Technology Tip

The Evolution of Search Engines

The Evolution of Search Engines

Since the very beginning of the internet and the creation of web pages it became clear that understanding how users search for information was key to creating visibility for your web site. Every web site has a name, for example. And this name is also called the URL or Uniform Resource Locator. Google rose to prominence as the premier web site for connecting users to URL’s and that is still true today with Google handling over 90% of the world’s search traffic. So search really is just Google.

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Part of the reason that Google has stayed on top is that they have constantly adjusted their search algorithms so that users can get very precise targeting of the information that they are looking for. In addition Google has paid attention to web site designs that are meant to “game” the search algorithms capturing visitors with poor quality matches. In the early days of the Internet site designers would load up a web site with key words. Often text was used that had a font color that matched the web site background, making the keyword invisible to the viewer but computer-readable. A page constructed this way could have 1000 keywords or more on every page. Google put a stop to that pretty quickly by penalizing web sites that “stuffed” their site full of keywords. The reality is that some amount of keywords are important. But not as important as the quality of the content.

The process of tailoring your web site content to attract searches of a certain type is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In the early days of Google, they had very few rules to their algorithm and they updated their list maybe half a dozen times a year. Mostly they were focused on speed and accuracy and structuring their algorithms to make them harder to hack. As they evolved they became more focused on finding web sites that expressed an expertise. Markers of that expertise included references by experts in the field, back links or references within your field of expertise and more recently providing answers to FAQ’s that denote specialized knowledge. Google now makes literally thousands of tweaks to their algorithms annually. So if you really want to build a site that “wins” the search game using Google rules, it makes sense to have someone who has the expertise and time to follow and implement relevant content.

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Some years ago Google started to allow bidding for keywords. This was also known as Pay-per-click (PPC). Bidding on a keyword or phrase presents your ad among other PPC bidders at the top of the page. If the user selected your product, then you would be charged whatever the bid amount was at the time. Participating in the PPC program does nothing for your web site in terms of search engine ranking. This is an important concept to understand. Google will prioritize the best match per their algorithms to the search results at the top of the page regardless of your participation in their PPC program. You are best off, in the long term working on organic SEO so you consistently end up in the top search results. Using the PPC program can be useful if you happen to have a featured product, or you are doing some target advertising to a certain demographic. However, if you are relying on Google’s PPC program entirely for ranking, it will be a very expensive proposition. The best strategy is to take the long term view. See who is ranking highest for the words and phrases that you like. Maximize your content that focuses on popular information, studies, organizations, etc. that support your market space and keep your finger on the pulse of Google’s adjustments by following on-line forums.

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