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How Search Rankings Work (for Tax & Accounting Professionals)

Video Transcript

00:00:01:10 – 00:00:27:20

Welcome to the GetNetSet SEO Video Series for Tax and Accounting Professionals, where we talk about search engine optimization and marketing your business online. Search engines are some of the most complex pieces of software and programming on the planet, with Google being the most complex with over 2 billion lines of code. To put that into perspective, the entire Windows 10 operating system has only 50 million lines of code.

00:00:28:06 – 00:00:56:00

The reason for this complexity is because search engines use an algorithm to find, crawl, index, and rank websites for searchers, and they do this for trillions of pages online. In this video, we’ll be discussing the process by which search engines discover and rank websites, as well as how users will find your site when they search. To start us off, search engines are extremely intelligent and sensitive, and there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes before a site ever gets ranked in search results.

00:00:56:18 – 00:01:20:04

The process begins with having a website in the first place. You can’t rank if you don’t have anything to rank in the first place. When it comes to websites, there’s no such thing as perfect or finished. If you don’t currently have a website, don’t worry about getting everything set up before you launch. All you need is the bare minimum to get online first, and then you can look at adjusting things and adding more content as time goes on.

00:01:20:27 – 00:01:43:15

Once you launch your site, it can take days, weeks or yes, even months for search engines like Google to find your website and begin determining where to rank it. This is the same process that all new websites must go through. Now, search engines often have their own webmaster tools like Google’s Search Console or Bing’s Webmaster Tools, which can sometimes speed this process up.

00:01:44:03 – 00:02:09:26

For now, we’ll talk about just one of the tools that is offered. Submitting your XML sitemap to search engines. A sitemap is a list of the pages on your website and the links to those pages. And with an XML sitemap, it’s designed specifically for search engines and requires some additional coding to generate properly. All GetNetSet sites come with an automatically generated and updated XML sitemap like this.

00:02:10:18 – 00:02:29:24

By submitting your XML sitemap to search engines, you’re telling them that you have pages that you want to rank. This typically speeds up the process, but ultimately the timeline for ranking is still up to each individual search engine. Now, once your site is found, then search engines still have to read, or crawl, your website and understand what it’s about.

00:02:30:08 – 00:02:51:11

Today’s search engines are smart enough to really understand the context of what you’re saying. Previously, in the early days of the internet, search engines did exact match searching where it compared the exact words of a user search query to the words of every site in its index. Modern search engines are smarter, though, and better at really knowing what you’re trying to say.

00:02:51:26 – 00:03:14:15

For example, let’s take the phrase, “How much does a CPA cost?” In the olden times, a search engine would look in its index for sites with this exact phrase. If it didn’t find one, then it would look at which sites had these words in a different arrangement. However, nowadays search engines look at this phrase and can understand that it is actually saying, “How expensive are certified public accountant services?”

00:03:14:22 – 00:03:40:14

And it will display all results related to that question. Now, once your site has been crawled, search engines index your site by saving it in their database. This database is filled with trillions of web pages on the internet. You can tell if your site has been indexed by search engines, by typing “” without the quotes here and where “yourdomain” is, whatever your website domain actually is.

00:03:40:23 – 00:03:59:01

And you can see an example of this here. Now, this won’t show you how your site appears in the rankings. But it will show you if your site could be showing up or not. If it says something like “your search did not match any documents,” then that search engine hasn’t indexed your site yet. The site search is a full list of pages indexed,

00:03:59:02 – 00:04:19:07

so if you only see one or two pages, then your site has begun the process of being indexed but isn’t completely yet. If you already have an existing website, then this is where you are in this process. Search engines have likely already found your site and indexed it. So it’s a matter of them coming back occasionally to re-crawl your website and see if there’s anything new.

00:04:19:17 – 00:04:41:10

And really, this process repeats over time. The more frequently that your website is updated, the more frequently that search engines will come back to re-crawl and re-index your site. For example, look at news sites. They’re updated every few minutes usually, so search engines are constantly crawling them for updates. A site that is updated once or twice a year will be visited much less frequently.

00:04:41:21 – 00:05:02:00

For this reason, it’s encouraged to update your site on at least a semi-regular basis. Taking the time to add some new and interesting content, like a newsletter or a blog post, which will prevent your site from becoming stagnant, which can actually hurt your rankings. So to recap, SEO starts with having a live site. Once your site is live,

00:05:02:01 – 00:05:22:23

it takes time for search engines to find your website. Once found, search engines crawl your site. Once crawled, search engines index your site. And as time goes on, search engines will come back occasionally to re-crawl and re-index your site to see if there’s been any change in value or relevancy so that they can update their results as websites change over time.

00:05:23:03 – 00:05:49:11

This means that rankings are fluid and can change as people improve their website. Now that we know how search engines index their sites, let’s take a look at ranking, which inherently requires a searcher. Before a search actually occurs, pages are only indexed by search engines. Rankings depend on the search queries themselves. To start, the searcher will input a search query into the search engine, since this query is fundamentally a question,

00:05:49:18 – 00:06:18:15

the search engine wants to answer it. Well, how do search engines do this? Just like how search engines today are capable of understanding the content on your site. They understand the content of each search query or question. Once the search query is understood, search engines provide results that they’ve indexed that address the query best, meaning the content of the website that is most relevant and most valuable. Since search engines have already crawled and indexed the sites that they will show,

00:06:18:17 – 00:06:46:27

they just need to compare their understanding of the question or the search query to their understanding of page content, the results, and place them accordingly. This means that ranking is determined at the time of search. Factors such as geographic location, previous search history and demographics can all play a role in the exact ranking of sites. If a person from California is the one doing the searching, they’re going to almost exclusively get California results

00:06:47:03 – 00:07:11:04

since a state like New York probably isn’t relevant to their search. Now, ranking can also be done on either a site by site basis or on a page by page basis. In other words, your homepage is not the only page that will show up in search results. While your domain’s overall credibility is taken into account. Search engines index and rank each page on your domain individually.

00:07:11:13 – 00:07:32:03

This means that if a person is searching for an individual tax preparer, the search results probably won’t include your business bookkeeping page. All of this really highlights how SEO is a game of relativity, with search engines playing the referee and the players being you and your competitors. If you want to improve your rankings, then think about what your competitors are

00:07:32:03 – 00:07:56:16

relevant for and the value that they provide on their site. At a minimum, you’ll need to include the same type of information to match them in the rankings, and then you’ll have to have more than your competitors do in order to rank higher than them. And this goes the other way as well, meaning that as your competitors improve their sites, someone who presently ranks lower than you could surpass you in the rankings by making their site more valuable and relevant than yours.

00:07:57:10 – 00:08:25:15

So to summarize, ranking is determined at the time of search. The searchers geographic location, prior search history and demographic can influence what results are relevant to them. For example, someone in California probably won’t get results for a New York based firm. Each page on your site has the potential to rank, so your individual tax preparation page is much less likely to rank for searches about business bookkeeping and this means that rankings are dynamic and they can really change at any point.

00:08:26:12 – 00:08:48:13

So to wrap up, today we talked about how search engines work to provide results to searchers. In order to be found online, first you have to have a website. Then search engines have to find your site to know that it exists. And once they know that it exists, search engines have to crawl or read and understand the content you include on your website to know what you’re talking about.

00:08:48:27 – 00:09:08:11

Once understood search engines index your site in their database so they can refer to it when people do searches. And this process repeats over time so search engines can make sure that they have the most up to date version of your site saved in their index. When a person performs a search, that search query starts the ranking process. A search engine’s

00:09:08:12 – 00:09:32:00

goal is to answer the question that the searcher is asking. So it will scour its index for all results that could be relevant to it, and then it ranks those based on the value they provide and how effectively and efficiently they address the search query in the first place. Factors like geographic location, prior search history and demographics can all influence what is most relevant and most valuable along with the content on your site.

00:09:32:25 – 00:09:52:20

And these rankings can change at any point, especially since potential results are compared to one another. So your competitors can eventually outrank you, even if they don’t right now. And you can eventually outrank others even if you currently rank lower. As always, if you’re looking for an expert to handle the heavy lifting for you, we encourage you to reach out to us here at

00:09:52:20 – 00:09:57:00

Thank you so much for watching and we look forward to seeing you in the next video.