Demystifying SEO for Small Businesses


Search engines are pretty amazing. You enter a keyword and in milliseconds you can sort through 1000’s of matching results. But how does it all work? What happens behind the scenes to make this happen?

Think of a search engine as a giant index of web pages. Search engines create an index which is basically a large database of billions and billions pages by using spiders to crawl websites. So, where does a spider start it’s crawl? How do they reach sites (especially yours!)?

The spiders start with the bigger sites and servers and work out from there. As they crawl the site, they index words and follow the links within these sites to other pages.  In this way, links are an important part of SEO strategy and in getting the spiders to your site. This is a nearly never-ending process and spiders are constantly crawling.

As these spiders crawl sites, they are building the index. In this giant index the crawlers store information about your site.

  • How many pages is the site?
  • When was it created?
  • When was it updated?
  • What is the page about?
  • What keywords are associated with the page?
  • How many links are going in and out of the page?

When someone performs a search, the search engines have to quickly comb the billions of items in it’s index to deliver the most relevant page. To help determine the most “popular” pages, search engines look at a variety of factors. These factors are the ranking factors that make up their algorithms. Google uses over 250 factors within their algorithm.

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Algorithms are complex and getting more complex all the time. The algorithms start by looking at the search query to determine the searcher intent. Are you looking for instructions? Are you looking to make a purchase? From there they need to select the right pages from their index.

This is where the rubber meets the road and the search engines are going to reward your site for your SEO efforts. How does the information they have stored in their index about your site match to the user’s search query? How do they perceive the quality of your site? How recently was your content updated? Are others sites linking to your content? Does the page load quickly? And on and on.

Understanding how the search engines work is an important part of understanding how to gain their attention. Pathfinder SEO is here to ensure your doing everything you can to outrank your competition.

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Lori Calcott

Lori Calcott

Originally from Pittsburgh, Lori has been working in search engine marketing since 2001. Lori is the published author of The Definitive Guide to Google AdWords and is a leader in the paid search field. When not at work, Lori spends time with her family and can often be found hiking and skiing the Highland Bowl.