A Google search (or any other search like Bing or DuckDuckGo) is a fundamental part of the user journey. It is often the first action from the user’s end. What they search for and the results they get have a huge impact on a company’s digital marketing and branding.
Understanding who our target audience is and what they are searching for at different stages of the user journey is essential in order to deliver the best user experience. It is also important to understand how google lists our website pages. If we can’t be found then it will adversely affect all our business efforts. The best website in the world is useless if it can’t be found.
Search Engines like Google decide largely on the basis of the content whether or not your site will rank in their result pages. High-quality content should thus be a very important part of your SEO strategy. Of course, the website should have a pleasant User Experience and sound technical optimisation but still without good content, it is impossible to rank a webpage. It is thus essential to write high-quality content!
So, How does Google find your site?
Search engines like Google follow links from one web page to another web page. A search engine like Google consists of:
- A crawler,
- An index, and
- An algorithm.
It all starts with Crawlers
The search engine crawlers (also known as spiders, bots or robots) visit your website, follow the links on your pages and send your content back to the search engine so it can then be assessed and ranked. A crawler goes around the internet 24 x 7 and saves the HTML- version of a page in a gigantic database called the index. This index is updated if Google has come around your website and found a new or revised version of it.
Depending on the traffic on your site and the amount of changes you make on your website, Google comes around more or less often. Generally speaking, the more often you revise and update your content, and the more important your website seems to be, the more often the crawlers will come back to look at your content.
Google and other Crawlers read your pages and send the content back to the search engines. If they can’t read your site, you won’t get rankings. There are certain practices that can stop Google from reading your content in the first place and, clearly, if your website can’t be read, you won’t get ranked.
A good example of this is building your website in Flash (Flash is a proprietary technology from Adobe that allows you to build animated and interactive web content). Google and the other search engines find it difficult or choose not to read the content inside Flash. This basically means that the search engine sees the ‘box’ that contains the content, rather than the content itself. Flash would also not work on an iOS device (iPhones and iPads). Flash was used by agencies for many years to create ‘rich’ and ‘brand focused’ websites but many of them now use HTML5 instead because it is better for search engines and works on mobile devices.
Is Google Crawling your website?
If you want to check whether Google is visiting your website or not and when the crawlers last visited it, you can use the technique known as a Google operator. Go to Google as normal and type cache:www.yourwebsite.com into the search box (of course substitute ‘yourwebsite’ for your own domain name). If Google is crawling your website it will show a cached version of the website, it will also show the last time it visited your website.
If it doesn’t then you might want to request indexing and share the link of your webpage to other webpages or one of the social media like Pinterest. Sometimes, for Google to know of the existence of your website, there first has to be a link from another site in the index – one it already knows – to your site. Following that link will lead to the first crawler session and indexing.
Google’s search result algorithm
After indexing your website, Google can show your website in the search results. Google has a specific algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order. How this algorithm exactly works is a secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the ordering of the search results. Moreover, factors and their importance change very often. However, following guidelines from Google and whitehat SEO experts can help a lot. whilst simultaneously, testing and experimenting give us a relatively good feel for the important factors and the changes in these factors. SEO is the same as building any other long term relationship, you have to be compatible, well-intentioned and persistent. Takes a little bit of trial and error but soon you’ll have google as your best friend.
The fallacy of SEO Agencies
Many SEO agencies concern themselves with understanding the algorithms that the search engines use to decide how your content is ranked in the search results. In my opinion, this is increasingly a waste of time. Especially because Google is already using Machine Learning algorithms to provide its customers with a valuable and personalized experience. Gmail, Google Search and Google Maps already have machine learning embedded in their services.
And the smarter the search engines get, the more complex their algorithms become and the more unproductive it becomes trying to decode this set of rules. In reality, even within Google, there would be only a handful of people who know and understand the complete set of rules, because it is such a huge, complicated thing that is updated so frequently that it’s neither practical nor feasible to keep track of it all. Rather than focusing on trying to outwit the engineers at Google (good luck with that!), one should focus on the fundamental issue of creating useful and engaging content. Work with Google not against it!
Google’s results page
Google’s result page shows 7 or 10 links to sites that fit the search keywords and satisfy the user intent to the best. We’ll refer to these results as the organic search results. If you navigate to the second page of Google Search, then more results are shown. Above these 7-10 links, there are two or three paid links, most of the time. These links are ads (adverts); people have paid Google to put these links at the top of the site when people search for a specific term. Prices for these ads vary greatly, depending on the competitiveness of the search term. The ad space is sold usually to the highest bidder. Similar ads could appear on the right side of Google’s search result pages as well.
The value of links for Search Engine Optimisation
It’s very important to have a basic understanding of how Google and most other search engines use links: they use the number of links pointing to a page to determine how important that page is. Both internal links (from the own website), as well as external links (from other websites), could help in the ranking of a website on Google. Some links are more important than others: links from websites that have a lot of links themselves are generally more important than links from small websites with few external links.
Taking all the above points into consideration one could conclude that, understanding how google works would allow a website owner to team up with Google in order to satisfy the user’s search intent instead of fighting and miscommunication with its Crawlers. This would boost not just the brand value and sales but also allow one to build a long term alliance with Google Search. Because let’s face it, nobody wants to bleed $0.50 on online advertisements for every $1 earned in profit. In the beginning, it might seem like a good strategy but in the long run, you are not building a brand and not retaining those customers if they can’t find you again on Google, no matter how good your product or service is!
Thank You for reading. If you like this post feel free to share it with someone who can benefit from it. After all, Sharing is Caring ;).