SEO Part 1: A Brief Introduction

 

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an integral part of creating an online presence, reaching new clients, and maintaining relevancy within your field. In this series, we’re going to examine how SEO works, the tips and tricks to mastering it, and tools that allow you to track your results and ultimately use SEO to find new clients and build your business.

 

What is SEO, and why do I care?

 SEO, or search engine optimization, uses organic search results via search engines like Google or Bing to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website at the lowest cost and highest efficiency. Effective SEO consists of high levels of online traffic from users interested in your products or services, provides an organic result to search queries, and strong content that attracts both searchers and search engine algorithms. To understand the importance of SEO, it’s vital to understand how search engines work and the role SEO plays.

 When a user makes a search, the search engine uses an algorithm that finds relevant and useful results, and ranks those results based on the popularity of the websites that provide the information. The algorithms within search engines typically assume that the more popular a website, the more valuable the information. The factors that determine the placement of a website within search results are called ranking factors. We’ll get into what ranking factors consist of later.

 You care about this because SEO is vital to growing your business and gaining exposure that you wouldn’t get otherwise – search queries and the traffic they provide can get you levels of publicity, revenue and exposure unheard of from any other forms of targeted marketing, and at an equally as exceptional rate of return. Especially since the majority of the changes you can make to increase your SEO are free, and simply require research, editing existing content, or making changes in your current website or online marketing strategy. Companies who have exceptional SEO have a strong advantage over competitors in visitors and customers.

 

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How It Works

Ultimately, the purpose of a search engine is to deliver relevant results to users. A concept we’ll be returning to through the series is that we want to build our sites for the convenience of the user, but so the search engine can understand it. Users typically turn to search engines to answer three types of queries: transactional queries that focus on wanting to do something like buying a specific color sweater or watching a movie online, informational queries such as looking up lyrics to find the name of a specific song or information regarding upcoming travel, or go queries that focus on a specific site on the internet like going to Yelp to find what to eat for dinner.

When designing your website, you want to make sure that your content can answer one of those questions clearly. This is extremely important because search engines, despite their sophistication, have serious limitations to what they can and cannot recognize. Problems generally arise when search bots have problems crawling and indexing results, and when they’re unable to match user queries to results.

Problems with crawling and indexing include:

  • Websites blocked by online forms like logins or surveys
  • Poor link structure
  • Non-text content (such as videos, images, Flash files, etc)

Problems with matching queries:

  • Terms that don’t match common search queries (ex. too much jargon)
  • When the content (be it language, topic, etc). does not match the location and culture of the people visiting your site
  • Mixed signals in your content via misleading titles or links

If your site doesn’t have any of these issues – great! If not, they should be a simple editing fix. Limitations aside, there are specific aspects of a website that search engines use when ranking websites. These ranking factors are characteristics of a site that user data, generated by algorithms, has found to make a site more appealing to a user. Sites that are:

  • Easy to navigate and understand
  • Provide information that is directly answers the search query
  • Designed to be accessible to modern browsers and software – especially mobile
  • Filled with content that is high quality, legitimate and credible
  • Trustworthy and authoritative 

will rank higher than sites without these characteristics. Later in the series we will explore the technology behind SEO, as well as provide tips and tricks to produce high-quality content and design.

 

Optimization

 Ultimately, optimization boils down to improving your relevance. Like I said earlier, we want to build our sites for the user (answering a transactional, informational, or go query), but in the most efficient and concise way so the search engine understands it. Two of the key aspects of optimization – technical SEO and content – we will discuss later within our series and in this section, we’ll go over a brief overview as to how we can optimize our pages. General on-site optimization consists of:

Visible, clear content – Your content should be aesthetic, easy to read, clear, and easily reached from different parts of your website. Every page should have new information, and titles that describe your content. Content should not be buried under medias like Adobe Flash Player or JavaScript, that search engine algorithms can’t see past. Again, we’ll get more into the nitty-gritty of content later within in the series.

Strong links and URLs –All URLs should describe the content and be clear, so algorithms can easily understand them. Links should connect parts of your website to others, and be easily understood by users and algorithms alike.

 Troubleshooting and adjustment – It’s important to track the impact the changes you make in SEO, as you want to see what’s working and what’s not, and how to maximize your success. Therefore, it’s vital to gain an understanding of the technology behind SEO, in order to understand the impacts your changes are making.

 

Conclusion

 With this series, I hope you can understand the importance of SEO and hope this introduction sparked your interest to begin, or continue, the process of optimizing your website. The results SEO can give your website are real and tangible and will make your website and products generally more attractive. People generally look for the organic search results at the top of the page, not the paid advertisements above. Even with tools like Google AdWords, SEO can only increase your rate of return, as it benefits the algorithms that work behind it. As we move forward, we’ll examine the technological aspect of SEO, how to make quality content and match keywords to queries in order to optimize and enhance your website for the consumer.

 

 

 

Sources Used and Related Links:

 https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/how-people-interact-with-search-engines

 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2018/02/28/the-first-9-things-you-should-learn-in-seo/#693433c730f9