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To understand the basics of SEO it is very helpful to understand what Google actually does.  Once you know how Google works it will help you to create an SEO strategy for your website.

In this article I will explain how Google and other search engines get the information they need to build their lists of results.

So how does Google actually work?

Google is made up of a crawler, an index, and an algorithm.

Crawler

Search engines follow links from one page to another using web crawlers which are also known as spiders or bots. The process begins when Google’s crawler goes around the web following the links that connect pages to each other. It goes around the internet 24/7 and saves everything it finds including the HTML- version of all pages in a gigantic database called the index.  For Google to know of the existence of your site, there first has to be a link to it from another site that is already in the index. If crawlers follow that link, it will lead to the first crawler-session and the first time your site is saved in the index.  How often your site gets crawled depends on how often you update it, and how important the search engine thinks your page is.

Index

The index is updated if the Google crawler comes by your website again and finds new or revised web pages. The new version of this page is saved. Depending on the traffic on your site and the number of changes you make on your website, Google crawlers come around more or less often.

Algorithm

After your side is indexed it is available to be shown in the Google search results.   Google has a specific algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order. How this algorithm works is a secret. Nobody knows exactly how Google decides the ordering of the search results.  We do know that site speed, security, and great content affect your ranking. Google’s algorithm also changes regularly based on what Google thinks best serves their users. This means that the factors that determine the ordering and the importance of the different pages changes often.

Google’s results page

Google’s search results page – also known as a SERP– shows 7 -10 links to sites which according to Google fit your search the best. These are called organic search results. If you click to the second page of the result page, more results are shown. The further you are down the results list, the less likely someone is going to find your site.

Also on the first page of the results there are paid links. These links are Google ads people have paid to have their links at the top when people search for a specific term. Prices for these ads vary greatly, depending on the competitiveness of the search term.

Are links Important?

Let’s talk about how search engines use links. The more links a specific site has, the more important search engines think it is. Both internal links (coming from the same website), as well as external links (from other websites), could potentially help in the ranking of a webpage in Google.

But some links are more important than others. Links from websites that have a lot of incoming links themselves are generally more important than links from small websites with only a few incoming links.

Active link building is when you try to improve your ranking by linking to your own pages as well as external pages whenever possible. As long as you are collecting links that are useful and logical, link building can be a good SEO strategy. But if you are collecting (or worse buying) shady links, Google will punish you for that.

SEO and Google

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing sites to (attempt to) make them appear in a high position in the organic search results. In order to do so, SEO tries to shape a website according to Google’s algorithm. Although Google’s algorithm remains secret, monitoring Google’s news regarding changes to the algorithm can give you a pretty good idea about what is impotant.  Using a plug-in like Yoast-SEO can really help you improve the SEO of your WordPress site.

Your SEO strategy should never feel like a trick.  Google is trying to give its user the best possible experience by showing the user the results that fit their search.  If you want to appear high in the results for that specific search term, make sure your website fits that search term.