Headstand Media offers our customers years of experience and knowledge in the evolving world of search engine technology. Most customers are not aware of the major changes that have occurred in this area over the past few years. Many are operating under assumptions and ideas that are no longer valid or relevant.
The rest of this page is intended as a resource and primer on this critically important topic, in the spirit of education and knowledge sharing. We believe that understanding the principles and facts on this page to be vitally important to the survival of any business or organization.
Common questions we hear from customers:
- Why isn’t my website easy to find on Google?
- What determines which site will come up on top when you type in specific words?
- What are all those other “Sponsored” links on the top and to the side of the search results?
- Why does my competitor’s site come up before mine?
- How do I make my site perform better in a search engine?
Most people understand the importance of good search engine results, they just don’t understand why it doesn’t happen to their site.
Some people have heard of “black hat” search engine optimization techniques, and perceive them to be complicated and mysterious. Some have heard talk about “meta tags” and other methods to make a search engine deliver a specific website on top. Some unfortunates have shelled out big bucks to some “SEO web marketing” firms (BEWARE: there are many in Chicago), virtually guaranteeing top results in 24 hours – and have been sadly disillusioned by the non-existent return on investment.
At Headstand Media, we take an intelligent, practical approach to our search engine optimization services based upon our years of research and real world experience with our customers.
It’s Really Pretty Simple
It’s really all about educating yourself on the basic principles of how SEO works, then following through with appropriate implementations to your website.
Under the Hood of a Search Engine
There are three main parts to a search engine:
- The Spider
- The Index
- The Query
If you understand what each part does, you have the basic understanding on how to get your website to perform better in the search engines.
Here’s What They Do:
The Spider is so named because it visually describes its activity of “crawling the web” looking for new web content to index. It does this much like Microsoft Explorer, Safari or Firefox browsers do when they request pages to display on your computer.
The spider doesn’t collect images or page formatting styles. It is interested only in CONTENT (text, links) and the URL’s from which the links come. The spider tries to get as much information as it can in the least amount of time. A spider loves links because they lead it to more web pages that have more text, links and URL’s. This is how Google and Yahoo and all the other engines find all the new pages of content that are added to the web every day.
The Index software stores everything the spider finds. It organizes the massive quantities of text, links and URLs using an algorithm (complex mathematical formula) that indexes the words, word pairs and so forth.
The algorithm analyzes the page content for word combinations and scores them according to their level of relative importance, based upon assumptions made through research about the people who use search engines. This “relative importance” information (Google calls it PageRank – see below) is also stored in the index.
The Query software is the public side of the search engine. It’s the familiar interface that everyone uses to search the web. It looks much simpler than the complex search engine software working behind the scenes.
Everyone knows the familiar “query box” as the main feature in which to type their search terms. When you hit “search,” it is in the best interest of the search engine to match your words with the best web pages it can find containing the best content on your topic.
It is important to note that the query software does not search the web, but only checks the data that has been collected by the spiders in its own index.
What You Need to Understand About Search Engines
That’s pretty much it! The search engine has done all the work of collecting and analyzing web content, and it makes it available to anyone when they search on terms related to a particular topic.
Therefore, the search terms people use determine the results the search engine will deliver. So search engine optimization firms like Headstand Media simply want to discover the terms people use when they search. These terms are called “keywords.”
Headstand Media and many other SEO firms have access to databases and research tools that do just that, track and record what people type in a search engine every day. We research the keywords for our customers and build search engine optimization strategies around that information. If you ignore these principles and the research required, your online website and business will most surely under-perform.
Search Engine Optimization Overview
All businesses tend to develop their own language and terms. However, prospective customers may use entirely different terms when looking for your product or service. At Headstand, our philosophy is to start the SEO process by discovering what people actually type in their browser when they are looking for your specific product or service.
For example, an office furniture business might think that people will search for them using “pre-owned office furniture” because it sounds better and it is the industry standard term. However, our research revealed that people actually search for “used office furniture” ten times more often than “pre-owned office furniture.” It would therefore be foolish to optimize a site for a term that virtually no one in the real world uses.
Once we identify what search words and phrases people use to find products and services, it enables us to make intelligent recommendations to our clients on how to best optimize the content of their web pages in order to raise website position in the natural search engine results on those phrases.
Anyone can spend big bucks on Pay Per Click advertising. Some search engine companies are making huge profits on customers who only do this. Headstand believes this should be considered only a secondary measure, after the best natural search engine positioning has been achieved.
A Note About Search Engines
This chart shows the share of searches received by particular search engines. However, not all search engines use their own technology. Instead, they may outsource to other search engines for their search results. Google is considered the current leader and most important search engine technology provider in the world.
The techniques employed by Headstand are not only highly effective, but they are in keeping with the published policies and guidelines of all the major search engines. Unlike some web optimization vendors, our adherence to policy ensures that no penalties will be imposed on our customer sites due to misuse of optimization techniques.
Even though we are talking about cutting edge technology, SEO is not an exact science and relies primarily upon Google PageRank technology and the content indexing of your site. As our customers become more educated there are a few questions that usually come up.
What is Google “PageRank?”
PageRank is a patented technology developed by Google as a method of “weighting” the relative importance of web pages. Higher quality sites with better content receive more PageRank (or PR). PageRank is used in conjunction with the content on the page to determine your site position in a specific search results page.
You can discover what the PR value is for any given website by downloading and installing the Google Toolbar, available here: http://toolbar.google.com
When can I expect to see the results of my SEO upgrades?
There are several steps involved. First, Google will typically re-index your site in 30 to 60 days. Sometimes it can happen sooner than that, but there is no guarantee when this will happen. After your site is re-indexed, the PageRank will slowly filter from your home page down to your other pages. This will help give some of your other pages more weight in the search engines. It can take 30 to 60 days after the site is re-indexed for PageRank to filter down to your other pages. It could take several months before the entire process is complete.
When will I be a “Top-10” in Google?
No one, including Headstand, can guarantee that your site will be number one in Google, or even in the top ten. Headstand will follow the rules and guidelines published by Google, but in the end, your site ranking and performance is up to Google. There are over 3 billion URL’s indexed in Google, and growing every day. There are no guarantees or shortcuts.
In fact, Google and other search engines have closed many of the “loop holes” you may have heard about in the past. Meta tags, invisible text, multiple keywords repeated over and over are all ineffective techniques, all of which will get your site downgraded and sometimes even banned.
So, now I am done, right?
Reaching and maintaining your best natural search engine performance is a constant task. There may be adjustments that you need to make as the search engines change and evolve their technology. One thing that will continue to be a positive help to your site performance is continually adding new relevant content on the core topics you want your site to perform well on. If no new relevant content is ever added to your site, your performance and rankings will slide because remember, all your competitors have websites too!
What else can I do?
There are several other options that you have to increase ranking and performance. You could try an initial “Pay-Per-Click” or “AdWord” campaign with Google. This option will cost you additional advertising dollars, but has proven to be an efficient and cost-effective way to enhance natural search engine results and compete in a highly competitive market.
You will also want to increase the number and quality of links to your site from outside sources. The rule of thumb is that the more quantity and quality of sites that link to your site, the better.
What are my next steps?
Headstand is ready to engage with you in the search engine optimization service process, whether you already have a website, or if you need a new one developed. The best time to optimize a website is during its design and construction, but it is not absolutely necessary. Headstand has been able to help many websites designed and developed by others increase their search engine performance.
Some of this article was adapted from “Keyword Basics Part 1: How search engines work,” November 24, 2006, by Ken McGaffin