How Do Search Engines Work And What Is SEO?

A.S. ChungPosted by A.S. Chung.
Award-wining author of children’s picture books A Brand New Day: about divorce and Wishful Wedding: about LGBT equality and same gender families. Creator of Pigeonhole Books and blogs about self-publishing, writing, online book marketing, peer bloggers and illustrators.


SEO Scrabble

SEO Scrabble by Jonathan Rolande

A search engine is a system that indexes information on the World Wide Web to allow everyday users find the data they are looking for.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Imagine the amount of information available on the Internet. If you were charged with the task of producing the most accurate data whenever anybody is looking for something, how would you do it? Where would you start? Which article, document or page would you grab first and why would you do that?

If I were the gate-keeper and you were looking for 4 inch stiletto heels made of patent leather, I wouldn’t be retrieving contact details for a plumber. For this not to happen however, some very clever people created algorithms that help to succinctly compartmentalise information. Common sense would prevail that these search engines would be looking for key words such as stiletto heels or patent leather. The next task they have to do is filter which pieces of information containing those keywords they should show you first. I would imagine that the one page that mentions stiletto heels 50 times would appear before the page that only mentions it 5 times. I just typed in stiletto heels and Google returned approximately 2,450,000 returns. Where would you be amongst that massive amount of data?

We take search engines for granted. You don’t even have to type your query into Google anymore! Just ask, literally! Google is as synonymous with search engines as Coca Cola is with soda. If I don’t know the answer to something, my 7 year old daughter tells me to “Google it”. The Internet and search engines have made our world so much smaller and if you want people to buy your books, you have capitalise on this online phenomenon.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It refers to the activity in which we engage in to try and organically improve our page rankings. How do I move from page 125 to page 1?

SEO is an essential part of ensuring your book is duly ranked when readers are looking to buy. It is about how we communicate to the web so that they can recommend you. The key word here is relevance. How relevant is your website/blog to the end user and what they are searching for?

Relevance is determined by the content of your website and search engines decide if it has suitable pages, titles and descriptions. It also looks at the performance of your website in terms of speed and ease of navigation. The number of link backs or citations is another big contributing factor to relevance, whilst retention rate of readers certainly also improves page rank.

SEO is highly complex and indie authors like you and me will never understand its full potential. We do however at a minimum need to understand what it means and how it works so that we can at least try to produce information that is SEO friendly.

In the next instalment, I will talk about how to improve your SEO.

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