When the internet started it was very chaotic. It was impossible to find what you wanted or anything that was vaguely useful unless it was porn. There were search engines but they just weren’t very good. Then Google came along and everything changed. Suddenly there was some structure. If you looked for something you found it. It was like magic and it enchanted everyone.
A bit about how Google works
Of course its not magic. Its just a list of well-defined instructions for calculating and bringing order to everything on the internet. Or to use its proper name an algorithm. This algorithm zooms around the net (or as spider it crawls) and uses automated reasoning to catalog your website and place it in the big scheme of things. This all gets stored on a giant hard drive. So when somebody does a search Google can instantly give you the results it assumes are the most valuable on the internet.
So what is SEO?
Google uses a pretty impressive list of instructions (algorithm) to work out how valuable your website is to the world (these instructions are a closely guarded secret) so it can impose some kind of natural order. Put in the most basic way I can think of search engine optimisation (SEO) is a way of applying certain techniques to gain an advantage with Googles algorthm. Or put even simpler, its just a way of cheating the system.
Two basic principles
Keywords – Google indexes all the words on your website and summarises what each page is about. It stores the information and works out which is the most specific page about that subject on the net. When someone searches for ‘red wine from provonce’ Google can link that search with the most specific web page (or what it considers to be an authority on that subject). The more authority you have the more valuable are to someone looking for knowledge.
Backlinks – In our culture we know when something is good when lots of people like it. Its the same in search engines. The more people link to a webpage the better it must be. Again the idea is to find an authority on a given subject. This is something that’s out of your control because other people are deciding on the genuine value of your website by linking to it. Of course with SEO you can fake that which is why I said its like cheating the system.
Of course there’s a lot more to it than this. There are two ways of doing really well on Google. One is to produce something that contributes to the world. Something that is so good people will link to it and tell their friends about it who also link to it. An extreme example is the BBC website. They’ve created an amazing resource and come in most news or sports searches.
Or you can use search engine optimisation (SEO) to make Google think you’re an amazing resource so you come high in the rankings. The best strategy is to use a mix of both.