Julie Mitchell-Mehta: How Search Engines Work

Julie Mitchell-Mehta
Julie Mitchell-Mehta

If there’s one area of business most people find confusing, it’s getting their website found in search engines. Countless hours are spent looking for a magical silver bullet that will propel their sites to the top of the rankings, resulting in the phone ringing off the hook with potential customers.

Sadly, the reality is that many company websites remain steadfastly visitor-free zones, but why? How do the search engines, and for most people that means Google, decide which pages to put at the top of page 1 and which to leave languishing in the web’s hinterland.

How do Websites get Found?

There are over 60 trillion pages on the web and this number grows by the second. Google’s software finds these pages by following links, or crawling, and builds an index of them all – or at least most of them.
Google’s index is designed to make it fast for the search engine software to retrieve relevant documents in response to a search query – the words people type into the search box.

So far so good, but how does Google rank these pages?

This is where search tends to get a bit contentious. If you ask three search specialists a question you’ll usually get five different answers! Google’s secret sauce, the way they decide how to rank search results, is just that, a secret. What we do know is making sure your pages are formatted the correct way helps. Making sure your pages are original helps. Making sure your pages load quickly helps and the list goes on.

Why do Links Matter?

We know that other web pages linking to your web pages is a big ranking factor as Google figures if others link to you, your pages must be good. This is the really tricky area of search because getting others to link to you is hard, very hard.

To understand linking think about the sort of things you share on social media. The chances are you only share things that are useful, funny, thought provoking or any combination of these factors. How much of the content on your website goes beyond telling the world how great you are – which I’m sure you are – and educates, entertains or otherwise helps them? If you’re like most businesses the honest answer is probably none of it.

This means no links and no links means no rankings and no rankings means no traffic. In the next article we’ll expand on this.

You can discover more about how search engines work on our What is SEO? page

Julie Mitchell-Mehta is a Chartered Marketer at Red Evolution, an Aberdeen based Inbound Marketing Agency that uses marketing, design, development, content and SEO skills to help businesses thrive online.