SEO for Google
Understand some of the core organic principles of SEO is critical, but when you start to look at the way SEO really works, you must take it down to the individual search engine you are targeting. Just look at the very definition of SEO – search engine optimization – clearly the ‘specific’ search engine is critical. There are certain core elements of SEO that universally apply to all search engines, but the specifics of how they are interpreted and enforced vary from search engine to search engine.
All search engines place high importance on content and links – that is clearly and universally true. However, the specific implementations of their formulas and the weightings that they apply vary pretty dramatically. Google is by far the most complicated of the search engines but in many ways it is also the most fair by its very design. In Yahoo, for example, you can still pay for submissions and to be included in their directory wherein you are given preferential treatment in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Now, clearly this is good for Yahoo (they make a lot of money off their Search Submit options) and it is great for the advertisers to get that ‘preferred’ treatment, but it is really fair to the other advertisers who can’t afford to submit their sites, or to the user who is trusting them to give them the best results? Google, on the other hand, relies purely on a mathematical algorithm for its SERPs (although they do kick out or flag oddities for manual review) resulting in a much more pure form of search.
Apparently their formula has been a success with the general public as Google dominates all of the other search engines combined. Hitwise reports that Google owns 72% of the US market share and that Yahoo, the next biggest competitor, owns only about 17%. Even more important than the current numbers, are the trends. All of the major engines except Google are trending downwards, meaning that Google’s domination is still growing. At 72% and climbing, is it any wonder that most people equate search to Google and when they talk about SEO mainly just focus on Google?
So what is so different about Google? The biggest general statement difference is that Google puts a very high value on quality and authority at all levels of its interpretations – from content to backlinks – quality and authority play a very significant role. Specifically this translates into the Google concept of PageRank (or PR). Google PR can vary between PR0 and PR9 – PR9 being the most important and trusted sites on the Internet and a PR0 being a fledgling new site with virtually no relevance or credibility in Google’s eyes. PageRank is a very complex concept to try to define, but think of it like water that flows from location to location. If your site is linked to from a lot of high PR sites, then some of their PageRank will “flow” to you and, in essence, increase your PR as well and boost your credibility with Google. Don’t try to understand all of the intricacies of it right now, but just look at the higher level concept. If you have high authority and related sites pointing to you, isn’t that a good sign that you’re doing something right?
PageRank can be a pretty important element in your approach to SEO with Google as it has importance at several levels. If your PR is how Google treats your authority, then clearly that is going to affect how you rank in the SERPs. As you do competitive analysis for the keywords you are targeting you will have to pay close attention to the PR of those competitors and to your own PR so that you can climb into their ranks. PR affects most everything in Google. For example, your link building strategies in Google are very much a factor of PR as well. Having a ton of low quality links in Google and no high quality links can actually hurt your rankings as it will define you as being low quality (since that is what you attract). In Yahoo Search, this simply is not true and it is much easier to get search rankings in Yahoo because of this fact. Yahoo pays very little attention to the quality of incoming links and much more attention to the quantity. With Google, it is a delicate balance between quantity (which is important as well) and quality.
Quality can also be further refined in terms of relevance. Google places a high priority on the relevance of your content to the given search term. All of these factors – quality, relevance, PageRank – are woven into a formula that is proprietary to Google itself (and really to just a handful of people within Google). Relevance on the surface seems pretty trivial – if your site is a financial site but has a bunch of sports related backlinks clearly they are not that relevant. But there are more intricate patterns of relevancy that affect your SERP placements like the PR of the page (not your site) that is being referenced by Google. That PR is itself a form of relevance to Google and can impact the placement in the SERPs.
SEO in general is fairly consistent across the various search engines, however, the specifics of SEO as they apply to your target search engine (most likely to be Google if you want your share of that 72% market penetration) can be substantially unique. As with any SEO endeavor, it is highly recommended that you seek the professional guidance of an SEO expert familiar in your targeted search engine and SEO strategies. Trying to keep up to date with all of the latest trends of SEO as they relate to Google yourself is a daunting task and one that you simply will not be able to do effectively while trying to run your business at the same time.