SEO: The Facts Part 1

Gemma Foster

The world of SEO is not for the faint of heart. It’s filled with black and white hats, links, bots, spiders and a handful of cute animals that hide some harsh secrets. The average Joe might not be well versed in this area, or how the search engines work, and for good reason. There  are thousands of factors that contribute to the first page of results you see on Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

I decided to write this blog because for every genuine search engine specialist, there are several others who promote false promises and unrealistic results and expectations. This can often leave clients in a worse position than when they started, from the search engines perspective.

That being said, let’s dive a little deeper in this blog and explain some of the inner workings of this complex digital world.

What happens when I hit ‘SEARCH’?
We searched “Singing Lessons Toronto”. Here is a breakdown of what you see:

seo ppc search results

 Paid Search Listings

The paid search advertisements are now clearly indicated by the yellow ad sticker to make you aware that this is Google’s paid platform. This is known as PPC (Pay Per Click) in the industry. I could write an entire blog about this. To put it simply: in order to occupy that space, each of those businesses must pay google every time any one person clicks on the link.

Map Results

The map in the corner shows the location options for the search you just completed. This is helpful if you are doing a local based search, ie. ‘Singing Lessons Toronto’.

Local Listings

Below is an example of local SEO. Basically, they are the Google Plus Business Pages that are deemed most relevant to your search.

local seo google+ results

This is by no means the comprehensive list, but rather a snippet of the many results Google delivers.

“WOW, I never knew that all of this was going on, I just clicked the first result”

This is why Google makes billions, and why fighting for the top spot on Paid Search can be a blood bath unless you are doing it right.  Keep in mind, Google will always work to display the result that it most relevant to the searcher. With PPC, you pay for play, meaning you have to work a lot harder to get those lucrative placements.

“Ok, so how does Google deem your site the most relevant organically”?

Lots of questions, eh?  Well, I’m glad you asked. There are hundreds of things that Google takes into consideration before they decide the top spots. Google uses lots of complex algorithms that they constantly update to help churn out the results. They are pretty lock and key about the details, but on a high level we break them into two categories: on page and off page.

Here are a few examples:

  • Is the keyword searched for present throughout your site? It can be anywhere – from specific pages, to the content on your homepage, or even relevant high quality blog posts. Typically a search engine expert will go and research your market competitors, come up with a keywords list, and ensure your site pages titles and descriptions are all optimised, along with your content and pages all being optimised with your demographic in mind.
  • Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is a complex retrieval technique that is used by Google to identify relationships and patterns between terms and concepts contained in an otherwise unstructured collection of text.  Basically, this means that in situations when words have more than one meaning (homonym) or when multiple words have similar messages (synonym), if you were to search for a term that has more than one meaning like “mole” how does Google know that you are talking about the animal over the skin condition? Google relies on what is known about you as a user, and your search behaviors along with other words in the query to serve the best results.
  • Have other people found the results useful? This is measured through click through rate, bounce rate, user engagement and time on site. If users are given a result for a keyword, and certain behaviour metrics indicate that the users do not enjoy the result, Google might not continue to rank it as high within the SERPS.
  • Is the site authoritative?  Sites like .gov and Ebay will have much more authority than small retail store sites. This is decided through a number of different channels, such as off page, on page, and brand recognition.
  • Many many others There are so many other influencers, including links, content production, and website factors, which have each been featured in blogs by the Spark  team. Just follow the links to check them out!

One other thing that will blow your mind

Do you have a Google Account? If you answered yes, then that is going to affect the search results that you see (creepy, I know). Google will monitor your interaction with ads, as well as local and organic search results to serve you some of the most relevant results they can. Google is not alone in this, Bing and Yahoo do this too.

So you and your neighbour’s results will differ based on your interaction.

PRO Tip – If you are creeped out by this and want to keep your Google activity private, you can always go incognito.

So is it Google who tells you all of this?

Haha, I wish. Google are very lock and key about the factors that ultimately determine who ranks on page one. There are, however, many general good practices that people in the industry will follow.

In SEO: The Facts Part 2 I will go in more about Black and White hat SEO.

Tune in next time when we will talk more about the different SEO styles that companies and agencies alike should practice.
Until next time, keep optimized.

Gemma Foster

Gemma is Spark’s resident SEO Specialist, she works her magic to help ensure our clients get the best possible online exposure.

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