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Search Engine Optimisation (Optimization if you're Stateside) or SEO is a process
by which internal and external aspects of a web site are adjusted to gain high search
engine returns on key words and key phrase searches. Search returns are sometimes
referred to as organic or natural.
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines - Yahoo!,
MSN, Google & AskJeeves (although AOL gets nearly 10% of searches, their engine is
powered by Google's results). If your site cannot be found by search engines or your
content cannot be put into their databases, you miss out on the incredible opportunities
available to websites provided via search - people who want what you have visiting
your site. Whether your site provides content, services, products, or information,
search engines are a primary method of navigation for almost all Internet users.
Search queries, the words that users type into the search box which contain terms
and phrases best suited to your site, carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown
that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization's success. Targeted
visitors to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other.
Investing in SEO, whether through time or finances, can have an exceptional rate
of return. Search engines are always working towards improving their technology to
crawl the web more deeply and return increasingly relevant results to users. However,
there is and will always be a limit to how search engines can operate. Whereas the
right moves can net you thousands of visitors and attention, the wrong moves can
hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal. In
addition to making content available to search engines, SEO can also help boost rankings
so that content that has been found will be placed where searchers will more readily
see it. The online environment is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies
who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.
Search engines have a short list of critical operations that allows them to provide
relevant web results when searchers use their system to find information.
Crawling the Web Search engines run automated programs, called "bots" or "spiders",
that use the hyperlink structure of the web to "crawl" the pages and documents that
make up the World Wide Web. Estimates are that of the approximately 20 billion existing
pages, search engines have crawled between 8 and 10 billion.
Indexing Documents Once a page has been crawled, its contents can be "indexed" - stored
in a giant database of documents that makes up a search engine's "index". This index
needs to be tightly managed so that requests which must search and sort billions
of documents can be completed in fractions of a second.
Processing Queries When a request for information comes into the search engine (hundreds
of millions do each day), the engine retrieves from its index all the document that
match the query. A match is determined if the terms or phrase is found on the page
in the manner specified by the user. For example, a search for car and drivermagazine
At Google returns 8.25 million results, but a search for the same phrase in quotes
("car and drivermagazine") Returns only 166 thousand results. In the first system,
commonly called "Findall" mode, Google returned all documents which had the terms
"car", "driver", and "magazine" (they ignore the term "and" because it's not useful
to narrowing the results), while in the second search, only those pages with the
exact phrase "car and driver magazine" were returned. Other advanced operators (Google
has a list of11) can change which results a search engine will consider a match for
a given query.
Ranking Results Once the search engine has determined which results are a match for
the query, the engine's algorithm (a mathematical equation commonly used for sorting)
runs calculations on each of the results to determine which is most relevant to the
given query. They sort these on the results pages in order from most relevant to
least so that users can make a choice about which to select.
Although a search engine's operations are not particularly lengthy, systems like
Google, Yahoo!, AskJeeves, and MSN are among the most complex, processing-intensive
computers in the world, managing millions of calculations each second and funneling
demands for information to an enormous group of users