June 20, 2016

SEO Series: SEO Ranking, Search Algorithms, and Keywords

In our last post, we discussed what SEO is and why it is important. Now that you’ve gotten a brief intro, let’s get more technical in how searches are ranked. 


SEO Ranking and Search Algorithms  

Search engines provide the most relevant and popular results to users’ search queries by sending automated robots called “spiders” or “crawlers” to scan through the billions of documents on the web. Results are first ranked by relevancy to the searcher’s query and then by popularity. Watch the video below to get an explanation from Google Engineers on the search methodology used by Google.  



But how are relevancy and popularity ranked? 

In the early days of the web, “relevancy” meant merely finding a page with the right words. But advancements and engineers have devised a complex algorithm that takes into account 200+ different factors. Though Google doesn’t allow people in on what all those factors are, the important ranking factors are public, and Google does provide detailed advice in their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.   

Google’s Best Practices:  

  • Create unique, accurate page titles: Your title tag should tell both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is.  
  • Accurately describe the page’s content: Choose a title that effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content. 
  • Use brief, but descriptive titles:  If the title is too long, Google will show only a portion of it in the search result. 



Users enter keywords into search engines to find what they want to learn more about. Searches can generally be categorized into three activities: 

  1. Transactional: User wants to do something, such as buy shoes or listen to music 
  2. Informational: User wants to learn about something , such as finding things to do in a particular city 
  3. Navigation: User already know the site destination, such as Twitter or a news network 


Consider what activity a user may make when searching for something that would bring them to your website. Chances are, if users already know you exist, they’ll go straight to your website or enter your name into the search engine. But, for strangers and potential new users who do not know you exist, they will be making general informational searches to learn about the options that do exist. Search engines provide results for the keywords that users type into the search engine. Therefore, when developing keywords, use keywords in titles, text, and metadata that a potential user would search for to find products or services you provide.  

Ways to expand your keyword lists:

  • Mimic the language of your users 
  • Search the web for alternatives (autocomplete, image search, video search, etc.) 
  • Type one of your keywords into the search engine, and see what the results are 

Though this may seem paradoxical, you want your keywords to be as specific as possible. The more specific your keywords are, the less competition for search results you will face, with higher chances of ranking. For even stronger keywords, consider using long-tail keywords, which are generally three to four keywords that describe and are relevant to your content.  


Keyword Resources: