Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Let's start with the basics of search engines and how they work

I’m not going to assume that anyone reading this will already have any knowledge of SEO, web design, or anything related, so I’d like to basically try and very briefly explain the idea behind SEO.

Everyone has browsed on the internet, and everyone recognises a website when they see one, and have more often than not found things on the internet by using a search engine – whether or not they realise this or not.
Barcelona SEO - Internet Explorer
Websites are actually just lots of text, written in a special code, called HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language) and do not contain images or graphics like you see when you open a website page. Your website browser (like Internet explorer, Firefox, Mac, etc.) is basically like a window which understands how to read and interpret this code and how to display it to you – complete with certain text you can click on to get to another page, or an image, or things that pop up, etc. Everything you’re already used to seeing on a typical website.
Barcelona SEO - Firefox
It is impossible to estimate how many websites there must be in the world (not just in your own language remember) so the internet and internet browsing is safe to a certain point, with it’s dangers like anything, and can also be time consuming if you need to look for something. This is where the search engines step in.


A search engine is basically like a big electronic yellow pages. The main difference is that the yellow pages tends to just list the different companies in alphabetical order - with the odd few bigger paid adverts dotted around a double page. So really it’s kind of pot luck as to who you find – who’s to say that ABC Plumbing will be any better than Zen Pipes Plumbing, right? Also, the Yellow Pages tend to be just for one area or city, whereas the search engines need to try and organise the whole of the internet. It’s like having millions and millions of magazines on the floor, and trying to organise them into categories, but you get another million while you’re half way through.
Barcelona SEO - Yellow Pages
So what the search engines try to do is organise the list in terms of RELEVANCE to the subject. You can search for something in a search box of a search engine by typing in KEYWORDS – basically the words which describe what you’re looking for. So if you’re looking to find out about local Italian restaurants you could type “Italian restaurants “your city” and then you should get a list of restaurants and not travel agencies of language schools (although this has been known to occur!).

The search engines “read” the same HTML code that your website is created in and this is how it determines where you go on the list. There are many other factors which influence your position on this list, and the actual algorithms that the huge supercomputers use to index your page are only actually known to very few people.

This is where SEO starts. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and basically is the tweaking and changing internal and external components of your website to help the search engine index your page as more relevant and therefore move it up on the list. There is a common misconception that being number 1 on a web search means that it’s the best company. This is completely untrue. Think about the last reference of an Italian restaurant, and let’s use Barcelona as my example. So I type “Italian restaurants in Barcelona” and get the list given to me by the search engine – number 1 is a chain of restaurants called (for example) “Luigi’s Pasta” which produces pre-fabricated food with mainly frozen ingredients and has 7 restaurant chains in Barcelona. However, everyone in Barcelona knows that “Mama Mia’s” restaurant (again fictitious for the purposes of this example) is the best restaurant in Barcelona – home cooked, always full, and humble surroundings. So why is Mama Mia’s not top? Well, probably because Luigi’s has got more money to spend on advertising and therefore on websites and consequently on search engine optimisation. So you see, it’s all quite complicated, and depending on the sector you’re in, you may need to spend more money to achieve results in a shorter space of time.

It’s also important to point out, that the aforementioned algorithms that the computers use, are also always changing and getting updated, and this is something no-one (minus the search engines) can control or predict, so often work is done which works one month, will not be apparent the next. Be wary of any companies offering “ 100% GUARANTEED Page one results on Google” and the like

This is just a starter as to what this blog will tackle and try and introduce you to new and open ideas. Please feel free to comment and correct me as you may see fit. Thanks.

I also offer SEO Training in Barcelona. Please contact me for details.

1 comment:

UK sauna Guide said...

Very interesting information. I look forward to future posts as I want to learn about SEO.