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  • Jeanette Gates

A Simple Quick Guide to Understanding SEO

Okay, so SEO is a term that a lot of marketers throw around. Then, as they explain it, many marketers tend to put it in terms that make it clear as mud. If you are like most, you nod and pretend like what you just heard makes sense. We assume that it must be something that we need, but we don't understand it. So the investment is marginal at best. Secretly, we know the marketer did not quite have a grasp on it either. We proceed with uncertainty and lack of trust. Let us demystify this topic it a little and hopefully give you the trust you need as to why SEO.


More than an acronym.

Let’s face it, by now you know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. While that sounds like a big and fancy word, it's not as tricky as it sounds. Let’sbreak it down. First, the SE stands for search engine – think Google or Bing. This is where most of us start the search that ultimately leads us to a website. It’s how websites get found. Then what is “optimization”? Simply put, it’s the "act of making something as good as possible” (Cambridge Dictionary definition). So, by definition, SEO is the act of making your website as good as possible on a search engine.

Who decides? Let’s imagine that you have tennis shoes that you want to sell. You create a website and an online store. Your website is being hosted and ready for traffic. When a potential customer searches for tennis shoes, who comes up first? Who comes up second? Who comes up in the map section? Who comes up last? Who decides this? The short answer – the search engine itself. How does the search engine decide? Well, knowing that helps us decide what we need to focus on. What do searchers want when they start typing keywords into a search engine?

For years you’ve been hearing about “keywords”. If you have the right keyword, you can be found. Yes, this is true, but things have really changed. There are a couple of simple concepts you want to think about when trying to maximize your SEO. Failure to do this means a website that you have put a lot of work into that few people see. In other words, you have a Ferrari, and it stays locked in a dark garage.

Beyond keywords, search engines ultimately rely on providing the user the RIGHT content for his or her search. To do that, your website needs to be relevant to what people are looking for. Most of this work is done on the backend. One of the most frustrating things about SEO for most people is that you cannot see it. For example, if your website only mentions tennis shoes, you may not be seen as the most relevant if you also carry cowboy boots. It’s important that your keywords encompass all parts of your website. But keep this in mind, search engines are smarter than ever. Most of us do not search by keywords, we search by phrases, ideas, and sometimes full questions. So, keywords can go beyond just one word.These are the things that good marketers understand. Beyond Keywords

So what else is important to search engines? Remember, search engines want to give users the right content. This means being close to the searcher can be important. How would you feel if you searched for a dry cleaner and the search engine gave you 3 options 40 miles away? You probably would not feel good about that experience. In addition to being local, they really want to see you as an authority on the subject. As an example, one mention of dry cleaning on your website does not give the search engine confidence you are the best one to serve up first. So how do you get this authority?

Are you who you say you are?

There are ways to build authority – it's not quick, however. Backlinks, resource pages, blogs and even speed can all be contributing factors. Let’s break these down.

  • Backlinks – simply put, they are links from one website to another. Search engines love these because it gives confidence that you are who you say you are. Backlinks can be one of the most important elements to optimizing your website.

  • Resource pages/blogs - This is another important element. Why? Because if written well, this content can be found OUTSIDE of your website during a search. As an example, you may ask a search engine “how to apply for scholarships”? That search leads you to an article that is on a major university’s website. Now, you’re on a website that you did not actually search for. Relevant content in the form of articles or resources are another important element to SEO; much like what we have done here.

  • Speed – this is an element of SEO that most do not often think about, but it’s crucial. Have you ever been on your phone and the website is taking too long to load? First you try to reload it. Next, you will find another website. It’s frustrating – and search engines do not want searchers to feel frustration. If your website is slow to load (and believe me, they know), you are not going to be a desirable option to serve up – even if you are local, have authority and great content. While it is not a deal breaker, think about your prospective readers and/or clients.

Can I just do it myself?

You can try. Remember it’s an ever-changing algorithm and it’s not designed to be easy. Fifteen years ago, a few good keywords and backlinks would get you a top ranking. Today, it is much more complicated. Honestly, it’s also challenging for marketers to stay on top of and execute. Of course, there are software programs out there that claim to have the answers, but believe me, there are no magic tricks. So, can you do it yourself? Debatable. Just understand that you could work on it for a year and see no changes in your ranking. It’s a tough world out there and there are professionals that can help you tackle this.

A Final Word on SEO

We’ve referenced it already, but why buy a Ferrari and leave it in a parked garage. Let’s pull it out of the garage for all your neighbors to see. There are a lot of elements that decide how many people see your prized possession and a good SEO strategy can provide a road map to success. Whether it’s strong content, relevant backlinks, long tailed keywords or a local edge, SEO is an important concept to understand as you look to grow your digital presence. We could dive deeper (hyperlinks, deeper technical SEO, social, etc), but we’ll save that for another blog. We need SEO after all, if we want the right traffic coming to our website.


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