But Google is a pretty good librarian
I was going to start this post off by saying, “I’m not one to offer criticism,” but then I laughed at that obvious lie and started over. Lately, I keep coming across this quote on a bookmark at my university library.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”
I’d heard it before and not thought much of it, but the web world opened up to me this year has changed my perception of all things digital. This means I have a bit of a bone to pick with such a non-technologically savvy perspective.
I love libraries and librarians, so none of this should be a criticism to them. Rather, I feel the need to give credit where credit is due. Friends, Google may very well bring back 100,000 answers, but if you know how to search and web developers do their jobs well, there is a fair chance Google will hand you the right answer while your librarian is still scanning the shelves.
The juicy little (big) secret: SEO
I would be biting off a much larger piece of algorithmic sandwich than I can chew if I attempted to explain all the complex facets of search engine optimization right here. Or anywhere. But I do want you all to know that Google (and search engines in general) do, in fact, have a way to weed through the myriad of search results to give you the ones you really want to find. If you want to hear more about SEO from some experts, you can browse through this exhaustive SEO guide. But for now, here are some search engine optimization basics.
WHAT IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION?
Simply put, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy for getting a website or webpage to appear in the search engine when people try to find it. The goal is that you can search a key word or phrase and the results that most closely match your search (in term likeness, proximity, interest) will come up in your top few search results. So, Google can be your new-fangled, all knowing librarian who works instantaneously to connect you with relevant information.
HOW DOES GOOGLE SEARCH WORK?
Contrary to what you might believe, Google is not trying to trick you with bad search results. In fact, they’re quite open about how google search works. Basically, their process is to crawl a site – discover any new pages/page updates to add to the Google index, index those sites – categorize the pages based on their content, in particular content tags and alt tags, and then serve results – go through the index and return the most relevant results. The relevance of answers is dependent on 200+ different factors, the most important being PageRank. So yeah, it might not be a human, but Google is trying its best to give you quality content, and I think it’s doing pretty well.
KEYS TO GOOD SEO
Some things you can keep in mind if you’re ever creating your own website, trying to learn what search terms will bring you the best results, or you just want to sound intelligible when at parties with your friends, are what Google looks for in displaying sites to hungry searchers.
Google values quality above all else. If you have an ugly, unorganized site, it’s not going to come up very high in results. This should be comforting to searchers. Google’s not going to give you sites like this very often (unless you specifically search for “bad website”, in which case, they’ve got you covered).
Google looks at keywords. Each web page should have a keyword (or phrase) that will help Google know what that page is all about. You can help a brother (Google) out by letting that keyword run rampant on your webpage in the copy, headlines, image alt tags, and what not.
Google wants to know who your friends are. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not just a thing of the “real world”; it’s true on the web too. If you want Google to know that your site is worth ranking high, it needs to see that you have some quality sites linking to you. The best way to do this is to link to them first and see if they return the favor.
Don’t throw away your books
I’m not here to tell you that your librarians know nothing. Still go to libraries. They are nice places. But also be aware that technology is an incredibly powerful tool that shouldn’t be cast to the side because you don’t know how to use it. Learn to use it, and you just might find yourself voluntarily reading articles about it like me.