that will be discussed in future articles on this topic.


A Brief History of the Search Engine

In 1990 the first search tool for the internet was created by Alan Emtage. It was basically an index of files on the internet, and he called it "Archie", a shortening of the word "Archive". Archie made it possible to search for files according to the file names in a directory.

Over the next few years, the idea of a directory was expanded upon:

  • 1991 Mark McCahill creates Gopher – files can now be indexed for plain text content that they contain.
  • Programs were required to search the files indexed by Gopher for keywords, so two of Archie's friends were introduced - Jughead (Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display) and Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives)
  • 1993 – Matthew Gray creates Wandex, the first to "crawl" the web indexing pages and searching the indexed pages the way modern engines do.

From 1993 until present day (2014), more "crawling" search engines were introduced including the search engines most used today like Google, Ask, Bing and Yahoo.

Today the most popular engines can index and search all types of documents simply using search words and terms, that one might use in regular conversation. Complex programs called algorithms have allowed these search engines to better anticipate the results users are most likely searching for.


What Is a Search Engine?

Basically a search engine takes a users input (in the form of keywords and phrases) and provides results to the user in the form of links to pages that were determined to contain the criteria the user was searching for. The information searched for is contained in databases collected by search engine crawlers (also called robots, bots or spiders) and consists of page content, page code, page URLs (path name of file location on the web) and links in and out of pages . Some search engines also store and search keyword information based on the Keyword meta tag in web page documents, but the use of this meta tag by search engines is becoming less important. As algorithms become more sophisticated, they are better able to determine what content is relevant to a search without referring to Keyword meta tags.


How does a Search Engine Determine Results?

Results of a search are determined by a concerted effort between the search engine crawler, the database, and the algorithm or algorithms being used. Remember an algorithm is a program that takes the indexed information in the database (the content and file structure of your site pages), evaluates it according to the users input and whatever criteria is programmed into it, and outputs the results of that evaluation to the user.

Generally the results are presented in order of how they were evaluated from most relevant to least relevant. A very significant element in determining the position of a result is the "ranking" of the page and or site.

The following are criteria that may be used by search engines in determining page ranking:

  • number of relevant links going in and out of a page to external sites and the number of relevant links internal to a page
  • how often links to a page are clicked on in other similar search results.
  • how frequently a search word or phrase appears in the document.
  • where search words and phrases appear is considered, as the location of keywords can denote importance and relevance. For example a keyword that is located once near the bottom of a pages content would not be as important or as relevant as a keyword found in the page title, or in a heading, or earlier in the page content.

Now that you have a fundamental understanding of what a search engine is and how it determines results, you are better equipped to understand the reasoning behind various SEO strategies and techniques, and you will be better equipped to avoid and recognize bad SEO practices that could be detrimental or even disastrous.

The next article in this series will be coming soon. Look for Search Engine Optimization: Part 2 – A Search Engine Friendly Site Structure.



Richmond Lauman

JAMAXX Web Design

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Creative Commons License
Search Engine Optimization: Part 1 Search Engines by Richmond Lauman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.



Read Part 2

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