Search is such a common part of today’s society that we take it for granted that everyone knows just what the heck is going on. The truth is most people don’t really know what happens when they type in a search for “What’s the latest blooming perennial?” and out pops a bunch of websites with headings such as “Best Perennials for Fall” or “Top 15 Fall Blooming Flowers for a Perennial Garden.”
And, since helping our clients place higher in those search returns is much of what we do at MyAdvice, we thought we’d use this blog to detail just what happens when you type that phrase into Google — everything from bots to sitemaps, indexing to ranking.
Unlike a boat or a trailer, no one makes you register your website. Consequently, there isn’t a big fat registry out there listing and describing every website. There isn’t a list detailing what every page is about and the like. For Google to know what pages exist on the web, it must constantly search for new pages and add them to its list of known pages. This process is called crawling.
Google has a monstrous number of computers crawling the web. The program is called Googlebot, which is also referred to as robot, bot, or spider. An algorithm controls the crawling.
Google is crawling the web constantly so it knows what tons of pages are all about already. It can then discover new pages off of links from a formerly known page. It can discover new pages from sitemaps submitted to Google. And some web hosts, such as Wix or GoDaddy, will automatically alert Google to crawl updated and new pages they are hosting.
The goal with crawling is for Google to discover new pages and updated pages.
After a page or site has been discovered, Google needs to then understand what the page is about. This is called indexing. Googlebot analyzes the content of the page, catalogs images, and video files, and basically tries to understand what the page is trying to do, what information it is offering to a page visitor. This information is stored in the Google index. As you can imagine, this index is absolutely massive and is stored on a sea of computers.
The goal when building pages, both on the front end (visible to the user) and the back end (background tags, titles, and other items that describe page elements), is to make it easy for Googlebot to understand just what the page is all about.
Google says these are ways you can improve the indexing of your page:
- Create short, meaningful page titles.
- Use page headings that convey the subject of the page.
- Use text rather than images to convey content.
That last item confounds some people. Isn’t a photo-heavy page more interactive than a text-heavy page? Not really. Google understands text far better than it understands what a photo or video is trying to convey. Text is easy to decipher versus a photo. The way to help Google understand what photos and videos are doing is to add key content tags and attributes. You can describe that photo with text that the page visitor won’t see, but Google will.
Serving and ranking
Google wants happy searchers. To achieve zen searching, Google wants the person who types in the search query to be returned the most relevant, accurate answer to the query. To do this, Google’s army of computers searches the index for pages that match the searcher’s query. To determine how relevant each possible page is to the search query, Google uses 200 factors in its algorithm. Among these factors are the user’s location, language, and if the person is on desktop or mobile. For searches that aren’t simply about information, such as “nurseries selling perennials,” the search returns will be different depending on where the person doing the searching is based.
Site quality also plays a role in the ranking of search returns. Google considers the user experience, so it rewards sites that are mobile-friendly, well built (so they load quickly), and have robust content (which has a better chance of satisfying the searcher’s questions).
Google gives these tips for improving your serving and ranking:
- Make your pages mobile-friendly
- Build your pages to load quickly and efficiently
- Populate your pages with high-quality content
- Update your content frequently
- Follow the guidelines and tips that Google provides
- Have the pros at MyAdvice build, optimize, and maintain your website
About that last item, the shameless plug. That’s more than some lame call-to-action from the marketing team. At MyAdvice, we’ve been building and optimizing medical websites since the early days of the web. We know the ins and outs of this game and design beautiful, innovative, effective sites that are easy for Google to understand and that rank for the areas your practice wants to be known for. Google is constantly changing its algorithm and it can be hard to know if the same elements valued for search yesterday are the same elements that get your site ranked higher today. We follow Google’s changes, often knowing what’s coming before the changes are officially announced.
Now you understand what happens when you type in your search and Google answers it, hopefully, with just what you needed. If you want your practice to rank higher in those returns, give us a call at MyAdvice.