With billions of pages now online, the internet could be difficult to navigate. Even in the early days of the internet, users sometimes found it challenging to locate the sites and pages that would best satisfy their needs. While some pioneering services sought to classify the fast-growing internet in manual, labor-intensive ways that resembled the efforts of librarians, others took a different tack. Companies like Google came up with ways of cataloging the internet in an automated fashion and deliver largely computer-derived verdicts on the value of each site and page.
While there are still directory sites and other human-focused means of making sense of the billions of pages online, search engines like Google now dominate. Google alone responds to billions of queries each day, delivering results that its users regularly consider highly satisfactory. While it tends to be the best and most useful pages that rise to the top of the results for each particular query, there is always room for some accommodation of the algorithms that make these determinations. The entire field of search engine optimization, in fact, centers around helping particular sites and pages rank higher.
When the effort works out, the result can be extremely rewarding to experience. While some businesses, for example, spend thousands, or millions, of dollars each month for online advertising, each visit that arrives from a search engine referral is essentially free. So-called “organic” traffic like this can also continue flowing for years once a particular company’s website has made enough progress.
Of course, fighting to get to the top of those search engine results is not always easy or for the faint of heart. In some cases, a company with a very particular niche or that does business in a fairly small market will discover its website naturally ranks fairly high without putting in any additional effort.
It is far more common to see, however, that competitors have engaged in optimization work of their own, making it much less likely that a particular site will rank well in the relevant search engine results without some significant help. Fortunately, any investments made in this kind of work will tend to pay off in clearly rewarding ways.