SEO, Google and search algorithms : a quick look under the hood

There are reams (or the digital equivalent) of advice about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) available online, but a lot of it relies on popular SEO myths and ill-advised attempts to game the system in order to boost search engine rankings. But for those of us who are simply interested in improving the discoverability of websites, it’s harder to find straightforward advice without all the bogus tips and SEO myth pepetuation.

If you are delivering services online, it is helpful to keep up to date with how search engines index and present search results. The biggest factor that no amount of trickery can avoid, is that content is king. Providing regular new content with descriptive titles is the simplest and best way to improve your search engine ranking. Another step in the right direction is to make sure that you use clean and descriptive URLs rather than the non-descriptive dynamic URLs produced by some Content Management Systems.

Link referrals is an important but contentious area, if only because it’s open to abuse. While manipulating this by creating link farms or other dubious means will rightly get your hand slapped by the search engine, there is undeniably value in participating in the ecosystem of the web by having people link to your site.

Google occasionally rolls out updates to its search algorithm with vague names such as Caffeine (which introduced real-time search) and Panda. The Panda update, in 2011, was aimed at reducing the rankings of link and content farming sites. And apparently there are still more changes afoot.

To find out what’s happening under the hood of the Google search engine, the best place to start is right at the source with the Google Technology overview  and the Webmaster Guidelines (taking these with the required grains of salt, of course).

This post has focused on Google search, but if you’re more generally interested in the technology behind search engines, have a look at the tech running other, open search platforms such as  Duck Duck Go or YaCy. Or you can go back and have a look at where it all began.

Further reading:

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