There are more than a billion websites on the internet now – each with potentially thousands of pages, so finding what you’re looking for is really like looking for a needle in a haystack.
This is where internet search engines come in handy. Services like Google and Bing have indexed this huge mess of interlinked pages and made it much easier to find something you want.
I’m going to focus on Google throughout this article as I believe they really have the advantage when it comes to finding things.
So first some background on how Google Search works…
The underlying technology behind Google is “search bots”. A search bot is a program that visits websites and analyses the content on each page. It goes from page to page by following links (just as you’d click on links to traverse through a website). As it reads each page, it attempts to build up an understanding of what the page is about. It reads the text on the page and can even understand what is in images. It uses this (along with some other clues) to figure out what’s on the page and what it’s all about.
This information all gets sent back to a huge database that is stored around the world at Google’s datacenters. It’s estimated that Google has nearly a million servers churning through this data around the world at any time – not an easy task!
Now consider that Google does all of this for free – they must be pretty generous eh? Actually, no – they’re taking $19 billion in search revenue per year! How?
Yup – $19 billion worth of adverts – stunning isn’t it. Just goes to show how many people are using Google and viewing adverts every day!
So where are all of these adverts? Well, start with your search results. Chances are the first few results are adverts, but they’re not obvious. And this is where you need to be really careful, as anyone can pay to appear at the top of the search results.
Here’s a quick test – type the following into Google: “Windows Support”. Chances are the first two or three results are nothing to do with Microsoft. What’s worse, chances are these first results are actually scammers who will extort hundreds of dollars, and install viruses on your computer should you decide to contact them! They’re paying Google to appear at the top of the search results as they’ll likely make the money back and more by ripping you off.
So how do you avoid this? Well each advert has a little “ad” symbol before it to indicate that’s it’s not part of the main search results. Watch out for this and avoid clicking on them. Also underneath each result is the actual web address. With my search for “Windows Support”, the first result is a website called www.itwebking.com – obviously nothing to do with Microsoft.
Most of the calls I’m receiving from my customers at the moment are regarding websites that are making themselves look like fake virus warnings. I believe most of these websites are being visited because of top of the page adverts on Google that are trying to look like legitimate results.
So Google advertising is bad right? Well no – Google advertising is a real benefit to businesses who make a living by being online.
Before I explain this though, a little more background on how search indexing works behind the scenes.
With billions of websites and web pages, how does Google so consistently find the page you’re looking for?
When each page is indexed by a search bot, it’s analysed and given a rating – something called a “page rank”. You might think this is named after “web page”, however it’s actually named after Larry Page – one of the original co-founders of Google. Between Page and Sergey Brin (the other co-founder), they figured out a way of ranking web pages by their content and importance.
One of the biggest factors in this ranking is something called “incoming links”. Each web page has links to it from other web pages. The more links it has, the greater it’s importance is estimated to be. For example, when this article appears on The Light web page, if it gains a bunch of links to it, it’s more likely to appear at the top of the list when searching for it.
As you can imagine, this makes it difficult for newcomers to reach the top of Google quickly, as building up link reputation takes a while.
This is why Google advertising is useful – it basically jumps the queue and puts you straight to the top of the results.
Now the real neat thing about advertising on Google is that you only have to pay if somebody clicks on your advert and visits your website. This way your advert can be seen by many people but you only pay when someone who’s interested in your product visits your site.
So for a small business this can be a great, cost effective way to generate traffic to their website.
Until next time – keep searching!
Nick Gunn moved to Tatamagouche from England and started up Scotia Systems, a computer support company. He is now the “go-to” guy in the community for computer problems. His columns are intended to spread advice and awareness of computer issues. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902-957-2575.