SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, is an important part of building a strong online presence for your brand. But most people have no idea what it is! In truth, defining SEO is pretty simple when you take out all the technical jargon and turn it into something fun.
What Search Engines Do & You
When someone searches on a search engine like Google, Bing, or Ask, there’s an inner working deep inside the search engine that allows the engine to gather together the results in thousandths of a second. While I could easily spend an entire article about how search engines work and promise to do so in the future, there is only thing you absolutely need to know to understand what SEO means.
Search engines rank websites based on a number of factors to give the best results for each search in descending order.
Imagine you’re at an ice cream parlor and you want something decadent and chocolate so you ask for recommendations. They have a bunch of different kinds of chocolate ice cream to suit different tastes and list them off, noting which one will probably be the best for a decadent chocolate experience. Behind the scenes, they’ve made sure to find the right flavors, test them, store them, and other tasks. Your experience, however, has none of that background and is only a seamless interaction of request and result. Search engines work the same way with “finding,” “testing” and “storing” website information and presenting a seamless interaction with users.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors in a set of rules, called an algorithm, to rank websites. They actually file patents on the ideas behind their algorithm! Other search engines use a similar methodology, though each one differs. Think of all search engines as ice cream stores—they all have the same foundations of how they make ice cream but the resulting taste is different because the ingredients and slight variations in how they make it.
Search is becoming more individualized—a search by one person isn’t the same as someone else searching for the same thing! When you Google yourself, you’re not necessarily seeing the same thing as someone else. It’s sort of like Google predicting which mix-ins you’d like in your sundae based on who you’re friends with and what other things you’ve liked before. Your friend posted on G+ about how amazing some caramel was and you looked at websites about sprinkles. How about sprinkles and caramel with your ice cream?
These algorithms change constantly and are a moving target. That means if you’re trying to game the system, you’ll get caught eventually. It also means keeping up with changes can be difficult. However, if you’re doing things above-board, you likely won’t even notice algorithm changes.
What does SEO mean?
Websites are ranked on two main groupings of factors: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page are the things on your website, like spelling and grammar, images, and technical things like the coding. Off-page are the things off you website pointing to it, like links on other websites and social media shares of your website. I discussed this further in a recent post over at Elembee about the basics of SEO for blogging.
For instance, an that crazy rolled up ice cream taking social media by storm might be hyped in conversation or on social media as the most amazing thing ever and that might influence opinions about the ice cream type—this would be the off-page SEO. The experience of the ice cream, like the ingredients, the packaging, and the taste and texture, also influences opinion—this would be the on-page SEO.
SEO is the process of making your website more successful in search results.
When you apply this definition to ice cream, you can easily see where it fits into marketing. SEO is marketing to a search engine by thinking about how they serve humans.
If you’re selling ice cream, you want it to have great press, on-fire word of mouth, and amazing social media shares. You also want your product to live up to the hype and provide the most amazing ice cream experience ever. It’s what we look for in marketing—and it’s what search engines look for in websites.
SEO is not the scary beast most people think it is when you simplify it down!