Search Engine Basics for Small Business
There are approximately 350 million websites online right now, and that number will only increase, dramatically, in the coming years. In that massive amount of information, how is it possible to find anything? The most common way of searching is by using a web browser, the most famous of which is Google, founded in 1998. When someone types in a few words describing a subject he wants to know about or a product or service he is interested in buying, Google will search the entire World Wide Web for websites that most closely match the words typed in as the search phrase. Since this search is being done electronically – basically, the speed of light – this search doesn’t take very long.
Standing out from the crowd
The challenge is differentiating your business from the sheer number of possible solutions (or “hits”) that Google finds. A simple search can easily generate several hundred hits for web sites that match a search phrase, listing 10 sites to a page. To make the searcher’s choice of which is the “best” site (the one which most closely matches his needs) easier to find, Google puts the list of sites in a particular order. This is called a ranking, and the higher the rank of a website, the higher on the list of results that website will be listed. Ranking is based on Google’s algorithm, which is a computer program which takes a number of factors into account, based on its search of each website.
If a website just mentions the search phrase in passing, it will not rank as high as site which is about that subject, and mentions it over and over. The algorithm takes other factors into account, such as language, location in the world, and even the amount of advertising (Google’s algorithm doesn’t “like” websites that are basically nothing but shopping flyers). The Google algorithm has been updated many times over the years, in an attempt to help people searching the Web to find the websites they are looking for more easily. At the same time, Google is also trying to find the highest quality websites, giving highest ranking to those which match a profile that the Google engineers have defined as having a certain quality. For obvious reasons, people who own and operate websites which offer goods and services for sale are constantly trying to make their websites as attractive to Google as they can, so their websites will have the highest ranking possible. This is called search engine optimization (SEO) and our company tries to help website owners increase the quality of their websites so that as many people as possible can find their websites.
Introducing the latest innovation in SEO: Google’s Panda
In April 2011, Google updated its algorithm with a new release it nicknamed Panda (named after the computer engineer who designed it). Panda further refines Google’s definition of what constitutes a “good” website. It particularly emphasizes the presence of original, unique articles on websites as an indication of their quality and value to someone who is searching the World Wide Web. This is an attempt by Google to reduce the ranking for websites which are using dishonest tricks to attract visitors. Some of these tricks include just including a series of keywords over and over, without any real content related to the subject. Other sites include articles or other text, but sometimes these are copied outright from other websites (this is plagiarism and is entirely illegal) or take text from other websites and changed by just a few words here and then passed off as original.