Developing a strong website in terms of SEO can mean the difference between success and failure, or between fame and obscurity. This article provides an introduction into the history of the Google Search Algorithm as well as outline the fundamentals of the formula as applied to WordPress SEO. Many individuals have carved out a living serving as SEO specialists, and others work diligently to rank their small business among popular local searches. Initially looked down upon by marketing professionals as a “get rich quick scheme” full of feverish promises of #1 rankings, SEO has now developed into a full blown academic field, with discussions ranging from predicting which search terms will drive visitors and future growth to designing strategies for converting website visitors into actual sales. With traditional mediums such as television and print in decline, the internet has exploded as the next marketing medium.
Introduction to SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of setting up your website (or YouTube Channel, or Blog, or online store, etc.) so that it ranks high on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Unlike paid search marketing, also known as Pay Per Click search advertising, which requires you to pay for every visitor to your website, SEO improves your rankings on organic search results and drives traffic absolutely free. In the good old days, ranking high for a search term was easy, and all you had to do was simply include a particular keyword on your website and there was a good chance of ranking high on a search engine. Today, the market is much more competitive for nearly every keyword. As businesses realized the power of ranking high on search engines, they began to devote more time, money, and resources into figuring out ways to rank higher than their competitors. Similarly, the search engine providers, like Google and Bing, discovered new and more efficient ways of filtering “irrelevant” results from “relevant” ones. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
While students at Stanford University, Larry Page (right) and Sergey Brin (left) created and cofounded Google. The idea of “collecting and organizing the world’s information so as to make it universally accessible and relevant” began with the two cofounders doctoral thesis in 1996.
Larry and Sergey hypothesized that the same process of linkable citations for scholarly articles could also be applied to all the websites on the internet. A “web” of internet pages linked together by URL links could be “crawled” by little robotic pieces of code known as “spiders”. These spiders would seek out new webpages as they were created and determine the “relevancy” of each website through a secret and complex formula known as the Google Search Algorithm. As they crawl from one webpage to another, analyzing each page for keyword relevancy, they beam back incredible amounts of data for billions of webpages everyday.
The Google Algorithm
Many people have devoted their lives to discovering the exact search algorithm Google uses, a discovery which would amount to the “holy grail” of internet marketing, giving that individual the power to determine exactly how to rank #1 for any particular keyword. Despite consistent efforts, the exact formula remains a mystery. However, over the years, a generally acceptable algorithm has been formulated by SEO researchers. According to industry leaders, once a spider has crawled to a webpage, its software applies an algorithm to determine how relevant your webpage is for particular keywords.
The spiders first look to the “Title” of your YouTube Channel, website, blog, etc, and give the keywords present there the highest relevancy ranking. For example, if the title of your blog post was “A Brief History of Search”, those would be the primary keywords (the whole sentence and each individual word) of your website. Those keywords would then get a high relevancy ranking, and thus would appear very high on a search results page for people searching exactly for “A Brief History of Search”. It would also rank modestly high for keywords such as “History of Search”, “Search”, “Search Brief History”, and other combinations of words in the title area. Make sure that your title targets keywords that are relevant to the content of your webpage to maximize their SEO effects.
Meta Description and Page Content
Next on the algorithm are keywords found in the meta description area of your webpage and the page content itself. Google considers keywords found in these areas to be less important, and thus less relevant to particular search queries, however there are ways to tweak out a higher ranking or two. A proper SEO effort will include keywords from the title, such as “A Brief History of Search”, as well as related keywords, such as “Google Founders”, “spiders”, “Google Search Algorithm”, etc. to maximize your page’s relevancy. A page that contains no similar text found both in the body content and the title is considered to be less relevant for the searchers needs, and thus ranked lower. For example, if Google scanned this page and found no textual content that seemed relevant to its title, it would consider the page less important for people looking for a historical summary of search marketing.
Once your webpage content, description, and title areas are written using one or two keywords in mind, the algorithm then looks to other factors to determine which pages to rank high. The algorithm’s goal is to provide relevant and useful webpages for its searchers’ queries. In that effort, the formula ranks webpages according to the frequency and quality of certain content items of a particular webpage. In priority order, the Google search engine will rank pages higher with:
- Lots of links: Including both links on your webpage linking out to related pages or blog articles, as well as links pointing in towards your website. This makes common sense, since the algorithm would rank a page with lots of links coming in and out of it as being more widely accepted in the community for which that keyword exists. The more people are linking to and referencing your webpage, the more relevant the Google spiders think it is.
- Frequent Content: Google dislikes websites that have a lot of old material. The algorithm assumes that websites that frequently create new webpages, blog articles, and other content are more relevant and fresh. This is why frequently writing blog articles is critical for ranking high on keywords found throughout your website.
- Video, Audio, and Images: Google likes when webpages have lots of media. The search engine prefers to rank these websites high as it assumes they are more useful for a searcher’s query.
- Cross Browser Compatibility: Google prefers websites that look and function the same across multiple browsers, thus it will rank websites with proper HTML coding higher.
- Age of domain: Older websites are considered more legitimate and authoritative by the Google algorithm.
There are the basics of the Google algorithm. While the exact formula remains a mystery, a proper SEO effort will follow the guidelines above to maximize ranking. Optimize the content of your pages to fit with what Google considers to be relevant factors when determining a webpage’s search ranking and you will see significant improvement in your website’s traffic in just a few weeks.