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1. Search engine basics

Topic: Get started with search

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{[ ((lesson.showTranscript) ? 'Hide' : 'View transcript') ]} Check Your Knowledge

Hello! In this video, we’ll talk through some of the history behind search engines. We’ll explain how search engines have changed business, and why they’re a great place to market your business.

OK, so where did search engines come from? One of the earliest search engines was a program called Archie, which debuted in 1990 and allowed people to access and search file names—basically the names of the web pages. But, Archie couldn’t tell you what was on those pages.

Fast forward a few decades, and search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, AOL, Baidu, and Yandex have come a long way. These search engines use incredibly sophisticated computer programs to sort through a massive number of web pages.

Most search engines basically work in the same way. When a person wants to find something, they type in a word or phrase, called a search query.

The search engine then compares that query to its catalogue of web pages, and displays the best matches on a search results page.

The goal is to create the most relevant list of results possible, to help people find what they're looking for. The results page includes links to websites, but you might also see local business listings, items for sale, advertisements, images, maps, videos and more.

So how can search engines work for you?

Well, imagine you own a cafe. If someone searches for ""cafe in Coogee""— that’s you!—this is the perfect opportunity to appear on the search results page.

In the same way, if you’re a technician who repairs air conditioning units, or a local takeaway ready to deliver dinner, you want to show up when people search for related words and phrases.

Why? Because the words entered into the search engine indicate the searcher is interested in your products and services, right now.


See why search is such a great place to be? It’s a way to target people who are already looking for you.

And don’t just take our word for it. Many marketers will tell you that search is absolutely essential to their online marketing strategy, and the numbers back this up.

Does this mean you should ignore other ways of advertising online? Of course not! Your plan can and should include many different ways to promote your business, like social media, email marketing, and display advertising.

But, if you’re a business interested in promoting products and services online, being on search is a pretty safe bet.

Conversion

The action you want visitors to perform. Examples include e­commerce purchases, form submissions, phone calls, and video views. E.g. “My main goal is for people to book a consultation on my website, but signing up for my email newsletter would also be considered a conversion.”

Goal

The action you want visitors to perform. Examples include e­commerce purchases, form submissions, phone calls, and video views. E.g. “My main goal is for people to book a consultation on my website, but signing up for my email newsletter would also be considered a conversion.”

Anchor Text

The visible or clickable part of a link on a web page. E.g. “If you click the link whose anchor text says ‘Organic Produce photo gallery,’ you’ll be directed to the page with more photos of our fruits and vegetables.”

Desktop

A non­mobile computer. E.g. “I prefer to use a desktop at home, but when I travel I use my laptop.”

Backlink

Any link incoming into a page or website from another page or website. E.g. “Our blog posts are very popular and filled with useful information, so we have loads of backlinks to them from other websites.”

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The number of times people click an item of interest, like an advert, in comparison to the number of times people are exposed to that item. For example, if your ad received 100 impressions and 3 clicks, your CTR is 3%. CTR is a crucial indicator of whether your ads are relevant to the people using the search engine—think of it as the difference between the amount of people actually coming into your shop divided by the amount of people stopping outside to look through the window. While there are no specific guidelines, you should always be working toward improving CTR. E.g. “I improved my CTR quite a bit when I added pricing info to my Wedding Photos ad—that clearly made more people want to click through.”

Ranking

A listing’s position on a search engine results page. E.g. “With a lot of work, I’m hoping to get my website to the #1 ranking on search engines for my relevant keywords and audience.”

Search Engine Marketing

A form of advertising that allows you to bid for your advertisement to show along with search results for keywords that people are typing in. This lets businesses be seen by people at the very moment they’re searching for the things a business offers. E.g. “SEO is a long process, but using SEM helped me get a lot more website traffic really quickly.”

Average Ad Position

The position of your ad on the search engine results page (SERP). Search engines typically denote the highest position as “Position 1.” If your ad appears half the time in Position 1, and half the time in Position 2, your Average Position would be 1.5. E.g. “My average ad position for my pet photos ad improved from 7 to 3—I’m thrilled!”

Crawler

A program designed to systematically browse content on the Internet and collect information about it to help searchers find what they’re looking for. E.g. “I’m scared of spiders, but not the ones that help my website appear in search engines.”

Traffic Acquisition

The process of attracting visitors—often referred to as traffic to websites, mobile apps and other digital assets. E.g. “My acquisition strategy focuses on targeting people who have recently bought old houses.”

Keyword

The specific term a user searched for before they reached your website. E.g. ­ “The keywords “luxury romantic getaway” are performing great for my site.”

URL

The unique address of a page or piece of digital content on the Internet. E.g. “Max, you can access my website by typing the URL into your browser.”

Title Element ­

The title of a web page as indicated in the HTML of a page. Also often used as the title of your page in a search engine results page. E.g. “I pay careful attention to the title element of my web pages, to help search engines understand what the pages are about.”

Internal Links

Links from one page to another page within the same website. E.g. “Website visitors can click on internal links on the homepage to see the web pages in my fruits and vegetable gallery section.”

User-Generated Content

Content created by users of an online platform such as videos, comments or posts. E.g. “Most social networks rely on user-generated content for posting and sharing.”

Home Page

The introductory or “main” page of a website. E.g. “On my home page, visitors can see examples of my most beautifully painted houses.”

Conversion Rate

The ratio of conversions to visits, often used to measure digital performance. E.g. “I’m not sure why, but my conversion rate on external painting is very low for male visitors.”

Landing Page

The first page on a website that a person usually sees—not necessarily the home page of that website. E.g. “I’m directing people who click my ad to a landing page with a discount coupon so that these visitors will be encouraged to buy.”

Banner Ad

A form of advert found on web pages and mobile applications, available in a variety of formats (such as images, animated GIFs and rich media). E.g. “I’m using banner ads to bring new customers to my website.”

Index

A searchable catalogue of web pages and digital content used by a search engine to provide relevant results. E.g. “Before my site appeared in the search engine’s index, people couldn’t find my website when they searched for foyer murals.”

Advert

A sponsored result that appears on a search engine results page, or SERP. Ads are typically formed from a few lines of text, and may include additional elements like a street address, reviews and phone numbers. E.g. “My ‘Beautiful Wedding Photos’ ad is already bringing in tons of new business.”

Application

A program designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. E.g. “My house needs painting, so I used a local app to find a reputable service near me.”

Natural Listings

Results from a search engine that are not paid adverts. E.g. “The higher my website ranks in a search engine’s natural listings, the more website traffic I’ll get.”

Social Media

Content such as text, images, or videos, created by individuals and shared across the Internet. E.g. “Social media changes all the time, so I hired someone to help me create a social media strategy.”

SERP

A list of results appearing in a search engine in response to a user’s search query. E.g. “After I searched for ‘buy high­ gloss paint in bulk’ I noticed that the SERP had both natural listings and paid listings.”

UGC

Content created by users of an online platform such as videos, comments or posts. E.g. “Most social networks rely on user-generated content for posting and sharing.”

White Hat

Tactics that optimise web pages for users, not for search engines. E.g. “I only use white hat tactics to help search engines find my website www.blakeproduce.com.”

Bid Management Software

Software that can be used to automatically manage a search campaign, often to pre-set rules.

Black Hat

Manipulative or deceptive SEO tactics that optimise only for search engines and not for users. E.g. “I was especially careful to avoid any black hat SEO techniques; I didn’t want to hurt the ranking of www.mydeliciousorganicveggies.com in search engines.”

HTML

Hypertext Markup Language. A language used by web developers to create websites. E.g. “My website was written using HTML.”

Link

A text or image that provides a link from one web page or website to another. E.g. “When a major home decor blog linked to my website, I got a lot more visitors.”

Visit

A group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example, a single session can contain multiple page views and e­commerce transactions. E.g.“My website got 2,000 visits last month, but what I really care about is whether those visits resulted in sales.”

Search Engine

A tool that indexes and returns relevant digital content in response to users’ keywords. Popular Internet search engines include Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Baidu, Yandex and more. E.g. “I use search engines to look for trends in home decor.”

Search Term

The keyword or phrase a user types into a search engine in order to find what they’re looking for. E.g. “When people use the search term ‘hairdresser’ they might be looking for tips on how to do it themselves or a service to do it for them.”

Algorithm

A set of rules used by computers to solve problems. Search engines use algorithms to determine the rankings of a page for a specific search query. E.g. “I hope search engine algorithms match my relevant web pages with my desired audience.”

Vlog

The video version of a blog, where updates are new videos rather than written posts.

Bot

A program designed to browse the content on the Internet and collect information about it to help searchers find what they’re looking for. E.g. “When I launched my website, I made sure that the pages were visible to search engine bots, so they could index my pages.”

Pay­Per­Click

An advertising system in which advertisers pay for users to click on their advertisements. E.g. “I’m going to use pay­per­click adverts to promote my new faux finishes.”

Search Engine Results Page

A list of results appearing in a search engine in response to a user’s search query. E.g. “After I searched for ‘buy high­ gloss paint in bulk’ I noticed that the SERP had both natural listings and paid listings.”

Quality Score

A measure from 1 to 10 of how relevant your ads and landing pages are to the keywords you’re bidding on. Improving your Quality Score can help you achieve better ad positions and lower prices for clicks.

App

A program designed to run on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. E.g. “My house needs painting, so I used a local app to find a reputable service near me.”

Spider

A program designed to systematically browse content on the Internet and collect information about it to help searchers find what they’re looking for. E.g. “I’m scared of spiders, but not the ones that help my website appear in search engines.”

Click

When a person visits your site via an ad. For most SEM campaigns, you only pay when the searcher clicks your ad. E.g. “My ‘Cute Puppy Photos’ ad gets substantially more clicks than my ‘Cute Kitty Photos’ ad.”

Session

A group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example, a single session can contain multiple page views and e­commerce transactions. E.g.“My website got 2,000 visits last month, but what I really care about is whether those visits resulted in sales.”

Email Marketing

The process of using email messages to share information and promote products and services.

Query

The keyword or phrase a user types into a search engine in order to find what they’re looking for. E.g. “When people use the search term ‘hairdresser’ they might be looking for tips on how to do it themselves or a service to do it for them.”

Search Query

The full, exact word or phrase that a person types into a search engine in order to find what they’re looking for. It may or may not exactly match the keywords advertisers are targeting. E.g. “The search term ‘pet photographer Cardiff’ is performing well for me every month.”

Conversion Optimization

The process of improving your digital strategy in order to increase the percentage of visitors who complete your goals. E.g. “Once I add a new line of faux finishes to my website, I’m going to start focusing on conversion optimization.”

CTR

The number of times people click on an item of interest, like an advert, in comparison to the number of times users are exposed to that item. E.g.: “My click­through rate on ads about external painting is 2%, but my CTR on ads about indoor murals is less than 1%.”

Ad Network

A platform connecting advertisers with publishers who want to host their ads. The advertiser pays the network every time an agreed event takes place, such as an ad impression, a click or a sale. The network then shares the revenue generated from the advertiser with the publisher, after deducting the network fees. E.g. “We chose an ad network for our display campaigns, so we could get our ads out to a wide range of websites quickly.”

Content Marketing

Creating online content such as blogs, videos or infographics to attract and engage a defined audience.

Destination Page

The page being linked to from another page. E.g. “If you click the link to “Gallery,” you’ll see a destination page chock full of images of our fruits and vegetables.

SEO

The practice of making changes to web pages, content, and the promotion of that content to improve visibility in the organic —or unpaid—search engine results. E.g. “Investing in SEO helped my website get a higher ranking in search engine results.”

SEM

A form of advertising that allows you to bid for your advertisement to show along with search results for keywords that people are typing in. This lets businesses be seen by people at the very moment they’re searching for the things a business offers. E.g. “SEO is a long process, but using SEM helped me get a lot more website traffic really quickly.”

XMP Sitemap

A listing of web pages on your site that helps search engines understand your website. E.g. “Adding a sitemap helped search engines understand the pages on www.blakeproduce.com.”

E­commerce

The sale of products and services online.

Link Building

The process of encouraging high-quality, relevant incoming links to a website through the creation of unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. E.g. “Because our content is relevant and engaging, other websites are more likely to link through to our pages, thus helping our link-building efforts to improve our search engine positions.”

Sitemap

A listing of web pages on your site that helps search engines understand your website. E.g. “Adding a sitemap helped search engines understand the pages on www.blakeproduce.com.”

Browser

A computer program used to navigate the Internet on computers, tablets and smartphones. Examples include Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. E.g. “I’m not sure why my website looks different depending on the browser a person is using.”

Impression

The number of times an advertisement is displayed; it doesn’t necessarily mean someone clicked on it. E.g. “I’m getting a lot of impressions on my Baby Photos ad, but not many people are clicking—I may need to rewrite it.”

Blog

A regularly updated website with posts written by an individual or a business, typically in a conversational style and focused on a specific subject.

Web Spam

Techniques that try to cheat their way to the top of search results, like repeating keywords, paying other sites to link to yours, or putting invisible text on the screen. This is considered bad form because truly relevant websites get buried in the results. E.g. “I received email offers to rank first in Google search results but have turned them down because the techniques used are spam.”

Analytics

The analysis of data generated by people’s activity on websites or mobile apps, for the purpose of discovering ways to improve websites and marketing campaigns. E.g. “I’m using a web analytics tool to understand how to improve certain web pages with the goal of increasing customer engagement on my website.”

Impressions

The number of times an advert is displayed. E.g. “My new marketing campaign for home-baked dog treats received thousands of impressions, but I’m not sure if I’ve made any sales yet.”

Web Analytics Tools

The analysis of data generated by people’s activity on websites or mobile apps, for the purpose of discovering ways to improve websites and marketing campaigns. E.g. “I’m using a web analytics tool to understand how to improve certain web pages with the goal of increasing customer engagement on my website.”

Duplicate Content

Content that it is similar or identical to content found on another website. Search engines tend to ignore duplicate content. E.g. “We avoid duplicate content by investing in original content.”

Redirect

An automatic forward to a different URL than the one entered by the user. E.g. “We implemented redirects when we moved the website to a new domain.”

Uniform Resource Locator

The unique address of a page or piece of digital content on the Internet. E.g. “Max, you can access my website by typing the URL into your browser.”

Unique Visitor

A single visitor to a website during a specific period of time. E.g. “No matter how many times Uncle Bob visits my website, he’ll still count as one unique visitor.”

Spam

Techniques that try to cheat their way to the top of search results, like repeating keywords, paying other sites to link to yours, or putting invisible text on the screen. This is considered bad form because truly relevant websites get buried in the results. E.g. “I received email offers to rank first in Google search results but have turned them down because the techniques used are spam.”

Social Network

A community of individuals creating and sharing content. E.g. “Social networks could be a good place for me to showcase my beautiful foyer murals and maybe get new customers.”

Content

The digital material available to users, via text, video, audio, images, etc. E.g. “I’m adding more image and video content to my site, so it’ll be more engaging.”

Organic Listings

Results from a search engine that are not paid adverts. E.g. “The higher my website ranks in a search engine’s natural listings, the more website traffic I’ll get.”

Meta Keywords

A short list of several words that succinctly describe the content of a page. Not used by any search engine. E.g. “I don’t worry about including meta keywords on my web pages, as search engines do not use this information.”

PPC

An advertising system in which advertisers pay for users to click on their advertisements. E.g. “I’m going to use pay­per­click adverts to promote my new faux finishes.”

Display URL

The URL that is shown on the ad, often a shortened version of the actual or destination URL. E.g. “So that my users don’t see a long url, like “http://www.blakeproduce.com/proucts/specials/italiantomatos.com”, I use a url shortner service like https://goo.gl/, which allows me to create a shorter, more user-friendly display url for use in social media updates.”

Cost per Click

The amount of money required to produce a single click on a digital advertisement. E.g. “Cost per click prices seem to be higher during weekends, so I’m only running my campaigns during the week.”

Search Engine Optimization

The practice of making changes to web pages, content, and the promotion of that content to improve visibility in the organic —or unpaid—search engine results. E.g. “Investing in SEO helped my website get a higher ranking in search engine results.”

ROI

A calculation an advertiser uses to try to identify if their online marketing campaigns are profitable. One common formula used for calculating ROI is the following: return on investment = (gain from investment – cost of investment) / cost of investment. E.g. “The sales driven by our display advertising campaigns have demonstrated positive ROI this quarter”.

ALT Text

Text used in the code of a page to describe an image. If an image is broken and can not be loaded by the page, the ALT text appears in a blank box that would normally contain the image. ALT text is also used by screen readers to improve accessibility for blind and visually impaired people, to tell them what is on the image. E.g. “The homepage of my website www.blakeproduce.com features an image of a fruit and vegetable garden. I included the following ALT text in the image code to describe it: ‘Fresh fruit and vegetables picked from Blake Produce gardens.”

Avatar

An image used to represent a person, business or organisation on social media. E.g. “When I click on my avatar it brings me back to my profile.”

Return on Investment

A calculation an advertiser uses to try to identify if their online marketing campaigns are profitable. One common formula used for calculating ROI is the following: return on investment = (gain from investment – cost of investment) / cost of investment. E.g. “The sales driven by our display advertising campaigns have demonstrated positive ROI this quarter”.

Meta Description

The description of a web page included in the code of the page. May also be used as a part of the description in the search engine results page. E.g. “I write meta descriptions for each page of my website in case the search engine displays the page in the search results.”

Ad

A sponsored result that appears on a search engine results page, or SERP. Ads are typically formed from a few lines of text, and may include additional elements like a street address, reviews and phone numbers. E.g. “My ‘Beautiful Wedding Photos’ ad is already bringing in tons of new business.”

Chatbot

A computer program that simulates human conversation often over the Internet. E.g. “We created a chatbot to answer common customer questions and help with customer service.”

Geo-targeting

Use geo-targeting to only show ads to people in a certain geographical area. E.g. “We adjusted our geo-targeting to only show our ads to people within 50 miles of our business.”

Paid Listings

Advertisements that appear on search engines results pages. E.g. “I’m thinking about paying to have my website appear in the paid listings, so that I can bring more customers to my website.”

Click­through Rate

The number of times people click on an item of interest, like an advert, in comparison to the number of times users are exposed to that item. E.g.: “My click­through rate on ads about external painting is 2%, but my CTR on ads about indoor murals is less than 1%.”

Virtual Reality

Computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment with which you can interact using equipment such as headsets, sensors or joysticks.

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Key learnings

Search engines catalogue the Internet to help connect people with exactly what they’re looking for. That makes them a great marketing tool. This video covers:

  • a brief history of search engines
  • how search engines changed business
  • why search is a good place to start.