Every search engine has what are referred to as bots, or crawlers, that constantly scan the web, indexing websites for content and following links on each webpage to other webpages.
If your website has not been indexed, it is impossible for your website to appear in the search results. Unless you are running a shady online business or trying to cheat your way to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), chances are your website has already been indexed. Big search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are constantly indexing hundreds of millions of webpages. How do they know what to show on the SERP when you enter a search query? The search engines consider two main areas when determining what your website is about and how to prioritize it:
1. Content on your website
When indexing pages, the search engine bots scan each page of your website, looking for clues about what topics your website covers and scanning your website’s backend code for certain tags, descriptions, and instructions.
2. Who’s linking to you
As the search engine bots scan webpages for indexing, they also look for links from other websites. The more inbound links a website has, the more influence or authority it has. Essentially, every inbound link counts as a vote for that website content. Also, each inbound link holds different weight. For instance, a link from a highly authoritative website like The New York Times will give a website a bigger boost than a link from a small blog site. This boost is sometimes referred to as link juice.
When a search query is entered, the search engine looks in its index for the most relevant information and displays the results on the search engine results page (SERP). The results are then listed in order of most relevant and authoritative.
If you conduct the same search on different search engines, chances are you will see different results on the SERP. This is because each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm that considers multiple factors in order to determine what results to show in the SERP when a search query is entered. A few factors that a search engine algorithm may consider when deciding what information to show in the SERP include:
- Geographic location of the searcher
- Historical performance of a listing (clicks, bounce rates, etc.)
- Link quality (reciprocal vs. one-way)
- Webpage content (keywords, tags, pictures)
- Back end code or HTML of webpage
- Link type (social media sharing, link from media outlet, blog, etc.)