SEO: Breaking down search engine optimization

Posted on December 16, 2016

Alright, first question: what is SEO?

SEO = search engine optimization. When we talk about search engines, we’re mainly talking about Google. There’s also Bing and Yahoo, but we all know Google controls a lot of the internet with their Google search, Google Adwords, YouTube and whatnot. They get to decide what to show users when they’re looking for something, which could be a website, product, video, photo, map directions, PDF, etc. so they’re basically the big boss controlling who sees what on the internet.

Like when I look online for new shoes?

Yup. Think of Google as a robot that reads and looks at every single thing that exists on the internet and when you search for something online, the robot looks at everything that exists and tries to find the most relevant information to present to you.

If you just type in “shoes”, the robot must decide which website you want to see. Is it cheap shoes, expensive shoes, boots, sandals, shoe reviews, shoe manufactures, shoe pictures, toy shoes, dog shoes, or perhaps you meant “shows”? That’s a lot of thinking for a robot!

That’s also a lot of power because as you can imagine, there are a lot of websites related to shoes on the internet and you’ll probably only look at a few on the first page of the results (SERP = search engine results page). So now you can see how important it is to optimize your website with SEO so the robot shows your website at the top of the SERP!

Yes, I want to be at the top of the SERP!

There is a massive, massive amount of content on the internet so the goal of SEO is to let the robot see that your information is the most relevant and the most popular so it will pick your website! This is how you “drive traffic” to your website with SEO.

So how do we show Google we are relevant and popular?

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and some of it is secret but they also announce big updates that will impact your SERP ranking. Having good SEO for your website means considering Google’s algorithm when you build, structure, and add content online so that the robot sees, understands, and shares it.

Ranking factors” include:

  • Is your content mobile friendly?
  • Does the page load quickly? Will users be willing to wait for it to load on their smartphone?
  • Is it talking about the right topic? Will it answer the users’s question and satisfy them?
  • Can the robot see and understand your content? Are your videos and images optimized?
  • Do other websites trust your content and link to your site as a reference?
  • Do people share, bookmark, and come back to your website over time?
  • Is your website easy to use, navigate, and understand?
  • Does your website provide direct, actionable information relevant to the query?
  • Is your website professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers?
  • Does your website deliver high quality, legitimate, and credible content?

Wow, that’s a lot of things to think about

Over the years, search engines have gotten smarter and smarter (thanks to smart engineers!) and today, there are hundreds (probably more) of factors that influence relevance. So yes, it’s not so simple, focus on having quality content that users want. Old, shady tactics like keyword stuffing and link bombing doesn’t work anymore.

Two main things to remember:

  • Search technology measures what people do: what they discover, react, comment, and link to.
  • Search engines assume that the more popular a site, page, or document, the more valuable the information it contains must be.

Why can’t the search engines figure out my site without SEO?

Despite amazing technological advances, search engines aren’t as sophisticated in understanding content the same way a human can. SEO helps the engines figure out what each page is about and how it may be useful for users.

SEO also helps the robot do it faster. When a person performs a search, they demand results instantaneously; even a one- or two-second delay can be annoying so help make his job easier.

When you think about it, it’s quite amazing what that Google robot can do!

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