How Search Engines Work
Before we get into optimizing your website, it’s important to understand how search engines and keywords work. Search engines have the important job of scanning the internet and serving you the best web pages that match your searches based on the page’s content and keywords.
Search engines scan every bit of text on every website and store that data on their servers. Then, Using sophisticated algorithms they do their best to interpret the text on each page.
When someone performs a search it uses that information to provide results which give the best information related to that search.
There are a number of other factors that are taken into consideration other than content. Information like bounce rate, readability, popularity, cross-links and even design account for a web page’s ranking.
Understanding Keywords in SEO
As you learn more about SEO you will hear the term “keyword” in tandem with SEO. A keyword is a word or phrase you would like to rank for in a search engine.
For example, let’s say you run a bakery and have a page dedicated to cupcakes. Your keyword for that page would be “cupcakes”.
You would want to make sure the content on that page talks about cupcakes. You would also make sure the term cupcakes is in the title of your page, and so on…
Now as you can imagine there’s a ton of websites about cupcakes all across the web. 277 Million, according to google. If you’re just starting out it would be very difficult to get your cupcake page high enough in Google’s rankings to be seen. So let’s level the playing field with Keyword Phrases.
The first thing you want to do is start narrowing down your search competition by stacking multiple keywords together to create a keyword phrase. Sticking with our cupcake example, let’s say your bakery has a line of vegan cupcakes.
So now we have a keyword phrase of “vegan cupcakes” which according to Google brings up 67 Million results. That alone reduced the number of searches by 75%!
Let’s take it one step further and change our keyword phrase to “holiday vegan cupcakes” which reduces the number of search results to 14 Million. That’s 95% less competition than our original cupcake search.
How Your Location Affects Your SEO
Now I know what you’re thinking, yes, 14 million pages is still a lot of competition. However, if you’re a local bakery in Philadelphia, there’s no reason to target everyone searching for “cupcakes”. You just need to target people in your area.
So let’s try our search again, this time adding a location. Do a search for “cupcakes Philadelphia” and we only get 700,000 results. That’s 98.8% fewer results! You can even narrow it down by city, suburb, etc.
Differences In Search Results
Google gets smarter every day. As a google user, they’re constantly trying to give you better results when you perform searches. This often makes it difficult to make predictions when setting up an SEO strategy. It does; however, make for a better user experience.
I’m not going into each type of search result you’ll find on Google, but I’d like to point out a few to help you better understand how Google interprets your searches.
Local Search Results
In our last example, we did a search for “Cupcakes Philadelphia”. If you look at the image above you’ll see that instead of getting back the normal text results you might expect you instead get a listing of bakeries in Philadelphia.
This is because Google is smart enough to know that based on that search you’re likely looking for a business in Philadelphia who makes cupcakes.
Do a search for running shoes and you’ll see 2 unique types of search results. You’ll see Shopping results as well as local results. This is because Google assumes that by searching for “running shoes” you’re likely looking to buy or read reviews on popular running shoes.
In the local results, it’s showing you several retailers in your area who sell running shoes. This is because Google can often tell where you’re located based on your IP address or the GPS on your mobile device.
Featured Snippet Results
Let’s do one more quick search for “how to make sushi”. What you’ll see is the start of a recipe for making sushi rice right in the search results. This is an example of what Google calls a featured snippet.
Based on your search and the millions of identical searches before you, Google has selected the most useful information for you.
By now you should have an idea on how search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo work to provide users with the information they need. After all, this is why they are so popular.
You should also have an understanding of how keywords are used and how your location can affect your search results.
- Divide your business into categories based on products or services and start listing keyword ideas for each one.
- Go to Google and do searches on each of these keywords & phrases to see what the results look like in your area.
- Do these same searches on your phone as well and take note of the differences in how the results appear.
- Decide if you plan to use a specific location as part of your keyword strategy.
You now have an understanding of how search engines & keywords work.In Part 2 of this SEO series, we’ll start to break down all the fundamental pieces of On-Page SEO. We’ll be talking about structuring On-Page SEO content.
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