What is SEO and why is it important for research?

Be careful when clicking the "I'm feeling lucky" button when searching on Google. (Credit: greyloch)

Be careful when clicking the “I’m feeling lucky” button when searching on Google. (Credit: greyloch)

Searching for good research paper topics online is a lot like searching the library. You first need to know what you’re looking for. SEO, which stands for “search engine optimization,” means getting the most out of using search engines, like Google, Bing and Yahoo, to use your keywords to find appropriate business, history or science articles and books in the bazillion-byte world of the vast Internet. When you search the Internet, you want to find what you’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Website quality vs. quantity

In the old days of Google, websites would just arbitrarily include lots of keywords that made little grammatical sense and would copy text from other sites. Quantity trumped quality in an attempt to rank higher up on Google’s search engine results. These websites also paid other sites to link to theirs. But Google caught on to this deception and revised its algorithms for listing websites. Today, quality is king. When you use keywords to do research or find information, you’ll see quality content sites at the top of Google’s search, saving you time skimming through sites that will not be of value to your research.

“Google changed the SEO game by emphasizing quality over quantity in web content. In early 2011, Google unfurled its ‘Panda’ algorithm, which dropped the rankings of sites with low-quality content. In April 2012, Google upped the ante with ‘Penguin,’ an algorithm that penalized websites with out-of-date-content and inferior linking,” explained Emma Johnson in “Win the SEO game: Playing strategically by Google’s new rules, small businesses can move up in search engine results,” in Success, April 2013, found on Questia.com.

What if I don’t search with the right keyword?

If you need the right keyword to do a thorough and efficient search, then how do you know what the best keyword is? Luckily, you don’t entirely need to. As long as you’re on the right track, you can begin to type in your word or phrase. “When you start typing a query into a search box at many search engines, you may see a dropdown appear under the search box which offers selectable suggestions for query terms even before you may have finished typing,” wrote Bill Slawski in “Predictive search query suggestions,” on SEObythesea.com posted on May 8, 2009.

Narrow your focus for your research paper

This dropdown feature may also help you narrow down the focus of your research paper. Say you initially wanted to write about Eleanor Roosevelt in a general biography of her life. Maybe you decide that’s a very broad subject and want to fine tune it more. Typing in “Eleanor Roosevelt” in the search engine may reveal suggestions that give you an idea to write about her early life, political contributions, activities during World War II, romantic life, famous quotes, or other aspects of her life.

In addition, if you are searching for a particular website and key in part of the site’s name, the search engine may also suggest alternative URLs for web pages related to the one you’re looking for.

Filter your search results

Once you have a good grasp on your research topic, you can filter the results that the search engine gives you. “You can refine your search further if you know exactly what type of results you are looking for. Most search engines will feature a refinement tool that allows you to look for images, videos or other content related to your search. Clicking on these options will often give you further, more advanced, options,” posted in “How to find what you want on the internet,” on DigitalUnite.com.

How can people find you?

Search engine optimization works the other way around, too. When you post a blog, you want people to find it and read it. To do this, you want to rank high on the search engines. Use the Google Adwords Keywords Tool to find high ranking keywords that relate to your blog. The tool shows you how many people are searching for those same keywords each month. Put these keywords in the title of your blog and the first paragraph to get the best results and traffic.

For more information on search engine optimization and navigating the Internet, visit Questia.com’s Computers and the Internet library.

Do you often have trouble searching the Internet for what you need?

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