Have you ever asked a digital marketer that understands SEO to explain it to you? You’ll hear all about spiders, SERPs, algorithms, crawling, and a plethora of similarly confusing internet marketing terms. The truth is that SEO isn’t a straight forward process, as a website page’s ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) is influenced by multiple on-page and off-page factors. This article focuses in on one aspect of SEO; specifically, how Google and other search engines index – or read and rank – the very passages of wording that appear on a webpage.
Before Google can index a page, it must know that the page and all of the content on it exists. There is no central database of all the websites in the world – probably because new ones are popping up every day. For this reason, Google has to continuously search or “crawl” the internet looking for new website pages that it can index, which is where the newly-discovered websites (and their individual pages) are weighed up to see if they are going to be helpful to internet searchers or not.
Once Google finds a new website, it proceeds to find out what the website – and its content – is all about. This process involves assessing every piece of writing, imagery, video, and other elements, then cataloguing it all in the Google Index – a sprawling database stored on many computers across the planet. The Google algorithm processes text better than it does images and video, which is why written content is so critical on all websites. It looks specifically at page headings (H1) and the first paragraphs of pages for clues as to what the pages are about.
The list of factors Google assesses web pages on is almost endless, but thus is the toil of a search engine trying to show users the best possible content. This allows them to make the best possible decisions. For example, Google uses the searcher’s location, language, device, and other signals to pick results for them. Someone searching for a “dentist near me” in Jo’burg doesn’t want to see a Cape Town-based dentist’s website pop up. Depending on how well the passages and general content of a page score, Google ranks pages overall and the outcome is a hierarchical list of results on the SERP.
We hope that this article has managed somewhat to demystify the search engine optimisation process in your mind. If 2021 is going to be the year you embrace a career path in search engine optimisation, learning about the basics – like webpage indexing – is pretty important.
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