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What Does My Site Look Like To A Search Engine…?

A search engine is a computer program. It has no human understanding of ‘things’ or ‘concepts’. Most importantly, search engines need to be told in no uncertain terms what your site is about.

Here is an example; You have a website that sells cheese sandwiches. Here is an excerpt of text from your website that is accompanied by a photo of someone eating a delicious looking cheese sandwich: ‘Everyone who has enjoyed our cheese sandwiches agreed they are the best!’ the image file is img_0001.jpg.

Here is how the search engine will most likely interpret this information;

  • The photo will be ignored as there is no information for the computer to interpret.
  • The ‘everyone’ and ‘they’ in the text will be ignored, as the computer has no idea who everyone and they are.
  • This leaves some generic words which are not framed in any context, such as ‘who’ & ‘has’ which will be discounted.
  • The ‘cheese sandwiches’ element of the text now stands in the abstract, with no supporting context for the search engine to understand it. You may as well at this point be saying ‘purple shoes’ – as the search engine will place no voracity on your authority by simply stating two words in sequence.
  • This leaves us with the option of only featuring in long and obscure search queries, which may or may not have any volume – such as ‘cheese sandwiches are the best’ or ‘enjoyed cheese sandwiches’  or  ‘everyone enjoyed cheese sandwiches’, etc. etc.

To provide the search engines with ample information regarding what this image and text excerpt are about, we would most likely want to do the following;

  1. Name the image file in a descriptive manner, such as; best-cheese-sandwiches-for-sale.jpg. It is important to use dashes as opposed to under-scores in the naming of an image, as search engines cannot see under-scores. We should also provide the image tag or alt text for the image that will reinforce the image file name.
  2. The text should read something like this; We (website name) is the seller of best cheese sandwiches available online.

Here is how the search engine will most likely interpret this new information;

  • The search engine will look at the image alt text, and will know what the image is about – it is about the best cheese sandwiches that are for sale.
  • The search engine will understand that the website is selling the best cheese sandwiches, as it will be able to interpret the text and make this assumption. This assumption will be reinforced by the image alt text.
  • The search engine will now associate the website domain with cheese sandwiches.
  • We will feature in the following search engine results; ‘best cheese sandwiches’, ‘cheese sandwiches online’, and will most likely feature in the results for ‘cheese sandwiches’ as we have both text content and photographic content relating to this search query. The more of both we add, the more likely we are to be considered an authority on the subject of cheese sandwiches and rank higher.
  • The search engine will be left with very little ambiguity over what this short piece of text and image are about.
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