How search engines rank sites in 2019 & what to do about it

Understand how search engines work and how to communicate with them

SEO with magnifying glass
Abby Spyker
ABBY SPYKER NW Media Collective

In this digital age of spiders and bots, strategic communication means getting your story out in a format that both “real people” (your customers) and “fake insects” (search engines) can understand what your message is and why it matters.

What search engines REALLY want

Search engines want to serve up results you care about. They make money from ad clicks, and if you’re searching elsewhere, they lose money. Although there are thousands of search engines, Google accounts for more than 80% of the search market, which makes knowing what Google wants an essential piece of your marketing strategy. And that means understanding Google’s algorithms.

A new algorithm, a new acronym

Google has altered its search algorithms thousands of times since the company’s inception. Over the years, these changes drastically alter what results Google displays and in what order. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. Search engines have become much smarter. Google’s newest acronym and methodology for serving up relevant results is “EAT” – Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.

What EAT means for your business

This is not the first article ever written about how search engines work. So, how do search engines determine which article to show first (or second or third for that matter)? It all comes down to relevancy. This is where the search algorithms get really interesting. The EAT concept can help you make sense of it all.

  • Expertise: You don’t need a Ph.D. to get on the first page of Google. Some topics like fashion require less formal levels of expertise. Usefulness is key, as well as using the right keywords and offering an adequate volume of information. The fact that VBJ is a reputable source of information for local businesses tells Google that this article might be an appropriate result for a business owner searching for information about search engines in Vancouver.
  • Authoritativeness: Now let’s say VBJ’s site had 100 articles about search engines, websites, Google and SEO. Multiple articles on related content would indicate to Google that VBJ is an authority on the subject matter. Plus, what if Google’s very own blog also linked to the VBJ site? All of this indicates that VBJ MUST be an authority on this subject since the biggest player in the search engine industry is giving VBJ a “vote of confidence” by backlinking.
  • Trustworthiness: If VBJ had 10,000 other websites backlinking to them, that indicates even greater authority and trustworthiness. If people come to the site and visit multiple pages rather than bouncing within a few seconds of arriving, that also tells Google visitors trust your site. And if VBJ had lots of positive Google Reviews, its trustworthiness score would be through the roof.

Combine the signals your business site sends out, with the myriad of information search engines know about the people searching (location, internet history, etc.), and you’re one very complex, ever-changing formula away from delivering the most relevant content at the top of the search results.

Why it’s time to start “speaking search engine”

Beyond meeting Google’s EAT requirements and creating content people (users) love, you also need to “translate” the content into a “language” that search engines understand so they can match it with the most relevant user queries — if you want to rank on top. This is a big part of search engine optimization (SEO).

Let’s say you publish a blog titled “Mom’s Apple Pie” and listed a bunch of food items with a series of commands. Us non-bots instantly recognize that it’s a recipe. Search engines, however, do not.

To “translate” this recipe for Google, you have to use specific keywords, metadata and structured data to tell search engines that the list of food items are “ingredients” and that the series of commands are “cooking directions.”

SEO isn’t limited to recipe websites or even confined to the backend of your website. There are hundreds of things you can do for every type of site that will help Google understand your content better and serve it to more users in a manner that increases clicks.

Getting started with SEO

When it comes to SEO, there is no one magic bullet, but understanding how search engines work and how to communicate with them is a great place to start.

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be: “Build your website in a way that Google can compare it to the other similar sites, stick around, keep adding relevant content that Google understands, generate more links so the spiders can access your site from more threads of that web, and slowly but surely more people will find your site!

Abby Spyker is the co-founder and CEO of NW Media Collective, a full-service digital agency. To learn more, visit Contact Abby at

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