Implementation of strategies and techniques to improve a website’s ranking is called SEO —short for Search Engine Optimization.
Most of us have our own website or a blog through which we wish to connect with our dream clients or fellow translators/interpreters. Effective implementation of an SEO strategy can help our content reach the right audience. SEO is also at work when we are researching a topic/terminology. We might also be implementing an SEO strategy when we are translating a website. At the heart of this is the search engine—let’s find out more about how search engines work; why they do what they do and what we can do to make search engines work for us.
Why do search engines do what they do?
Search engines want to give users the most relevant answer to their search query in the fewest possible clicks.
How do search engines work?
Search engines scan through billions of web pages (crawling), evaluate and sort the content (indexing), rank it based on how relevant it is to your search query (ranking) and return search engine result pages (SERPs) or SERP Features, which could either be a featured snippet (a short selection of text above the search results), a Knowledge Panel (information boxes that appear on the right side of your search results) or an Image Pack (series of images that appear above the search results), among other things.
Crawling: Web crawlers are software or automated scripts run by search engines that scan through web pages for keywords and prepare a copy of the webpage that is then processed in the indexing step. If there are links on a webpage, the crawlers follow those links and repeat the process of scanning and storing. Popular and frequently visited web pages are the usual starting point for crawlers.
The World Wide Web is a vast ocean and fishing for relevant information from all the available web pages is impossible even for web crawlers. Large search engines, like Google, can scan through only a portion of publicly available web pages; to do this task effectively, these web crawlers follow certain rules for scanning web pages. Priority is given to good quality content; site popularity—measured in terms of links and visits; and even the way the URLs are structured.
Indexing: Data collected by web crawlers is stored and organized in the indexing step. This makes subsequent searching faster. A search engine index is a database of useful words and links to the webpages on which they are found. It can be compared to the index at the end of a book. Present-day search engine indexes have more than just list of words and associated webpages; there are country indexes that restrict the search within a country (e.g. the Google index for the UK is google.co.uk) or local indexes (e.g. search queries that contain the phrase “near me”), or other indexing criteria.
Not all pages returned by the web crawler get indexed. Broken links, duplicate content or taking a long time to load are some of the reasons a webpage might not get indexed. Since web crawling is a continuous process, indexes are also updated frequently.
Ranking: Once you enter a search query in the search box, the search engine looks for the closest match in the index and lines up web pages in decreasing order of relevance. Numerous algorithms are employed to rank web pages. Below I give you a brief description of two algorithms from our beloved search engine—Google.
PageRank, part of Google’s search algorithm Hummingbird, gives a higher ranking to a web page if a number of trusted websites feature a link to it. RankBrain, another important aspect of Google’s search algorithm, employs machine learning to deduce user intent based on the search text and provides relevant results.
If I type the German word “Aufnahme” in the search bar I get the translation in English.
Since my location settings are set to India and a majority of my queries are translation-related, Google’s algorithm has figured out over time that I am most probably looking for the English translation and hence it is featured right on top.
I changed my location settings to Germany and the result is the definition of “Aufnahme” in German but notice the option of translate into English given right after the definition. This means that Google has retained the intent of my initial query, even though the location settings have changed.
The search engine is constantly learning and ensuring that the intent of my search is fulfilled.
What does this mean for you? Provide good-quality, relevant content to the user who lands on your page and RankBrain will reward you.
There are numerous ranking conditions, but the crucial ones are: links to your website, content that you publish on your website and how RankBrain ranks your website.
If you wish to know more about RankBrain, check out:
What tips and tricks can you use to implement SEO for your website?
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to implement the following suggestions. If you manage your own website, as most of us do, then this is a great way to experiment with SEO.
1. Check if your site is being crawled and indexed by search engines
Type site: in front of your website name and see if the search engine returns all the pages on your website. If it does, it means all your webpages have been crawled and indexed by the search engine.
2. Check your site loading speed
In this fast-paced world and lightning speed internet, no one has the time to wait for a site to load, even if it has top-notch content. The user will quickly move to the next available option. So, it pays to have a faster loading website. Usual culprits that slow down page loading are widgets, plugins and large images.
3. Responsive website design
A website is said to have a responsive design if the layout and contents automatically adapt to the screen on which it is viewed.
Searching is no longer restricted to laptops and desktops. We search for terms, locations, places of interest on our phones and tablets as well. Search engines favor a responsive website design because the user can navigate your site with ease, page loading is faster and, what’s more, it boosts social media sharing.
For more information on responsive web design, take a look at:
4. HTTPS instead of HTTP
Secure your website using the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. This ensures that data going to and from the website is encrypted. You must have noticed that Google returns a “website not secure” page whenever you access an unsecured website. Definitely a no-no when you want more traffic on your website.
You can purchase an SSL certificate or, if you would like to try a bit of coding, you can install a free SSL certificate for your website.
Read this resource for more information:
5. Keywords and keyword research
Keyword research and SEO have long been synonymous. It is true that they are no longer the be-all and end-all of good SEO strategy but incorporating them in your content will boost your website’s ranking; use keywords in your content and use them in moderation.
Find out more about keyword research here:
6. Link strategy
Links help crawlers discover web pages faster. Build a good online presence by following and connecting with bloggers in your area of interest; commenting, retweeting and liking their posts; joining online discussions and providing links to your blog posts with related content. Creating well-researched and quality content and sharing it on as many social media platforms as possible also helps in connecting you with your audience. Guest-blogging is another great way to start building your online presence.
This article outlines long-term, effective link-building strategies:
7. Fresh content
Search engines are forever looking for new content, so it pays to update your website content regularly. Minor tweaks in your home page, services page, short blog posts, or refreshing your old blog posts—all work towards improving your website’s visibility. Here too, ensure the content is genuine and relevant to your target audience.
8. International SEO
This is a no-brainer—at least for us. A site that caters to our source language users along with our target language users will definitely boost our website’s visibility.
9. Get active on social media
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram… The list is endless. Although concerns regarding data privacy run high on any social media platform, the fact that they help you connect with a larger audience cannot be ignored. Restricting your social media chatter to work-related issues and connecting with like-minded professionals will not only expand your network, but also give you new insights regarding your profession.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are influencing SEO tactics more than ever before; reassuring is the fact that the user still decides what’s good and what’s trash. Keeping this in mind and focusing on sharing your knowledge online is the best way to connect with like-minded people online and get more visibility.
Good intentions, purposeful writing and a desire to connect to your target audience are all you need to conquer the World Wide Web; focus on them and let the search engines do the rest.
I hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now — time to implement!
© 2020 Pavitra Baxi
Pavitra Baxi is a freelance translator based in Bangalore, India. She translates from German into English. She has a degree in mechanical engineering and provides translation services for the engineering, medical and IT sectors.