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Often when discussing with people who own websites, the question related to the visibility of the site in the search engine often comes up.
- “How come that when I look for my site in the search engine, I can’t find it?”
- “I have very few visits on my site and I don’t understand although I have good content”.
This article is part of a series of articles on organic traffic from search engines. In this first article I will explain the mechanism behind search engine optimization. It will serve as a basis for the following article which will list the different elements to be taken into account.
A/ Search engine optimization
What we often forget is that for a site to be shown in the search engine or to be referenced by Google, Bing and others, we must follow the guidelines of these search engines in order to be ranked. In this first article we will first try to understand the mechanisms behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Then in a second article we will list the different elements to take into consideration with examples and the tools to use.
To define the techniques implemented to improve the position of a website on the results of a search engine, we use the term SEO. Which means “Search Engine Optimisation”
Difference between SEO & SEA
People often confuse SEO & SEA which are completely different things. For example, let’s take a simple query like “indoor bike”. If we look at the results in the image below, we can see that the first two results have a small mention “Ads or Ad”. In this first case we talk about SEA (Search Engine Advertising) and they are ads that are usually managed from a Google advertising tool called Google Ads. In the case of SEO and thus the “natural” visibility of the site, they come after just below the ads (the part highlighted in red) . This part depends on several parameters such as the page content, the fulfillment of certain fields in the code, the speed of your site, the user experience and much more.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEA (Search Engine Advertisement)
Prend plusieurs semaines/mois
Easily turned on/off, instantaneous
Control of the message depends ont the SEO pratcices
Limited to content site
Person in charge
Creative, Webmaster, Search engine marketing agencies
Search Engine Marketing Agencies
B/ What is the mechanics behind natural search engine optimization?
To illustrate this we will start from the Google search engine as it is the first search engine in Europe and the United States.
The function of a bot
All search engines have their own software that fulfills the first essential function of exploring the web. These softwares are called: bot, robot, web crawler, spider, etc. The bots are mainly used to create a copy of all the pages visited for further processing by a search engine that indexes the downloaded pages to allow fast searches.
- Best known example: Google’s crawler has the username googlebot.
1. The Bot Browses The Pages
The Googlebot starts from a series of web pages and looks for new or modified pages. At regular intervals these bots will come to your site to see if you have new content, if so, it will index it.
Avoid having duplicates (identical pages on the site) because the bots will detect it and this will dilute the traffic going to those pages (we will develop this aspect in the next article of the series). Currently, given the growth of mobile, Google has also launched a specific bot for natural referencing on mobiles. You can see how often Google’s bots are browsing your site from the free Google Search Console tool that we discussed in another article.
What can the Googlebot read on a website?
- Text in HTML
- Files such as .doc, .xls, .pdf
- Special text attributes (titles, bold)
- Incoming and outgoing links
- Name of a link ( Anchor-Text )
- Meta tags (title, description, keyword)
Google lists the content of each page (such as keywords) and stores static information of these pages in an index.
3. Displaying pages in search engine
Google wants to enhance the user experience by matching queries with relevant content. There are several factors that will determine whether or not a page is displayed. The exhaustive list of all display factors is not known, it is Google’s secret recipe. Nevertheless, professionals based on their experience have developed a list of some important points to respect:
Some factors taken into account:
- Quality of the site and the page (public relations, reputation…)
- Freshness (priority to the latest news)
- Secure search (no adult web pages, images…)
- User context (based on geographical data, web history…)
- Translation (based on Google setting and country)
- There are also elements on the page that we will discuss in the second article.
In summary in order to provide relevant content to users, Google uses software called bots to do four actions:
- Browse the web to check if there is new content;
- Scan these pages;
- List this content;
- Finally, depending on the query, the search engine will use several factors to display results in the search engine. The complete list of factors is not known. Nevertheless, there are certain points that are known such as the quality and speed of a page or other elements on the page that we will discuss in depth in our next article in the series.
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