Key words are what people type into a search engine to find their results.  The results show up on what are called “SERPs”, or “Search Engine Results Pages”.  (Not terribly clever, I know, but the internet wasn’t invented by a bunch of creative marketing geniuses.) A page one SERP is the best possible outcome of a good SEO strategy.  You will be on the first page people find when they look for your product or service.  The closer you are to the first position (directly under the paid ads), the better your clickthrough rate will be.  To put this in perspective, remember that as of 2011,  94% of the search audience never even clicked on “Next page”. They ONLY clicked on the first page links, and of those, the first organic link on the page (the ones that are NOT paid advertising) got 53% of the clicks.  So, this is definitely the only place to be if you want to win at marketing your business on the internet.

Most business owners think that the only choice they have is to find their key words, and then go out and fight for the placement they deserve.  But remember what I just said: if you’re not on page one, you’re wasting your time.  To understand placement, we have to understand what general factors Google uses to decide “who’s on first”.  To understand that, we have to start using some technical lingo that sounds scary, but is really pretty simple.

The Google Algorithm – No knowledge of advanced mathematics required (Phew!)

Google is a giant repository of information on all of the significant websites on the planet.  When you “Google” something, contrary to popular belief, you aren’t actually looking at the whole internet trying to find your results.  Think about it.  How long do you sit and wait for some websites to load, so that you can see if it really is what you’re looking for?  Can you imagine how slow a Google search would be if you had to wait for every site to “load” so it could be searched for you?  If you recall, in our previous example we had over 120,000 results come up for Nissan dealerships in Manchester, NH.  Imagine how many HOURS it would take to load over a hundred thousand websites, scan their pages, and then get back to you with the results.  

Google solved that problem (as did every other search engine) by creating its own private database of all websites on the net.  So instead of searching the entire internet every time, all it has to do is search ONE giant database that they host on their own servers.  They have reduced the internet to one, incredibly huge Excel spreadsheet, basically.  Once it’s all put in one location, then searching that ONE spreadsheet for the information you want is infinitely faster.

But what difference does that make to you?  A lot, actually.

This means that regardless of what you do on your website today, your customers, or prospective customers, will not be able to search for that change until Google decides to scan your website and store that new information in its massive database. Only what is stored in that database can be searched.  This is a very important distinction, and helps us to understand how we can get our arms around the Google algorithm and use it to our advantage.

What’s an Algorithm?

Simply put, an algorithm is nothing but a formula that you create and it does what you want it to do.  It’s not exactly a program, as a program runs a computer.  An algorithm doesn’t require a program, as it is a formula that is always applied.  A simple algorithm we all know is the algorithm for figuring out the area of a rectangle: length times width.  Whatever figures you pop into those two slots will always give you the area of a rectangle.  

With Google, however, you are dealing with hundreds, even thousands of variables that have been programmed into the equations.  These variables exist for one reason only: to FIND websites that relate to the search, and then to ELIMINATE all websites that are trying to game the system.  Let’s start by looking at some simple concepts, and how they relate to search engine results.