To the many millions who log on to websites like Google and Bing every day to launch queries that range from the inventive to the insidious, the operations of a search engine may appear to be magic. Barely complete thoughts and phrases are transformed into lengthy news articles, lecture videos and infographics, generally within less than half a second. Whole histories are rifled through with exact precision and what you are presented with, upon your search’s completion, are the “best” results for your inquiry that the internet has to offer. Some of the internet’s users might still believe that the results they get on their first page are displayed on a completely randomized basis, that the fancy algorithms these engineers have developed are completely democratic in their findings. A good number of people, perhaps more aware than the previous group, understand that search engine results are specifically chosen and curated, yet have no idea how, or why, this is the case.
At the heart of this search is a term that has floated around for years, but has become the term du jour in recent years as it has grown exponentially in importance. Of course, we are speaking of SEO, or search engine optimization. The core concept of search engine optimization is, as the Wiki on the subject states, “affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ or ‘earned’ results.”
It seems simple enough, yet there is the caveat of the affected results being “natural.” Why? What is the need for search results that have been manipulated to skip ahead of the internet lines to be “organic”? To understand this idea, we must travel back to the beginning of search engines to see how a company with the former motto of “Don’t Be Evil” created diplomacy in the Wild West of the early internet.
Internet historians will credit Alan Emtage’s Archie as the first iteration of the search engine, with pioneers like The World-Wide Web Worm, Infoseek, Alta Vista, Lycos and Yahoo coming along in the early-to-mid 90s. Around this time, in 1996, two Stanford University students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, were developing their own search system named BackRub, which was created to check citations or backlinks in order to calculate the standing of a webpage.
During this time, search results were accumulated in one of two ways: either the search engine found the results and presented them in randomized order, or they were chosen by humans. SEO might have meant knowing the people who were developing the lists. Slowly, search engines moved towards a model that ranked sites by the number of times the search term appeared on the page. Brin and Page had turned their attention to a new project not much unlike their BackRub idea: an algorithm named PageRank that not only could calculate the amount of backlinks a site had, but also utilized the trust level of the citations to order the results, with sites having the best citations taking the first place on the search page results.
In 1998, Brin and Page took their technology and new company name, Google, to every reputable search company in the hopes of selling it. As is generally the case with innovation, they were rebuffed and forced to go it alone. In a year’s time, Google’s prototype had risen to the point of challenging the companies, like Yahoo and MSN, to which they had tried to sell the PageRank technology. By the year 2000, in order to maintain relevancy in the search engine market, their competitors were either forced to buy the technology from or partner with Google. With the advent of the Google Toolbar in the following year, users were able to easily see the PageRank of a site and thus began the rush to affect and manipulate the PageRank technology in new ways: the birth of true SEO.
Now that we understand the reasoning behind the invention of Search Engine Optimization, the question remains, “How is it achieved?” While SEO is a part of the larger concept of digital, inbound marketing, it is also a large enough subject to be broken down into three areas of procedure: On Page SEO, On Site SEO and Off Page SEO. Below we have included a short list of different tactics for each area:
On Site SEO Tools
- Bounce Rate and Page Load Speed Optimization
- Google Analytics (ETC)
- Google Webmasters Tools Verification
- XML Site Map Setup
- Alexa Verification
- txt File Submission
- 301 Redirection and Avoiding 404 Errors
- Semantic Search and Semantic Mark-Up
Off Page SEO Tools
- Competitors’ Backlink Analysis
- Keyword Rank Monitoring
- Social Share Increasing
On Page SEO Tools
- Permalink Correction)
- Distribute Keyword in Meta Title Tag
- Distribute Keyword in Meta Description
- Relevant Internal Linking
In recent years, we’ve seen great strides in SEO education and technology. Even with the growing impact of social media on consumerism, search engine results still largely outweigh the sway and influence that avenues like Twitter and Facebook have, if only by virtue of being aggregated from the whole world of results. Search engines have even started implementing data from social networks in order to fully represent the wealth of options and answers that the internet has to offer.
Whole companies and industries have been created out of thin air, magically appearing with the dedicated objective of getting your company’s website to the front page, and strategies galore can be found to empower you to do the same. It’s truer than ever: depending what you’re looking for, you are literally just a search away.