Search Engine Optimisation
1st September 2009
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What does Search Engine Optimisation actually mean? - A guide for non techies

Everyone's talking about SEO or Search Engine Optimisation, but what does it actually mean?  Terms like this often get bandied around without the general population fully understanding what it means.  You get to a point where you don't want to show your ignorance so just nod knowingly when people start using the term. 

Why do we need to understand it?

In 2006 there were 30.9m people online, 66% of the total GB Adult population (NOP World, June 2006) of the whole poulation 83% of UK internet users have been online for at least 3 years (BMRB Internet Monitor, Feb 2007). That was 3 years ago.  The numbers are growing. If you're not marketing your products or services online you are ignoring a huge market place.  But to market our goods onine, we need to know how to do it, or at least what questions we should be asking if we want someone else to do it for us.  So understanding search engine optimisation is a good place to start.  Although a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, total ignorance can be very costly.  So let's start at the beginning.

What is a search engine?

A search engine is a a computer program that retrieves documents or files or data from a database or from a computer network.  Kind of like a huge team of digital librarians with super powers that enable them to scan millions of web pages and bring up not the just the one you're looking for but the 100,000 that might be relevant to what you are looking for.  There are many search engines but the most well known ones are Google and Yahoo.

What is a search query?

Let's say we want to find a beauty salon in Carmarthen.  Most of you who use the internet are familiar with going into a search engine like Google and typing some words into the search box.  That is a search term or search query.  So we might put beauty salon Carmarthen in the Google search box.  What we're doing here is asking our Super Librarians at Google to find us websites that indicate that they either are beauty salons or are about beauty salons.  This is how the majority of web pages are found - through search queries on the search engines.  (There are other ways such as people typing the exact name of the website directly into the address bar and people following links on social networking sites such as Facebook, You Tube and so on). So you can begin to see how important it is that the search engines can find your web pages.

How do search engines find your web pages?

There are 2 parts to this process.  First the search engines have to know what is on your pages.  To do this they run automated programmes called Bots or Spiders.  I know, who thought those names up?  Anyway these Bots or Spiders crawl the pages of the world wide web. 

Why do they do that? 

They are indexing your pages.  That means they look at what is there and then just as in a library they will catalogue information that tells them what your page is about.  Okay I have just made an incredibly complex operation sound very simple, but for our purposes that's what I want to do.  If the Super Librarians didn't catalogue information about your book, it won't get on the shelves and it could stay buried in the basement for ever.  And guess what, on the web, if that happens your website won't get many visitors (only those who know it's there) and so you won't get much of a return on your investment for your shiny new website.

Not all pages get indexed.

Now here's some figures to blow your mind.  There are approximately 20 billion pages on the web and the search engine bots and spiders have crawled around 8-10 billion of them.  That's less than half.  So already we can see that getting your page indexed isn't guaranteed just because you put up a new website.  Good web developers understand the dos and don'ts around getting your pages indexed.  Ask about this when you are considering a new website.

About the Author

Diana V

Member since: 10th July 2012

I am Diana Vickers, the site owner of thebestof Carmarthenshire. This was launched in Carmarthen town in June 2008, to support the very best of the area’s businesses with their promotions and marketing....

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