Welcome to Part 2 of SEO for small business. In part 1 we covered

  • What is SEO?
  • Challenges to address.
  • Will SEO work for your small business.

In this part we cover:

  • The internet and the worldwide wide web.
  • Search Engines – The Basics.
  • Page Ranking – An overview.
  • Lies, Damn lies and SEO Experts.

So moving swiftly on:

The Internet And The World Wide Web

In basic terms, the world wide web (www) is simply links between documents (pages). It is a huge, and ever-expanding network. The internet is the technology (routing, networking and storage) structure on which the world wide web depends.

A web browser (Chrome, Firefox etc) is a software program that allows a user to access the world wide web. It retrieves information from the internet and displays that information in a readable form on a user’s device.

Search Engines – The Basics

When a user types in a search phrase (a query) the search engine retrieves information from an index. It ranks the documents (webpages) available in the index according to how authoritative and relevant the information is to the query intent.

A crawler is a small software program that follows links from one document to the next. It retrieves new and changed content. The crawler’s only job is to find content and pass it to the indexer. The indexer interprets (to a point) the information retrieved and tags it (assigns various values) with information that can be used in the ranking process. It stores information for retrieval by a query machine.

A query machine interprets the phrase (query). It uses many algorithms (computer programs designed to perform a specific task) to decide which documents should be presented on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and in which order. The algorithms work on signals. These ‘signals’ are discussed in more detail below.

Page Ranking – An Overview

Given a phrase (a query) the search engine companies (Google, Bing, Yahoo) prime mission is to deliver the most relevant results. Returning results which do not match the search phrase or are of poor quality is against their interests.

When a user types in a phrase a search engine must select the pages that match the query (including the searchers’ situation and intent). It must rank them according to a set of rules. It is important to note it is the page that ranks, not a website.

Google uses many algorithms to determine the most relevant results. It is probable there are also specific sets of algorithms to rank each of the elements that are pulled into the SERPS created in response to a query. These elements could be featured snippets, people also ask, maps, video panels and many more. The range of elements presented depends on the intent.

Small Business SEO and SEO Experts

It is clear the methods used by the search engine companies to present results in response to a query are constantly evolving. There is always hype about the latest innovation or patent. My advice, log it away for future reference as much of it is many months, even years away from implementation. Try to concentrate on the small business SEO basics.

Many commentaries online suggest factor X is more important than Y which is in turn more important than Z. Almost all of them are complete guesswork. There is a mass of information on search engine optimisation (SEO) available online but much of it is contradictory (or plain wrong). As a small business owner don’t be fooled by anyone offering guarantees of short term success. There are no guarantees.

Occasionally, a report on an experiment may be published that shows all an SEO specialist needs to concentrate on is X to see results (yeah right). In any valid scientific experiment, one factor is changed while keeping everything else constant. With the www and 100’s of factors in play that is impossible.

Exactly how Google (or any other search engine) determines which page is relevant to a search phrase and matches user intent is unknown. For obvious reasons, it will remain unknown. As a small business owner you need to rely on SEO experts, but who is an expert? That’s the problem, all you can do is seek out someone with hard won experience.

To be blunt the early versions of search engines were not particularly sophisticated. To a point, some early SEOs could spot how they could game the system. That is no longer possible. Google was not the first search engine company but they are currently the largest. They were founded in 1998 and have been developing their search engine ever since. Think about the development of technology in the past 20 years (the first iPhone was introduced in 2007!). Search engines are now highly sophisticated.

Look at the SERPS, try to learn from reliable sources of information and learn from your own experience. Make your own small business SEO plan and stick to it rather than jump on board with the latest (idiot) idea or so-called quick fix.

In Part3 of our guide to SEO we cover how to get started in more detail.

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