The world of SEO is full of so many different search engines, firms, opinions, and more. Google recommends one thing, Bing another, and then companies and message boards tell you not to believe it, and really the only way to rank is by doing this or that. SERPS, organic ranks, search marketing, algorithm updates, penalties, backlinks, colored hats and more… it can get overwhelming to try to figure out how search engine optimization works, and where to even begin. Here at Creative California, we work hard to make what we do clear and easy to understand, so here’s our quick breakdown of how it all works.
Search Engine Optimization has its Foundation in Links
In the early days, the creators of search engines sought a way to index the pages of the internet, and to provide quality sites in response to a query. The thought was that the more times a site was linked to (called backlinks), the more reputable the site was, and thus the higher in the rankings it should be. Algorithms were developed to automate this process, and thus websites like Google were born.
The problem was, with how this was originally built, people caught on to the way it worked and began manipulating the algorithms to get the results they wanted. Many companies would build “link network” sites, whose sole purpose was to link other sites together, thus artificially raising the ranking of their member sites. Oftentimes, when you hired an SEO firm, you would be asked to create a links page on your site that listed other sites as “partners.”
Google, primarily, has actively fought against these tricks (employed by what many call “black hat” companies), and have put an emphasis on quality content and public reputation. It has created many different new algorithms to help weed out these black hat tactics: Penguin to combat link building strategies, Panda to combat content that is geared strictly towards keyword ranking, the newer Pigeon for local results, and others. Bing and other search engines have slightly different approaches, but the foundations are often the same.
For a basic rundown on how search works from an engineer at Google, here’s a quick three-minute video discussing the very basics on how their search engine works:
So, How do I Rank Well in Search Engines?
In light of these programs and more, the way to rank well in the SERPs (search engine results pages) is, at a basic level, as follows:
- Write quality content.
- Distribute and publicize your content.
- The community interacts and shares your content.
- Links to the content are built on other sites.
- Your online reputation increases, and with more people “talking” about you, your rank goes up.
That’s it, for the most part. It sounds easy, but there is a lot involved to get there. You have to make sure your website is built in a way that’s favorable to the user, and meets the standards of the search engines. This means that it has to be fast, usable, clean, and informative. It has to play nice with search engines and be error free. When you write your content, you do want to make sure to keep best practices in mind, but still write it as if you’re writing to people, not robots. And then you need to employ proper marketing and public relations strategies to get your content in front of the eyes of readers who are interested.
If you follow these rules, you’ll find yourself ranking well in your niche long-term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be tempted by companies who promise you links, ranking and more immediately. They may be able to make progress, but the next time an algorithm update comes out, you could find yourself penalized with poor search rankings, or even completely blocked from search engines.