In part 1 of this series, we discussed the potential of online marketing to make or break the success of a website. This series covers the basics every business owner needs to know about the world of online marketing. In part 2, we take our first look at one of the most important aspects of online marketing; search engines and search engine marketing.
What are search engines?
Search engines are websites that allow people to search the millions of available web pages for relevant information. Search engines are key in the operation of the web; imagine needing to find an apartment to stay in for a holiday in Spain without a search engine! How would you know the exact website to use? Search engines provide a list of the best websites to visit based on your search criteria.
How do search engines work?
Search engines all operate slightly differently; hence why some are used more than others. However, each search engine does essentially the same three things.
- Explores the internet, creating a list of websites and words contained within them.
- Maintain this list of words in an index so it is easy to look them up. This is called ‘indexing’.
- Let internet users access the index in order to find the websites they need.
Let’s look at some of the most common phrases used in the world of website search engines.
Web Crawling: In order to provide information about web pages on the internet, firstly, the web pages must be recognised. Search engines use software robots called ‘spiders’ to explore the internet and compile the list of words found on a website. This is called ‘web crawling’.
Meta Tags: Meta tags are words that the owner of a webpage can list specifically for the search engine. This can be helpful to the search engine because it clarifies which subjects the web site is talking about. However if the meta tags don’t match the content on the website, the search engine will reject the meta tags.
Ranking: A search engine will list one website as more relevant than another in its results. It will use various ranking methods to determine which website is more important.
Weight: Not all words are created equal. Some words like ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’, really don’t have any relevance in a search at all. Other times, words can be used in a particular context that changes their meaning. Search engines use clues such as title lines, bold formatting and positioning of text compared to other text to determine which words are more important and help it in ranking the website effectively.
Query: The query is the words put into the search engine by the person searching. It tells the search engine what it needs to look for.
Keywords: Keywords are groups of words that define what a person is looking for. For instance, ‘spain holiday house’.
Search Engine Optimisation: Activities undertaken in order to get a website ranking higher in search engine results for specific keywords.
Anchor Text: When a website is referenced in an article, it is usually through a hyperlink; a set of words that are underlined and a different colour to indicate that clicking on them will send the reader to a new web page. These set of words are called anchor text. Search engines will use anchor text leading to a webpage to determine in more detail what the webpage is about.
Why are search engines so important?
Search engines are the directories of the internet. They are usually the first stop for anyone looking for information. The results a search engine returns dictate the websites people will visit. This is why search engine optimisation is an important strategy for online marketing. We delve deeper into the subject in Part 3.