What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. As you a user, when you need to find information on a topic, you use search engines to get a listing of web sites related to the topic of interest. As a webmaster, you want your site to be one of the first ones the user will see. With all the competition out there, how can you, the web designer, make sure you are noticed? That is where effective search engine optimization comes in. Basically, optimizing refers to fine-tuning a website to achieve optimum search results. This is not a one-time process. Optimization is an on-going process that requires key pages to be resubmitted every couple of months and important new pages as they appear. But, it’s not enough to optimize web pages for search engines. You still have to submit them for indexing. Simply, Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the simple activity of ensuring a website can be found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering. In many respects it’s simply quality control for websites. Having said that, if there was ever an industry that was little understood by outsiders its SEO.
All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users.
The history of search engines starts with a pioneer tool called Archie, created by Alan Emtage back in 1990 (Wiki, 2006). This program only collected the titles of files from public FTP (file transfer protocol) servers and stored them into a single database for quick reference. The first search engine was created 3 year later, and was called Wandex, developed by Mathew Gray. Same year Aliweb project launched, which is operational even today, being web’s oldest functional search engine.
In the late 1990’s many new search engines appeared, most of which are used today. These include Yahoo!, Excite, Inktomi, AltaVista, and others. Altogether, around 20 global search engines have launched since 1990, most of which are online even today. Nowadays there are about a dozen of search engines that are relatively widely used. Among these, the young revolutionary Google occupies over a half of the entire search engine market (MetricsMarket, 2003). Yahoo! and MSN follow with 21 and 10 percent respectively. And such engines like Lycos, Ask, or AltaVista occupy about 3% each. However, these 3% of the entire market is a huge segment, with millions of people hitting the page every month.
In addition to globally accepted search engines there exist local ones like Grouillou in France, Askbaje in Nepal or Fireball in Germany. As mentioned above, each search engine technology is unique, and typically such local search engines are oriented more on local pages and local market, rather than global.
On a user level, the procedures are very simple. All the user has to do is to input necessary parameters of the search. In other words, the user says the search engine what he or she wants to get, e.g. “Websoft Nepal”, “web design in Chitwan” or “web hosting in Chitwan.” In addition, most search engines offer additional features that allow the user to narrow down the search. Such feature is typically referred to as advanced search. With its help the user can not only indicate what the search engine must fetch, but he or she can also specify when, what kind, where, language, filtering and other criteria. These features are common and they are included into every search engine; when refers to the date of publishing/creation, what kind refers to the file extension or format. Different search engines offer their own, unique list of additional features of the advanced search (and simple search as well). For example, WiseNut search engine offers looking at the content of a single web-page from the returned results without actually leaving the result page, which “eliminates a lot of ‘mouse traffic’ between the result page and the back button” (King, 2001).
However, how search engines decide which page match which query is a real science. Search engines have their own technologies, algorithms, and formulas, which are typically kept in secret. Generally, search engines use about 140 parameters and criteria to determine relevancy. Those that are widely know include the occurrence of the search query term on the page text, the title, the meta tags, in the liking text inside the page, in the URL address (Uniform Resource Locator), the headings, as well as bold and italicized font, and in the text outside the site but linking to it. Google’s Page Rank is famous for valuing the external linking, while MSN relies more on the actual content of the page and not the links. Again, all search engines are unique, and have their own formulas and algorithms, but they perform the same function; they fetch relevant results that match the user’s query.
Since search engines are huge projects from technological point of view, they must have big capacity servers to operate normally. These servers, in turn, are expensive assets. What search engines do to cover these expenses (and to gain tremendous profits as well) is they provide context advertising. This advertising is very effective because it is targeted and covers very narrow segment of the market; the exact segment the advertiser wants. Google for example offers AdWords, which is a separate vertical bar that returns text advertisements only for a certain keyword or phrase. And so for query “Web designer in Chitwan,” the search engine returns only 10 (sometimes more) results, but there are surely much more wed designers willing to be there visible. Thus, the “sponsored links” bar to the right would be full. MSN and Yahoo! offer similar targeted advertising service too via the Overture network.
Ultimately, if not specified further, search engines are those tools that people use to find desired files, sites, data in a huge global ocean of information that is call the World Wide Web. Although it is difficult to imagine, search engines (or rather their bots) visit every page on the web by following links, and save a copy of this page on the server. High technologies and algorithms would then analyze the page and index it. In accordance to numerous criteria, this page would be relevant or irrelevant to certain keywords or key-phrases. Those search engines that perform these functions better and return most relevant results are considered the best. And among the major search engines now Google is definitely number 1.
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