Search Engine Optimization Tutorial (Introduction)

by Steven Liew

in Internet Marketing,Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization Tutorial

Earlier on in my Search Engine Optimization introductory post, I highlighted about the importance of SEO, and also why we should not leverage on SEO all the time for our websites. You can read more about it here.

Today I want to share with you more in-depth about the subject, and I believe I should start from the very beginning so that our readers who are new to this will have a strong foundation. This will be the first post of my Search Engine Optimization Tutorial series. For the intermediate and advanced readers, fret not, I will continue to add more articles as time goes by, such as my personal linking strategies, and the tools that I have used myself that have helped me with my SEO campaigns.

How Search Engines Work

You first need to understand that Search Engines are not humans. Well, this is pretty obvious to everybody, but to study deeper, this also means that the way humans and search engines view web pages very differently. And this is a very important thing to note – as this means that we need to build websites that are appealing to both search engines and humans. This may sound like a daunting task, as you will soon learn, it isn’t 🙂

There are 4 basic things that the search engines can do:

  1. Crawling
  2. Indexing
  3. Calculating relevancy and rankings
  4. Serving search results to users

Crawler

Crawling

The internet is made up many networks that link to one another. It carries a variation of information, including hypertext documents, or in layman terms, web pages.  Because of this linking structure, what search engines do is that they send automated robots (also known as ‘crawlers’, or ‘spiders’) to crawl the web pages.

There are 3 things to note about crawling.

First of all, when it crawls the web pages, it studies the site items (mainly text) to gain an idea of what the web page is about. I will discuss more in detail about this in the 3rd item below: Calculating relevancy and rankings

Another thing to note is that not everything gets crawled. The crawlers do not exactly ‘see’ images, study/process javascripts, view flash media content, or even crawl beyond password-protected content such as directories.

Lastly, because most (yes, not all) web pages are inter-linked, this allows search engines to crawl and build a link structure.

Because the internet is well, the internet, there is a chance that the search engines will pick up your website. However, you can always hide your web pages from search engines, and there are many ways to hide your web pages from search engines, such as instructing crawlers and spiders to ignore your web pages or entire website. You can always protect your content with passwords, and the crawlers will not bypass it. I will share with you some of the common methods and how I use them to hide my content in a separate post.

 

Search Engine Indexing

Indexing

After the web pages have been crawled, they are then indexed by the search engines and stored in their giant databases. To understand the concept of indexing, open any book and turn to its index page. You will notice that there is a keyword<->page match that simply tells you that if you are searching for this particular phrase, you can go to the page that is counter-specified in the index.

The way search engines index the web pages are the same as it is with any books. They index your web pages by associating with relevant keywords. Remember the part where I mentioned that the search engines crawl and study your site items? Well it’s come to play now.

Because there is so much text in web pages, often, web pages are not classified correctly in the index of search engines. And this is where you will need to tweak and optimize your web content so that it gets indexed with the right keywords.

Learning how to get your web pages indexed is very, very important for SEO.

On-page optimization is a very huge topic and I will cover this in much details in a separate post.

 

Web Page Relevancy

Calculating relevancy and rankings

As you might have already guessed it, there are billions of pages in search engines’ giant databases. There must be methods / algorithms that they use to determine which pages come first when a search query is fired to the search engines, right?

There are many factors that determine how relevant a web page is. Some of the key factors here are:

  • Keyword Density
  • Meta Tags
  • Links

Once again, I will cover this in great details separately.

Each search engine has different weight in their algorithms in calculating the relevancy and determining the rankings of the web pages. This is why you get different search results for the same search query you input.

 

Search Engine Results

Serving search results to users

Lastly, the search engines list the result of your search query by displaying the most relevant web pages to the lease relevant web pages. Nothing fancy here.
 
 
 

Mini Case Study: Differences Between Search Engines

Note: This section might get a little too ‘techy’ for SEO beginners and I suggest that you re-visit this section when you have a feel of how SEO works.

I ran a series of tests on my own in an attempt to determine the differences in weight of the key factors of how the search engines run their algorithms for relevancy and ranking. It’s been 5 months since I started in Feb ’11 and I think it’s time that I share some results here.

Here’s a rough idea of how I conducted my tests on Bing, Yahoo! and Google:

  • 6 websites of different themes / keywords hosted on different servers around the world
  • 6 websites split into 3 groups – 2 websites each
  • Group A consists of < 10 pages, and has an Age of 0 year (fresh domain)
  • Group B consists of 11 – 15 pages, and has an Age of 1 year
  • Group C consists of 16 – 20 pages, and has an Age of 3 years
  • Each website has a keyword density of 2.3% on the home page and all of its URLs for the relevant keywords
  • One website per group has a very strong internal linking structure (almost has a link appearing on every page), the other website of the group is more towards a one-way link structure internally
  • All of them are PR0

And a very, very brief summary of my test results:

It appears that Google places a much higher importance in the domain ages, whereas the other 2 search engines are not. What I can draw from this conclusion is that if possible, look out for website auctions and try to find aged domains that are related to your business.

However, that said, the 2 search engines focuses primarily on the keyword density. I noticed especially that my Group A websites topped Yahoo! and Bing results easily for my keywords, but they still fall short at Google SERPs (rank #8).

Lastly, websites that have very strong internal linking structure tend to be favoured by Google.

To be completely honest, I do not think this mini case study will benefit most of my readers, because as you will (if you haven’t) soon find out below, that the search engines market share is completely one-sided. Also, I personally do not think that anyone out there would actually create 3 – 5 variations of their web pages to attempt to obtain a high ranking in the different search engines SERPs.

However, for Internet Marketers, especially the SEO enthusiasts, capturing traffic, even if it’s additional 1 lead, is important.

Search Engines Market Share

I mentioned a few search engines out there. In actual fact, there are many more search engines but as you can clearly see below, these are the few major players, and notice how dominating Google is:

Top Search Engines 2010

Courtesy of http://www.seoconsultants.com/search-engines/

 

In closing

Search Engine Optimization begins with the understanding of how the search engines work. I know this section is pretty dry for most people, but as I have promised earlier, I want to cover everything about it from head to toe and I believe this is a very good topic to start on.

In my next article of the Search Engine Optimization Tutorial series, I will be covering more on understanding the process of search – from users interaction with search engines, to the process of empathising your users and how you can tap into their minds and know what they are looking for. This is widely known as keyword research.

Meanwhile, why not share your thoughts on the different search engines today? Which one do you use, and why?

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