What's with the silly name?
The name is a play on 'googal' which is a mathematical term meaning 10^100 (ten to the power of one hundred), which is ten followed by one hundred zeros. The first version of Page & Brin's search engine was called BackRub because it focused on the backward trail of the pages. When the system started indexing the World Wide Web in 1995, it was estimated there were 10 million documents and an unknown number of links to them. In that year, the Internet was growing at a rate of approximately 2,000 percent. BackRub was renamed Google in 1997.
(Sept 2008 http://www.google.com/)
How does Google work?
As a user, I don’t necessarily need to know how it works, but in a marketing perspective, I need to know how I can get my site to be on the first page of the search results. How can I do this? It is based on relevance.
How is relevance determined?Basically by a ‘voting’ system that counts the number of sites it is linked to and how often those sites are accessed by using PageRank. PageRank was invented by Larry Page, co-founder of Google. It is a trademark of Google and has a patent which is held by Stanton University. This link analysis creates a ranking system based on quality and quantity of other relevant sites.
How does PageRank work in relation to Google?
“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves (deemed) ‘important’ weigh more heavily and help to make other pages ‘important’.” (Sept 2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/.)
This system is an algorithm which is similar to the Richter scale .The content of the page is not evaluated when PageRank is calculating the index for the page. There are over a hundred variations of criteria that are measured in the search result process. This is in part, to keep the process secret so that the search method is as accurate as possible without being unduly manipulated by webmasters whose sole purpose is to rank their page as high as possible. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/06/05/google-pagerank-what-do-we-really-know-about-it/
Yes, as with any aspect of business, there are ways to manipulate the system. This process is known as search engine optimization (SEO) and is used to improve the volume of traffic to a web site when accessed through a search engine. The SEO experts attempt to discern how to make target words or keywords more relevant through the index parameters. The idea is to increase visibility for marketing strategies in gaining more hits to the designated page or site. The experts study the patterns in Google and other search engines, and then develop a course to try to maximize the rank placement for their keywords within the search index database. This process is updated and revised periodically to mix it up for accuracy.
(FYI: I Googled the term search engine optimization and received: about 32,500,000 results. There must be some relevance to SEO to employ this many hits.)
You might have a website that is more relevant than most for your subject, but is virtually unknown. Your site will rank low on the search scale, but there are legitimate methods to put your site in a better light to get noticed. The term used by SEO experts for these approaches are called white hat techniques. To attract the search engine's spiders or crawlers, you must use the right keywords positioned in the right places. Meta tags are hidden bits of information that are used at times by search engines to pull relevant keywords. Some search engines skip meta tags because of historic misuse. Key placement of your product word in the title, headers, and content are very important. But, there has to be a nice balance so that the site does not end up using a black hat technique called keyword stuffing which may trigger a spider to label your site as spam (also known as ‘unsolicited commercial e-mail’). (September 2008, http://computer.howstuffworks.com/)
Keyword stuffing is just like it sounds; stuffing the site with the words you want the search spider to recognize and then index. Some stuffers have used the same color for the text as the background so the text is invisible to the viewer but not to the search spider. Another unscrupulous way to generate traffic to a site is by using fake web pages that redirect visitors to a page they would not have gone to on their own. There is also a way to monopolize the search engine results once a reputable page ranks high, it duplicates itself over and over so that other competing sites will go further down the list and possibly off the front page of the search results. This is called page stuffing. Some search spiders are now capable of recognizing if two different pages have the same content. These are just a few of the reasons why Google must change their parameters and make the search spiders smarter as technology changes. Google wants the user to get the unbiased search result they are seeking as accurately and quickly as possible.
Before Google became widely known, portals like AltaVista, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and AOL viewed searching as a soft business with little to no profit potential. They thought of it as providing a route to travel away from their site. What could be profitable in that? Google found a way to make it lucrative by using advertising that was relevant to the search with ‘Pay Per Click’. The client only pays when they receive a hit to their ad. It is more profitable for the site owner to pay for this type of advertisement because the person who is clicking on the ad is already interested in their product so there is no revenue lost on blanket advertising that does not reach potential customers.
“‘Search is no longer a stand-alone application, a useful but impersonal tool for finding something on ... the World Wide Web," John Battelle writes in The Search. "Increasingly search is our mechanism for how we understand ourselves, our world and our place in it. It's how we navigate the one infinite resource that drives human culture: knowledge.’" (Sept 2008, http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2005/09/68792.)
Google timeline information and photos taken from http://www.google.com/corporate/history.html#1
(Left to Right- Sergey Brin, Larry Page.)
1995: Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page meet at Stanford University.
1996: BackRub, the precursor to the Google search engine, is founded.
1997: Brin & Page rename BackRub to Google.
1998: Google is incorporated and moves into its first office in a Menlo Park, California, spare bedroom and garage.
1999: Google moves its headquarters to Palo Alto, California, and later to Mountain View, California; Red Hat becomes Google's first commercial customer.
2000: Yahoo Internet Life magazine names Google the Best Search Engine on the Internet; Google becomes the largest search engine on the Web and launches Google AdWords & Toolbar.
2001: Google acquires Deja.com's Usenet archive and launches Google PhoneBook; Dr. Eric Schmidt joins Google as chairman of the board of directors and is later appointed CEO. Google Image Search launches.
2002: Google launches Google Search Appliance, Google News and Froogle, a product search; updates new version to AdWords.
2003: Voted ‘most useful’ Word of the year for 2002. Acquired Pyra Labs, the creators of Blogger.
2004: New milestone: 6 billion items, including 4.28 billion web pages and 880 million images. Initial Public Offering of 19,605,052 shares common stock @ $85 per share. Index of web pages reaches 8 billion.
2005: Milestone in Image Search: 1.1 billion images indexed. Google maps goes live. Google Earth's overlays help with rescue efforts for Hurricane Katrina victims.
2006: Picasa introduced in 25 more languages. Chat in Gmail. Dr. Larry Brilliant becomes executive director of Google.org. Oxford English Dictionary adds ‘Google’ as a verb. Gmail, Google News, iGoogle available on mobile phones in 8 more languages. Acquisition of YouTube. Release Google Patent Search.
2007: Gmail available to everyone. Traffic information introduced to Google Maps for 30+ cities in US. Google Hot Trends launches. Prime placement in iPhone. RechargIT unveiled.
2008: Five key initiatives announced. Google Sites debuts. Acquisition for DoubleClick. Google Earth adds new satellite information for recovery efforts. Google Translate has 23 languages. Google Finance has real-time stock quotes. Maps for Mobile updated. 1trillion unique URLs indexed. Google Suggest arrives. Chrome a new open source browser is launched. Upgrade for Picasa released.
10 year Anniversary Celebrated in September 2008.
Who knows what’s next…..something innovative that is certain.
The users of search engines today think this concept of making the volumes of information available at any time by a few key strokes as completely and utterly obvious. It is definitely a system that Internet users utilize almost every time they touch their computers. In some ways, Google has stayed the same as it started 10 years ago, but it has also grown to the needs of the users by creating more selected searches and libraries. Google has created a path that our society uses and now takes for granted. Google is now looking at ways to use the gathering of knowledge to fight diseases in third world countries. Perhaps in a few short years this concept will seem obvious, too.