While Google is not the first search engine that was released on the internet, it certainly was the platform that established and popularized the concept of search engines. Before Google, it was Yahoo search that dominated the online space, but Google soon overtook Yahoo search in terms of popularity in use in just 3 to 5 years after its release.

Search engine optimisation is a process that came about due to the explosion in the use of search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Simply put, it is the method of diverting traffic that reaches the search engine to the business owner's or individual's website. The idea is, or the search query is given by the user, the individual or organisation's website, if relevant to the search query should appear as the first result in the search results.

All search engines have what is known as primary results. They rank the various search results that appear based on quality and relevance to the user. There is no payment involved in this, and paid search advertisements cover it. It can be concluded that SEO is the method of improving a website's visibility in organic search engine queries and thereby increase the amount of traffic. Today, whenever an internet user searches something on Google, the results are divided into two categories. The first few results are advertisements followed by the actual results of the search. The website links that appear at the top of this second list are deemed to be the most relevant by Google.

Types of SEO

The factors that affect the SEO of a website are divided into three categories- On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and violations. A brief overview of these categories is mentioned below.

On-page SEO- On-page SEO are factors and details that are entirely within the control of the website owner or designer. The type of nature and quality of content, HTML factors that ensure proper relevance to the search query, website architecture, relevancy of titles, the research, answers to questions and other things.

Off-page SEO- These off the page factors are beyond the control of the website administrators, but they do affect the ranking of a page. These factors have been included to prevent any unethical SEO practices to appear more relevant without actually being so. These include various trust factors such as authority, quality, country, social reputation, shares, history, and viewer engagement. Since the internet contains more than billions of websites, these factors ensure the purity of the search results.

Violations- These are parameters that have a negative impact on the website's ranking. These factors are often known as spam, or black-hat include excessive ads, hidden content, stuffing, piracy of content, paid content and cloaking among others.

Not all of these factors have equal weight in deciding the SEO ranking of a webpage and search engines like Google utilise specific algorithms that determine the final rank.

How does SEO work?

Search engines process data in ways that are different from humans. They need to process text-based files and generate the most relevant output for human users. Search engines have algorithms that crawl through data, scan and store them, measure their relevance and recover stored information. Search engines are always analysing various design components such as

  • The name of the website and its URL
  • The contents of the page
  • Meta tags that have been used
  • The characteristics of the links
  • Usability and accessibility
  • Design of the overall page

The process of search engine viewing results is a cyclical process. To understand the importance of SEO one needs to know how search engines operate. There are four major components of any search engine. Searching, indexing, search-work, and the operating algorithms make up the workings of a typical search engine.

  • Website crawling- Every search engine is equipped with a program that is known as a crawler or a spider. The job of the crawler is to go through all the content of any webpage. Crawlers do not operate on a day to day basis and might not visit a webpage for entire months or two. Individual data sets that such crawlers cannot analyse or go through are flash movies, images, javascript, frames, pages blocked by passwords and various kinds of directories. Pages or content that are not viewed by such crawlers will not be subsequently indexed by the search engine and will not appear on the final search results.
  • Indexing- Indexing the process of storing the crawled data in large repositories. This data will be conveniently pulled out when relevant search queries are provided. A lot of pages need to be correctly optimised so that they are rightfully identified in the database and pulled out when search queries are submitted.
  • Search-work- Whenever a search query is given and pages are viewed, the search engine makes a record of this connection between the phrases and the pages. Since there are more than millions of web pages connected to each phrase, the search engine is continuously optimising its results by adding more and more connections and measuring the relevancy of the websites viewed.
  • Search algorithms- A search algorithm takes keywords from search phrases and sorts through the stored databases looking for content relevant to that keyword. There are records of such sorted keywords and connected URLs that relevant to the search query. The algorithm figures out the closest possible answer to the query and gives a list of pages as the output. The output can be the body of the content itself or a link to the website. Three common search algorithms are used- on-site, off-site and whole-site.

SEO and digital marketing

Websites today are no longer just a portal for information. All kinds of significant communications, businesses with customers, product releases and all sorts of routine activities are carried out on the internet. Internet users are active on social media, sharing content, viewing ads and coming across various kinds of information. The website a business operates has become something similar to the appearance of a shop.

Traditional marketing practices required businesses to set-up shops and dealerships that would attract the attention of the consumer and engaging them. One of the most critical factors here was to convey accurate and attention-grabbing information about the product and various services offered. This was done through a variety of physical media such as poster, flyers and other through other platforms like running commercials on radio and television. With the marketplace shifting to the internet, digital marketing practices have taken over these traditional marketing practices. The website is both the online identity of the business and a critical marketing platform. Since search engines today are places where online customers search and come across their content, making the most out of these search engines has become a critical digital marketing practice.

SEO is not just about getting a high rank on the search engine results. The parameters of algorithms used by search engines ensure that the quality and relevance of the websites are up to the mark. Securing proper SEO means designing sites that are user-friendly, easy to categorise and browse through, has relevant information and can help or answer any queries that the customer has. SEO has become the most important digital marketing tool as its primary objective is to drive all form of online traffic to the business website.

Advertising has always been of primary importance to businesses. Be it online advertising or offline; it is a sure shot way of getting as many eyes as possible on the product. One can think of SEO as a form of free advertising. By appearing high on Google search results, the trustworthy nature of the business and relevance of its products and services is automatically conveyed to the user. For example, consider the case of computer hardware manufacturer. Apart from having a streamlined and aesthetically attractive website, the hardware manufacturer can have a Q&A section, a collection of blogs relevant to their field and various other kinds of content. Whenever a customer makes any search query that is relevant or connected to their product or online content, their website will be the first to appear on the user's search engine results. SEO solutions have been known to provide excellent ROI as customers are always active on the internet today and most of them refer online reviews and search engine results for any products or services.

One can think of SEO as a subset of digital marketing. While digital marketers are concerned with the overall online presence of the company, SEO executives are primarily tasked with diverting organic search hits to the company’s website. SEO processes need to be continuously updated as the search algorithms are modified and updated routinely. Tactics that were popular even two years ago become obsolete in the current online market. Along with this, new SEO practices demand proper integration with various social media platforms. This acts as an additional pipeline for traffic which can be directed from relevant social media pages.