Everyone is talking about it. Everyone is looking for a way to excel in it. During the last decade search engine optimization, or SEO, has become one of the most intensive areas of company versus company, brand versus brand competition.

This is the first part in a series of articles that will provide you with answers on how to improve your SEO ranking. The remaining articles will be published in the coming months. We will start from the very basics. To begin our journey, let us first explain, what SEO actually is and why it is needed in the modern world?

How do search engines work?

Let’s begin with the Internet or, more specifically, the web in this case. The web is basically a gigantic collection of various websites. Websites link to each other, and there are portals that house large collections of links to websites categorized according to their topic subjects. Despite these things the natural structure of the web does not include an automatic index of all the websites, a digital phonebook of sorts. You can visit a website if you know its address (or URL), but if you do not, you might never know such a page exists.

Search engines were created to address this problem. Search engine is a software program and a website that knows about the existence of other websites and allows the user to make searches and then points them to the direction of the websites that correspond with their search. In order to do this, the search engine needs to constantly crawl through the tremendous mass of websites and build a searchable index on all of them. The piece of software doing this for the search engine is called the search engine bot or search engine crawler.

So, crawler creates an index of all the websites it can find, and the search engine company creates a website that allows users to make search queries to that index. Is this enough? Well, of course not. The search engine needs to be able tell what results should be displayed to the user and in what order. Early search engines were pretty primitive in this respect. They would just count the number of occurrences of the user’s search terms on websites and rank the results this way.

This is, of course, not very clever. If I would create a website with no content except the text “Barack Obama” 10 000 times, this page, which is completely useless for everybody, would show up in search results for the words “Barack Obama”.

Fortunately, search engines are nowadays extremely clever and based on highly advanced algorithms. The algorithms treat the search words given by users as questions and try to calculate the most accurate answers to them based on the data available on their index. Calculations are not made just on the basis of what words show up on what page – this could be easily manipulated. Instead the displayed results are based on a large number of determining factors. We will look these factors more in-depth in the future.

SEO and SEM

Online search is very popular. The number of searches grows around 20 % year, and billions of people around the world use search engines every day. Around 90 % of all searches are done through Google. In 2013 alone Google tracked 2,161,530,000,000 searches, that is 5,922,000,000, or 5,922 billion search for every single day!

With billions of search results displayed for billions of searches, companies and brands naturally want to identify the right keywords their potential customers use and the right ways to gain good ranking in the search results. All the ways to achieve this are collectively referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO. In the web change is a constant. As new content is constantly been published online, search online optimization will remain an important priority for all the companies and brands wishing to remain competitive on the web.

How does one optimize content for search engines, i.e. make it rank high in search engine results? There are two terms you need to understand here:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)

SEO is a way to improve a website’s position with certain keywords. The aim is to secure as much visibility and visitors to the website as possible with regards to those particular keywords. For example, when talking about e-commerce the keywords could be the names of products and services sold in the online store. The aim is advanced by using certain SEO techniques.

In general, we could say that although search engines are all different, most of them favour similar kinds of sites, that is, popular websites with a clear structure and relevant content. Thus, following a certain set of principles in web design and website content management, it is possible to gain good SEO ranking.

We could categorize the SEO techniques into classes of do’s and don’ts. Do’s refer to things one should do with regards to the website’s design and content management, and don’ts’s refers to things that damage the SEO ranking and should be avoided. As we discussed earlier, the search engine bot constantly crawls through the web indexing its content. Do’s are things that make the bot love your website, while don’ts’s drive it away and make the bot’s work more difficult.

The next article will share some insights on what to do and what things to avoid.

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