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Google and the Development of SEO

Published on September 30, 2011
Tags: SEO

Building a successful website relies on a combination of things. First of all, you need a good web design. If you want your site to appear on the search engines, you web design also needs to be ‘search engine friendly’, which means that SEO (search engine optimisation) plays just as big a part as the web design. To round things off, your site needs high quality, unique content to draw in and keep visitors interested.

No one wants a website that never gets noticed, especially if you are trying to promote and grow a business in a competitive market. This means that the aim of good web design, SEO and content is to get people to your website: persuading them that, out of all the websites around, yours is the very best. Arguably, search giant Google plays one of the most important parts in this. Even with the best web design in the world, if your site isn’t ranked highly by Google, you’ll find it hard to turn it into a success.

We’ve written before about recent developments from Google, such as the Farmer/Panda update, which have had a significant impact on how SEO and website ranking works. But where did this all begin? How did Google get to be so influential in the world of web design and SEO? Aren’t they just a search company?

Some of the answers can, perhaps, be found in some comments recently made by Eric Schmidt, who is the ex-CEO of Google. He said that the four most significant technology companies in the world right now are Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. On the face of it, these companies are very different. If you look a little deeper, however, you start to see that they are all moving in a similar direction, focused on information. For instance, all four of them focus their attentions largely on ‘ordinary’ people rather than corporations. They all do lots of work in what has become known as ‘the cloud’.

These two facts are interesting and can shed some light into the issue of SEO. In the case of Google, for example, their mission is to ‘organise’ the world’s information to make it more accessible. This makes a large part of SEO in relation to Google about collecting data; the more data that Google has, the more they are able to do with it and the better search results they are able to produce. Then, thanks to their improved services, more people will use Google, enabling them to collect even more data and repeat the cycle. As the world’s most popular search engine, it’s easy to see why this makes the company so important when creating web designs or developing an SEO strategy.

So, how does Google decide which websites rank highly and which are pushed to the bottom of the pile? It’s hard to give an accurate answer as search engine algorithms are closely guarded, but it’s possible to trace current ranking systems to something known as PageRank. This was invented by Google’s current CEO, Larry Page, and was based on the concept of scholarly citation. This means that the more ‘citations’ pages have, the better they rank. In this, we can see the importance of link-building in SEO and web design.

This isn’t the only information that Google uses, though. The behaviour of web users is one of the most important factors taken into consideration. For instance, if you click on the top search result only to immediately click back because it wasn’t what you expected, this tells Google that it wasn’t what you were looking for, helping it to refine its results for next time. If you click on a link further down the page and then don’t go back to the search results, however, this suggests that that website should be higher up in the rankings than it currently is. Similarly, if you have to refine your search terms because you didn’t get what you were looking for, this again teaches Google new information.

All of this means it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes a successful SEO strategy. One thing is for certain, though: Google is now the ‘go to’ search engine for the vast majority of web users. With so much information being collected every day, through the search engine and other Google projects (notably Android devices), this makes Google very clever – and powerful. In 1999, Google updated its web index once every three or four months. Ten years later, there were so many webpages on the internet that predicting a speed for how often the index was updated became impossible. Now, the index is updated as soon as things happen, with Google sometimes even able to reflect changes in the web index before events are reported on the news.

This makes the issue of SEO continuously evolving and a long term development as well as something that requires short term attention. The lesson in all of this? There’s a lot of information out there ready for analysis but, as Google has demonstrated, there is nothing more important than the web user. So, when you are developing your SEO strategy or updating your web design, don’t just worry about the search engines: make sure you create your website for your users, not just for Google, because if someone comes to your site and leaves immediately, that’s actually telling Google something about the quality of what you’re offering and you’ll get ranked accordingly.

By Chelsey Evans

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