“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.” —Jimmy Wales
The goal of this post is to uncover the simple three-step process that Google uses to find and rank the immense universe of Web pages floating around cyberspace. Much of the process through which Google “finds,” “reads,” and ranks Web pages is fairly straightforward and commonsensical.
Google Bit Off More Than It Could Chew—The Entire Internet!
According to Netcraft, there are around 644,275,754 active websites on the Internet—and billions of individual Web pages, as most sites contain several pages. And this number is growing by 5 percent each month, see here.
Even more impressive is how effective Google is at what they do. Google has the self-appointed role of finding, scanning, and ranking this expanding universe of sites and delivering the intended result within fractions of a second.
Think about it: The next time you follow a whim to jump on your laptop and search for “the flight speed of a European swallow,” Google’s engine will somehow “decide” which of the billion or so Web pages are likely the most helpful for you, and display them in order of relevance within milliseconds.
To support their goal of producing better results more quickly, Google frequently changes their search algorithms, sometimes wiping out thousands of websites, companies, and even industries in the process. Although this may leave most of us small business owners with a feeling of helplessness at the whim of this elusive information-eating organism, the core process has changed very little—Google uses a simple, three-step process to produce those lightning-quick search results:
Let’s dig just a little bit more deeply into each of these three steps.
Think of the Web as a series of individual documents (Web pages) linked together by strands, like a spider’s web. Although you may often use the term “website,” incorporating all the pages within, search engines see and scan each individual page on the Web independently. A website is simply a collection of related Web pages linked together using hyperlinks; without these links, the Internet would serve no purpose, denying us and search engines any way to find or rank information!
KEY CONCEPT: Understanding “Googlebots”
Google spiders, also known as “Googlebots,” crawl the entire World Wide Web, scanning each Web page (i.e., billions of documents) and exploring its hyperlinks, storing this data in one of several indexes. This process continues until the search engine spider has found, “read,” and indexed virtually every page on the Internet! Therefore, a great way for Google to find your site is for it to notice and explore links on other sites that point to yours.
Once a Googlebot crawls a website, recording every page of the site, every word, image, and link, it then makes a copy of it, files it under the right category, and produces it within milliseconds on command! Google parses out and stores the code from these pages in massive data centers—Google’s index—ensuring that data can be served up instantaneously. Google assigns a unique ID to each Web page, and even indexes the content of each page to identify precisely which terms it contains.
NOTE: Like Santa, Google Knows Whether You’ve Been Naughty or Nice. When you publish an article on your website, Google finds and scans it within days or even sooner, making note of who wrote it, how long (word count) and origional (unique) it is (an indicator of quality ), what it’s about, how many people “Like” it on Facebook and other social sites, and much more.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Have you ever wondered why your site shows up on page three of Google for an important search term, while your competitor’s enjoys the number-one spot, when both sites have roughly the same content?
Assuming your site has been found, crawled, and indexed, it’s in the final step, Ranking, that the search engine battle is won or lost.
Upon receiving a search query, Google must first return only those results related to the query, and, second, rank these results in order of relevance and importance. This ranking process is known as a search engine algorithm. Each major search engine company maintains its own algorithm with the goal of producing the “best” (most useful and relevant) results.
Think of the ranking process as a filter: a search engine’s mission in producing a search results page is to start with all the pages of data on the Web, then filter these pages through a series of screening steps, and, finally, narrow the list to what the search engine determines to be the “best” list of results.
Although complex in its entirety, Google’s search engine ranking algorithm boils down to a few simple concepts that govern how they rank Web pages:
KEY CONCEPT: SEO GOES BEYOND WHAT’S ON YOUR WEBSITE
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make when it comes to SEO is focusing all of their energy on their website and not enough on getting high-quality links to their site from others. All other things being equal, usually the site with the most trusted backlinks will rank higher on Google.
In my next post, we’ll dive more deeply into a simple-to-implement small business SEO plan.
Understand the Three-Step Process Google Uses to Rank Web Pages
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