You can’t go far these days without hearing about search engine optimization (SEO), especially if you’re researching ways to market your business online. If you’re curious and would like a basic understanding of what SEO is all about, this post is for you.
A Formal Definition of SEO
This definition of SEO from Wikipedia may be a bit overwhelming at first, but I think it’s a good starting point:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.
Let’s break this definition down a bit.
The Visibility of Your Website in “Natural” Results
When you run a search on Google, there are two types of results: natural and paid. The paid results cost money and show above and to the right of natural results. Natural results are earned, and there are typically 10 per page.
If you own www.yoursmallbusiness.com, the website consists of all the pages on that domain. A web page is an individual page on the site, such as www.yoursmallbusiness.com/services.html.
The goal of SEO, then, is to make those pages show up higher in the natural results for the terms related to your business. By doing so you can expect more traffic to your website, and, ultimately, more business.
An Example: Automotive Repair Services
Let’s pretend you’re a mechanic in Delaware, Ohio. You have a website, and one of the pages on your site is dedicated to oil changes. When someone searches for “where to get an oil change in Delaware, Ohio,” you want that page to be one of the first results.
The SEO Process
As the definition states, SEO is a process. There are a multitude of things that impact where your web pages show up in search results. The two primary factors are relevancy and authority.
Relevancy considers whether your web page is actually related to the search. So if you’re a mechanic and someone is searching for ice cream, you aren’t a relevant result.
Authority is the search engine’s attempt to calculate what web pages are more important than others. So if you’re a mechanic and you have a competitor down the road with exactly the same website as you, which site should show up higher in natural search results for a given keyword?
Though there are literally hundreds of individual factors that impact your relevancy and authority, the general process for improving both is:
- Research the keywords related to your business (what are people searching for when they’re looking for your products or services?)
- Create great content that targets those keywords
- Encourage other people to share and link to your content (a link is considered a vote)
Why SEO is Important
As we’ve discovered, SEO aims to impact how well a website ranks on the search engine pages. Higher page rankings produce more visitors to the website, and the more traffic a site has the more likely it is to sell its products or services.
If you think about the way most people use the Internet then it all makes sense. When a person searches for something on the web, they type in a few words in Google and then a page appears with a list of websites. People are most likely to click the link at the top of the page and go to that website. The next two links generate some clicks also, but there is a big drop off as you go further down the page. Anything beyond the first or second page is rarely clicked.
Therefore, SEO is a critical component of online marketing. You could have the prettiest website in the world, but it’s not very useful if no one can find it.
So, how did I do? This is my first “introductory” style blog post so I’m curious to learn whether I actually did a good job of explaining things or not. Let me know in the comments!