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You hear a lot about SEO — search engine optimization. But have you ever asked yourself, “How do search engines work?”

The answer to that question will help you understand how to make your website and all of its contents — the images and text it includes — search engine friendly.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines are made from three pieces of software:

  • Spider
  • Index and
  • Query

Spider software requests pages from a website like a browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) does. The first thing it is important to understand is that spiders only collect:

  • Text
  • Links and
  • URLs

Spider software doesn’t collect images or formatting, and that is why you need to optimize your images with text ‘alt tags’. Alt tags are HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) codes that make your text, links and URLs understandable for the software.

Index software organizes — using an algorithm — the information collected by the spider software to decide how important it is to whoever is searching.

An algorithm is a complex mathematical formula. The most important algorithm is Google’s search algorithm. Because Google wants people to be able to find information easily, they regularly update their algorithm.

There are over 200 elements in Google’s algorithm, which Google is said to update around 500 times per year. Among these factors, keywords play a central role (see below).

Query software checks through all of the records that have been created by its own index software which, as you remember, include only text, links and URLs collected by spider software.

You can imagine that although it happens quite quickly, it is very complex.

That is why you sometimes hear the phrase, “search engine friendly.” Given how hard they work, wouldn’t you want to make things easier for all those electronic spiders, indexers and queriers?

How Humans Use Search Engines

Humans are very curious — just like monkeys.

They want to know about all of the interesting information that has been collected and stored by the spiders and indexers.

To do this, they use a search engine query box which is powered by the very query software we already mentioned.

What Do People And Search Engines Have In Common?

Both people and search engines rely on words — called keywords — to make searches.

Keywords are the words people type into query boxes (or ask Siri) in order to find information and get their questions answered.

How to Find and Use Keywords

The first thing you need to understand is what you want people to find.

For example, if you have a website that sells jewelry, you need to figure out how people look for that information online.

And, of course, the word jewelry is a very general one. You will want to get specific about the type of jewelry you sell, be it vintage or eco-friendly or both.

Here are three things to think about when you are looking for keywords:

  • Volume
  • Competition
  • Relevance

Volume is the amount of searches people make using a given term, such as jewelry.

Competition refers to how many other sites are using the term jewelry.

Relevance is tricky but very important. If you are only selling Native American jewelry, the term “vintage” won’t be relevant.

In a perfect world, you would choose keywords that are high volume, low competition and highly relevant to what you are offering.

Keyword research is both a science and an art. You can find a lot of data about keywords using the paid and free tools such as Google Keyword Planner but, at the end of the day you have to understand your brand and what you want people to find in order to make good decisions.

You will want to choose an appropriate keyword for each page of your website as well as keywords for every post your write on your blog so the spiders can find them, index them and make them available to people when they make queries.

The Take Home

Now you know more about how search engines work. They are made from software that relies on words. Your job is to present words — called keywords — to search engines in a way that is friendly — and relevant.

Your Turn

What do you think? Are your keywords search engine friendly enough?

Image courtesy of: www.soil-net.com

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