*Disclaimer- I promise there will not be any pictures of spiders in this post*
If a company’s name can become a commonly used verb, I would say that they have “made it”. Google (and it’s subsidiary sites) is easily one of the most used websites. However, when it crashed for a few minutes this past August, only a few users were effected. Oh wait, about 40% of the internet crashed with it. http://tinyurl.com/lbrobmk.
We users of the internet have put a lot of faith in Google to bring us a superior experience, both in helping us find exactly what we are looking for, and making sure all of our questions can be answered.
And I mean ALL questions
However, most people do not quite understand how Google works. Until yesterday, I didn’t have that good of an idea. However, I have a bit more of an understanding. Essentially, it all comes down to spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Essentially, search engines have programs called “spiders” that crawl webpages, following links to find new pages, and so on. As you can imagine this is an exponential process, where the program can find hundreds of webpages based off of one original site. Why is the program called a spider, you may ask. This is because the links that the program follows links around the web. The evolution of the web crawler (spider) is the result of many different companies that have gradually come up with new innovations for the programs and companies. http://tinyurl.com/btn5r9j
After the websites are crawled on (?) the search engine then has to index all of the sites that it has visited. The engine has to determine what keywords are related to the site, what type of use that keyword has on the site (just a one time use of a certain keyword, or if the page is actually about that subject), and a more metaphorical analysis (such as if a poem is about a boat, but the word “boat” is never actually used in that poem). Luckily, a search engine’s programs can index all of this information on it’s own.
If people had to do this manually, unemployment probably wouldn’t be that big of an issue.
The final stage of the process comes when a search as actually conducted. This is where the spiders help you find you your milk. Say you are thirsty one afternoon and think to yourself “Man, I sure am thirsty, but I’m stuck at my computer. I guess I’ll just look at pictures of my favorite beverage” and proceed to search for “Glass of Milk” in a Google Image search. How does Google know to put this image
So close, and yet so far
Essentially, the search engine is able to look at the keywords that are associated with it’s index of sites that it’s crawler collected, and then able to rank how similar they are to the query in the search bar. The webpage will then be ranked and scored, based on other signals given off on the webpage, and then shown to the user, listing the images with the highest score first. This will ensure that the image closest to what the user wanted is very near the top of the search results, as opposed to something on the tenth page.
That is a very, very, very simplified explanation as to how search engines work. You may be thinking to yourself “But Stephen, how does this relate to marketing?”
Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO/SEM) are two of the best tools a company can utilize for it’s online presence. Let’s say you own a small company and want to be seen online. You may be creating content that your customers want to see/read/interact with online, but how do you know if they are reaching it? One of the biggest things you can do is to optimize your content for mobile devices. With a larger portion of searches being done from something besides a computer or laptop, being “mobile friendly” is one of the most important aspects. http://tinyurl.com/k6zkc7h
As our search engines evolve, they are gradually becoming more aware of “intent”. That is what we mean to search, as opposed to what we actually search. Answering questions within your blog will definitely help users find your content much more easily. Another important thing you can do is to connect your content with social media. Nielsen reported in a study that about 90% of users searching for something online will trust a family member or friend. http://tinyurl.com/na49dkh
Through the use of SEO, a company with small roots and a smaller client base can rise through the ranks of the web. If they are able to create their content so that they are able to answer questions in a smart way, and ALSO be mobile friendly, that’s pretty much a grand slam. As search engine grow smarter, they are able to interpret what we mean to look for, so the search results returned to us are more of what we are actually looking for, as opposed to things that only have words from the query within them.
Eventually Arnold will do all of our searching for us
In short; If you want to utilize SEO/SEM with your inbound marketing campaign, keep creating good content, use keywords that are relevant, answer questions, utilize social media input, and make your site mobile friendly. The success will follow.
For further reading, in this blog post by Rand Fishkin (Founder of Moz) the differences of inbound marketing and SEO are discussed, and he talks about how the two are practically joined at the hip, where one feeds off of the other. http://moz.com/blog/the-brand-of-seo-and-the-trend-of-inbound-marketing