What Are Search Engines

Search engines are programs, or scripts that are widely used on the Internet to help users find exactly what they are looking for simply by typing in a keyword, phrase or question within the search engines query box. 

How They Work 

A search engine utilizes automated software applications, such as robots, spiders or bots that scan sites for the information requested within the search query. Every search engine uses its own complex mathematical formula, otherwise known as an algorithm to display specific results. Google, one of the leading search engines provides a unique formula that is becoming the standard for all other search engines, so most business owners strive to base their SEO from those standards. 

The search engine algorithm use key elements from the page to display results. Some of the key elements include page title, keyword density and content, although Google is more interested in content than keywords, they do still apply.

Search engines, although very complex, are not capable of seeing images, design aspects or other visual factors on a site, so text is extremely important for a successful ranking. This is why image ALT tags, Meta tags, descriptions and other areas of content within a page are always being discussed when SEO is the main topic.

A search engine browses through millions, sometimes billions of websites to bring the most relevant to the top of their search engine result pages (SERP’s). The crawler, or spider used by the search engine visits each and every page and indexes it within its huge database. The process involves recording links within the page, content and even checking the density of keywords, stripping out stop words and any other information on the page, such as images and media. The information gathered is then used to not only quickly find the page when it is relevant within a search, but also to rank the page to suggest where it will display in the SERP’s.

So, all of this talk about search engines and how they work always comes back to SEO….so, what is SEO?

What is SEO?

According to Rand Fishkin, SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization is the practice of increasing the quantity and the quality of the traffic you earn through the organic results in the search engines.

The quality of traffic is one of the most important aspects of that sentence, even more so than the quantity of traffic. Look at it this way, you could have thousands of visitors on your site each day, but if they are not there because they are looking for what you offer, you might as well have none. But, if you have two visitors that showed up looking for what you have to offer and loved what they read, saw or heard on your site, then that is much more valuable than the thousands who had no interest in being there in the first place, get it?

Now, once you have the right traffic coming through, you want to ramp it up, this is where the quantity comes in, not before…..

What is Organic Traffic?

Organic traffic is the best type, why? Because it’s free! By avoiding costly ads to bring yourself up in the SERP’s, you can enjoy the benefits of increased revenues by following the SEO guidelines put in place by each search engine, Google has a long list of them to follow, but if you do, you can get all the quality traffic you want without ever paying for an ad. Check out the Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

How SEO Works

SEO works in the same fashion the search engines work, meaning that the search engines scan your page to find out what you are about, once indexed it can then display your link to relevant search queries. So, your job is to create your page with those users in mind, so when they show up to search…you can be found. 

There are several factors considered when a search engine ranks your website.

  • Quality of links to the domain
  • Quality of links within the domain
  • Content quality and length
  • Load speed
  • Social metrics
  • Domain name (does it match the keyword queried)
  • Offline usage of brand name
  • User friendly design
  • Relevancy

That is just the short list, there are plenty more factors to consider when trying to rank for the search engines top spots. Image tags, META tags, title tags and descriptions are only a few things to optimize, in all; the entire page should be optimized to perfection in order to rank high in the SERP’s.

Why You Need SEO

Without SEO, it is unlikely your page will ever be noticed in the search engines. Many online business owners have struggled with the concept of SEO, and many have failed with their implementations, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Create your page for the user first, keeping in mind that no matter how many people the search engines send to your page, if they don’t like what they see they will leave. Once you have implemented relevant, useful and unique content on your page, then, and only then should you start working towards optimizing it for the search engines. This isn’t to say that you don’t keep SEO in mind when you design your site, because believe it or not, your design matters!

Here’s what Google says about SEO and you.

Now, over-optimization is a real thing when it comes to SEO, just ask the millions of Google users who were penalized when the algorithms updated. Remember the first Panda update that rocked the Internet, the Hummingbird, the Penguin, and the many updates that followed each one? These Google penalties were mostly directed at websites that used shady SEO practices, otherwise known as black hat SEO. Getting hit with a Google penalty can be costly, so it is always best to follow the standards given to you in the search engines guidelines. Learn how to create a Google-friendly site.  

What is a Google Penalty?

A Google penalty negatively impacts your website’s rankings, and in some cases it can delete your page from the searches entirely. Google’s standards are high, and they require yours to be as well if you want to get in the top SERP’s, but if you use shady strategies or practices, it can not only impact your rankings, it can destroy them.

Since 2000, Google has been updating its algorithms, starting with a toolbar extension. This was the first time that page rank became an issue for many online business owners, and everyone scrambled to get that number one ranking. As Google tweaked its algorithms and worked on ensuring their visitors were given ONLY the top, most relevant search results, penalties became into play.

In 2012 when the Penguin update surfaces, 1 out of 10 search results were affected and many websites were erased from Google’s massive index, rendering them non-existent to millions of people. The purpose was to push low quality websites off the map and out of the searches. The days of overly using keywords to gain attention were over and the new age of quality content was born….THANK GOOOGLE!

There are still many sites getting hit with penalties, and with more and more updates rolling out in the near future, this trend will continue until everyone starts following the guidelines put into place by the search engine giant.  Read and understand the Google Webmaster Guidelines to ensure you never receive a Google penalty. 

Read on to learn more about search engines:

Already an expert on search engines? Skip to one of the next sections…


  • Google Penalties
  • Creating a Website with Good SEO
  • Essential Website Structure
  • Web Design for SEO
  • Writing 101
  • Become an SEO Expert
  • Advanced SEO Strategies
  • Everything You Should Know About Links
  • PPC Marketing
  • Why Marketing Is So Important
  • Content Marketing
  • Online Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing for Success
  • All About Blogging
  • Security and Protection for Your Website
  • Outsourcing for Success
  • Keep Up With the Changes
  • Products and Tools Under Review
  • Helpful Tools and Tips
  • SEO Tools
  • Preventing Negative SEO
  • Troubleshooting
  • A Look Back