What are Search Engines and SEO?

by Grigoris Filios (Updated 17 Nov)

What is a search engine?

You can consider search engines handy, modern-day online indexes that enable internet users to find the information they need. The drill is super easy. You simply type in a keyword (or even an entire phrase, such as “Dentists near me”) and the search engine uses a search algorithm (a mixture of different ranking factors, such as relevancy, page speed, and backlink strength) to search for results in its database based on your keyword(s) (aka search query) and find what you are looking for. What you get is an ordered list of websites that match with that search query semantically (aka Search Engine Results Page or SERP). 

Although there are quite a few search engines today, the most widely used is, of course, Google, which is a default search engine for many website browsers, including Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. How do search engines give you relevant results to answer your search query? The most typical process involves (1)crawling and indexing (bots called crawlers scan an online library of sites to index the most appropriate ones for your search query depending on the data provided in them), (2) creating results by selecting the best results/sites and creating an ordered list. 

The most popular search engines

Google is an indisputable leader and on top of the list with the most widely used search engines (over 70% of internet users prefer Google for their searches for more than 20 years). Its highly advanced and utterly sophisticated algorithm includes Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, alongside another algorithm called RankBrain that can adjust/modify the weight of ranking factors based on the quality of previous results and user’s behavior. 

Other popular search engines are:

    • Baidu – Launched in China in 2000, the Chinese version of Google has joined forces with Intel, Microsoft and other giants on various Artificial intelligence programs. They, too, provide a plethora of other solutions, such as video search, social networking, maps, and cloud services.
    • Bing – A Microsoft child that breathed its first breath in 2009, following its older Windows Live Search and MSN Search siblings. Aspiring to be Google’s #1 competitor, Bing has managed to win many user’s devotion, though it has not found a way to penetrate the US market yet.
    • Yahoo! – It started as a much-favored search engine and email provider in the 1990s. However, they fell behind after 2000 and eventually lost much of their value. Nevertheless, it still waves from the top lists of the most popular search engines in 2020. Today, they are members of the Verizon Communications family.

There are also search engines that are considered major in their birth countries, such as the Russian Yandex and the South Korean Naver that cover over 60% of searches in Russia and South Korea respectively.

There also search engines that work for a particular distinguished purpose. For videos, there is YouTube Search Engine and for marketplaces are eBay, Amazon and Etsy search engines.

How to use a search engine

The process is very straightforward. You enter your search term or phrase in the search bar and either put it in quotation marks to ask the search engine to search your keyword word for word or without quotation marks and get more vague results. That being said, you may also use tools and advanced search settings, such as searching only a specific site or ignoring words, to narrow your search and receive more resourceful data. 

Did you know that…?

    • More than 80% of consumers aged between 16-64 search for a service or product using a search engine?
    • Google is king when it comes to mobile users. The company holds nearly 94% of the market share, probably due to its focus on the significance of mobile user experience for SEO. 
    • The first three results in non-branded searches earn over half the total click-throughs. The number skyrockets to over 60% for branded searches. 
    • An average of 45% of internet users use Voice searches and voice commands to make a search query. 
    • Almost 75% of internet users make online purchases. 

What is SEO?

SEO is the acronym of Search Engine optimization is refers to a set of techniques that help a website, blog or e-shop owner to give their site a better ranking, ideally, make it appear on the front page of a relevant Google search. SEO is a long-term process that is in accordance with Google’s guidelines and ethics and contributes to enhanced user satisfaction while also increasing both the quantity and quality of website traffic (SEO has 20 times more traffic opportunities than paid advertising). SEO can also boost brand exposure and brand awareness via non-paid search engine results (aka organic searches). 

Don’t be fooled by its name. SEO is merely about machines than people and knowing their intent. It is about understanding what users are searching for online, the keywords they use to seek answers, and the kind of content they are eager to read. All these combined enable you to connect to the right people – consumers searching for the solutions you offer – and deliver it in a way that crawlers can track and understand.

If we had to distill the very essence of SEO, we would probably say that SEO is the single most important marketing channel that can pay you non-stop dividends over time (provided, of course, it is set up correctly). So, as long as you have top quality content that deserves to rank for its relevant keywords, SEO is a powerful tool to help optimize your site so that search engines can properly (2) index your content and then and (2) include it in its search results. This will, undeniably, snowball your traffic over time. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

SEO & Online Marketing – How do they relate?

One of the most fundamental factors in driving traffic to a website is having a targeted and well-defined SEO strategy. In order to achieve that, though, it is paramount to make sure SEO is integrated with other channels across the customer lifecycle, both online and offline. This is the best way to give your overall marketing strategy the best potential to succeed long-term. Integrating SEO into your marketing efforts will help achieve quality and long-lasting results while also reaching your target audience through search engines and providing them with solutions or answers to their problems or queries respectively. Consequently, you maximize conversion.

Combined with PPC efforts and social media platforms, your SEO works (i.e., on-page optimization, keyword research, site structure, backlinks, landing pages, etc.) will help give more fruitful results. At the same time, you have a great opportunity to optimize your individual marketing tasks and get more cross-channel reach. 

Key SEO Channels

SEO has many branches that can help with your search engine optimization efforts. These include: 

    • Google Maps/ Google My Business (Local SEO) – This is a one-stop-shop bearing Google’s signature that uses various factors to determine ranking for companies (i.e., relevance, prominence, distance, etc.) and helps you manage how your company/business will perform (and look) in the search engine. It is also a leading driver of local SEO success and a key tool to determine (and tweak) how your website shows in Google+, Maps, and organic search results. With Google My Business, you can find out how well your business fits your customers’ search intent and do all sorts of things, from managing customers’ reviews to adding opening hours.
    • E-shop/e-commerce SEO – It focuses on an eCommerce site’s product pages, ensuring they rank on top of Google’s SERPs as a means to drive the right people (targeted organic traffic) to the online marketplace or store. In other words, you get more visibility for your e-shop and increased visits that could turn into leads and sales.
    • B2B SEO – This is a digital marketing strategy addressing B2B site pages specifically, so they can rank higher in SERPs. It targets low-volume keywords (the ones used by key decision-makers within companies during work). Among others, B2B SEO ensures the published content is highly tactical (rather than fun or emotional) and focuses very little (if at all) on social media marketing.
    • Services SEO (e.g., Law SEO, Doctor SEO, Plumber SEO, etc.) – The whole point in investing on SEO is to make sure your site predictable attracts new customers/clients and then converts them via free search engine traffic. The best way to achieve that is by having a website that ranks on page one of Google. This may require some website code editing, creating new content, and other works. 


Ranking factors – How to get my site on the front page?

Google’s algorithm uses, up to this very moment, over 200 ranking factors, including page-level factors, such as keywords placed in the title and description tags, site-level factors (i.e., linked table of contents, content length, etc.), number of quality internal links pointing to the page, URL length, and many more. Of course, it is nearly impossible (and perhaps, unnecessary) to take hundreds of factors into account when working on your site’s SEO. Things like the nature and size of your website pinpoint where you should focus on, to deliver the desired results. For instance, do you run an e-shop of a local business? A blog or a publisher site? Are you a blue or white-collar service provider? Defining such details plays a vital role in determining which ranking factors to rely on the heaviest. Of course, this requires expertise and in-depth SEO knowledge. Otherwise, you run the risk of ditching your marketing strategy and your site’s (good) performance and traffic straight to the bin. 

Most popular SEO techniques – Where should you rely on?

Both on-site (aka on-page) and offsite SEO practices worth noting as they help optimize both website elements (i.e., mobile-friendliness, the HTML source code and content of a page, etc.) and external signals on the Internet. We should also not forget to mention technical SEO, which is there to improve a site’s usability, readability, and discoverability by concentrating on the structural aspects of your website (non-content).

The goal? 

On-site SEO – To create a good user experience, rank your site higher in search results, and give you the chance to receive more relevant traffic from search engines. They also enable users to understand what a page is all about in a clear and straightforward fashion so they can decide whether it fits their bill. Most site owners spend about 70% of their time on on-page SEO. 

Off-site SEO – Helps Google determine the value of a page by making sure lots of quality links point to it. In a nutshell, off-page SEO refers to methods that allow Google to form an “opinion” about your site and how others think about it. 

Technical SEO – It helps the content of a site appear in high places in search engine results pages (unpaid SERs) when cons

How technical SEO can promote your site?

If we take a look at colossus companies, like Booking, Amazon, and Airbnb, we will see a pattern when it comes to the ways their SEO experts apply technical SEO strategies to promote the platforms and, consequently, boost its search rankings. For instance, desktop sites are also extremely mobile-friendly. Also, they all have XML Sitemaps, which are then optimized so Google can index their pages. Of course, speed plays a critical role as well. So, it comes as no surprise that all these sites respond within milliseconds. You will also never see duplicate content, broken links, or low-quality stuff. And, needless to say, they all have an SSL certificate to enhance security and give SEO a nice kick.

SEO is a superior tool to have in your company-promoting arsenal. However, it takes knowledgeable SEO professionals to make it work for you. In the hands of the inexperienced, it can bring your website (and entire brand) to a particularly tough spot – even facing Google bans. 

Feel free to contact us for an SEO Audit. Our SEO and marketing experts will be more than happy to sit down with you and help you find out the most effective SEO methods to put your business in front of as many people’s eyes as possible – the RIGHT people!