In the 1990s, the internet was still a relatively new thing (outside of the academic and governmental circles in which it was created, at least). But it was already sprawling and, in many ways, disorganized. Finding websites to visit was difficult unless you already knew the exact URL that you needed.
Search engines were created to solve this problem. Though the history of search engine concepts goes back a little further, the history of search engines as a tool for regular people begins in the late 1990s. That’s when we saw the debut of a few historically important search engines: Northern Light, AskJeeves, and (most important) Google.
More than two decades later, search engines have transformed the way we use the internet. They have also transformed how businesses advertise and reach customers online. Here’s what you need to know about how search engines work — and how they could work for you and your business.
The Code Behind the Engine
From a user’s perspective, a search engine seems almost like magic. Ask Google to summon websites for you, and you’ll usually get relevant results; sometimes, it will almost seem as if Google knows more about what you wanted than you did. But this “magic” doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of two things: Google’s indexing powers and its algorithm.
Let’s tackle those in order. Before Google can serve up relevant websites to searchers, it needs to know what websites are out there. Google needs to index pages. It needs to find them and, as best it can figure out what those pages are all about.
To do this, Google uses programs commonly called “spiders.” These programs “crawl” the web, moving from page to page using links to get around. Along the way, the spiders collect information about the pages: the text on the page, the HTML code, the image tags, and other metadata, and the link relationships among different pages.
With all of this information, Google can then sort pages in response to user queries. The order is decided by Google’s algorithm. But this is where things get a little tricky because Google (like other search engines) jealously guards the secrets of its algorithm. The algorithm is Google’s secret sauce.
Making Search Engines Work for You
It’s no secret that being higher up on the search engine results page (SERP) is good for business. The better your business does in searches for relevant keywords, the more customers you’ll have seeking out your products and services. But how can you climb the rankings if Google’s search algorithm is secret?
What you can do is do your best to figure out what that secret algorithm is doing and then tailor your business’ online presence to better suit what Google is looking for. Doing this is called “search engine optimization,” and it’s a huge part of staying competitive in today’s connected business environment.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a complex and ever-changing thing. That’s why you should outsource it to a company that specializes in SEO, digital marketing, and link building. As we’ve already discovered, search engines value links, keywords, and other factors. But the best link building company will tackle things in an even more in-depth way: It’ll manage the quality of the links, the keywords within them, and other factors to help your business get ahead.
With proper SEO, your business will be more competitive. And because search engines are only getting more important with the rise of mobile search and the increasing use of smartphones among most people. Investing in SEO now will be a great decision in the long term.