This will be the first article for our series on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Before we get too deep into the weeds with best practices and tips for SEO, we thought we should cover the fundamentals. We aim to outline the foundations of how search engines work, and in the second post we discuss the history of SEO, before we later build up to an SEO plan.
What is a Search Engine?
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Baidu, and DuckDuckGo act as our tour guides to the World Wide Web. They help us discover the information (search results) that we are looking for. As an ecommerce seller, a top marketing goal of your business is to have your products ranked highly within these search results.
This is the “O” in Search Engine Optimization.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Search engines all deliver results a little differently to their users. The logic and algorithms they use create different results, but the fundamentals of how search engines find their content are all the same.
This term disguises the frightening truth behind what’s really going on – robots roaming and rummaging through your page’s data and URLs! These “crawlers” act as a user would and scan billions of documents, webpages, images, and videos for content and keywords. After this, the bots then follow all the links associated with your content and add this data to an index.
Once these bots have found the data, they decipher its code and then store and categorize the info for later search queries. As you can imagine, all of this data takes up monumental amounts of storage space, which leads to the need for massive server farms.
Now that sites have been indexed and the search query is made, the search engine will use its complex algorithms to determine the context and order in which to display these web pages.
How Do Search Engines Differ?
Think of these different search engine companies as competing fast food chains, each with algorithms acting as their “secret sauce” to differentiate them. The algorithms these search engines use to rank content are all trade secrets that are constantly evolving.
For example, it is believed that Google’s algorithm is updated every two days, and although countless businesses have tried to game their algorithm, it’s Google’s prerogative to make sure no one ever gets the upper hand. We’ll never know the nuances of each search engine’s code, but their core prioritizations will always be the same.
What Do Search Engines Prioritize?
Though their methods may vary, all search engines strive to provide high-quality answers to their users’ questions. By introducing different mediums such as videos, reviews, articles, comparisons, and images, search engines deliver innovative platforms that answer these questions.
A leading trend in search engine prioritization for the last decade has been a focus on mobile platforms. Accounting for over 50% of searches in 2018, mobile platform searches show no signs of slowing down, and therefore content that can easily be adapted to mobile will always be well received.
Trends aside, the biggest influencers of what ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs) are:
Content should be looked at in two ways:
- Is your content easy to find? You need to make a search engine recognize and associate your content as the answer to a user’s search queries.
- Does your content do a good job of answering their question? As we’ve addressed earlier, there is no magic bullet for creating the best content, but the best solution for your ecommerce blogging strategy is to always strive for creating valuable and accessible content.
Think of backlinks as other sites linking to your content and creating an internet “buzz”. Search engines will associate you with the specific content other sites have mentioned you in with various links. If important and reputable sites are referring to you, then search engines can presume your content is trustworthy and relevant for users.
Which Search Engines Should I Focus On?
If this were 2005, we would be having a much different conversation here, but the fundamental truth is that appeasing Google should be your business’ primary SEO concern. The reason behind this is when you stack up Google’s 30+ major search engine competitors, their combined traffic equates to only 10% of global web searches.
Google is just that big.
When you factor in all the Google properties such as Images, Maps, and YouTube, it’s easy to see just how dependent so many web users are on their platforms.
Don’t think that Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines aren’t worth your time, though. It goes back to what we referenced earlier – that all search engines prioritize informative and engaging content, and with a solid SEO strategy in place, you can see success on any search engine.
With this SUPER top-level view of how search engines work, we can now take what we’ve learned and apply it to our SEO efforts.
We’ll go into more detail about SEO in the next blog post in the series, but it’s important that sellers understand what search engines, and their users, want to see. From there, you can work to create it.