A Simple Explanation of SEO and 3 Tips to Get You Started

The concepts of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), while becoming more familiar, are foreign to many businesses. As a small to medium sized business, you should be sure to understand the benefits of SEO and how it should be implemented on your website.

Effective SEO can help you get more organic traffic to your site that is also more targeted to your ideal potential customers. This can obviously have a large impact on your brand and revenue streams.

If you are not at all familiar with SEO, or maybe have dabbled a bit, this post will get you going in the right direction with a better understanding of what SEO is and how it can benefit your business. We have also included a few tips on how to get started.

SEO in a Nutshell

Internet search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo use many different methods and algorithms to sort through the multitudes of information on the web. Their goal is to find the most relevant and highest quality results. Search results depend on great content that is highly relevant to the searcher. SEO is an attempt to help search engines understand and evaluate your content more completely. Ideally, this will lead to being placed higher in search engine result pages.

Older search engine methods focused on keywords and phrases and were easily manipulated. This did not necessarily retrieve the highest quality content. Anyone can load their web page with keywords and phrases related to their business while not producing quality or relevant content. Newer search engine algorithms are much more sophisticated and focus on the quality of content to produce more relevant and valuable search results to their users.

Scrabble pieces on a table spelling SEO

In the Beginning

When websites began to flood the infant internet in the mid-nineties, the earliest search engines were developed to sort through the exponentially expanding information on the web. Early search engines such as Excite, Magellan and WebCrawler revolutionized how information was retrieved. Basic HTML, content keywords and backend optimization were used to sort results.

The process of backend optimization was very technical and a few experts charged exorbitant fees that most small business owners could not afford. Thus, web pages were filled with keywords and phrases that could not be seen by the naked eye. Practices such as filling a page with keywords that were the same color as the background and hiding links were common.

Growing Pains

With the onset of Google and Yahoo in the late nineties, SEO started to improve significantly. It was still a slow process to rank and sort websites to return search results. SEO specialists took advantage of these primitive algorithms and used what became known as “black hat SEO” to increase search rankings. This included devious tactics that were directed at search engines and their search method algorithms, rather than the human user. Aggressive black hat SEO tactics may have taken months to identify and adjust search index results to benefit the end user to obtain quality content.

In 2000, Google released their Toolbar which allowed users to access Google search from any website. PageRank was the feature that ranked sites between 1 and 10 (10 as the biggest SEO impact) based on age, keyword density, and inbound links. PageRank was used to gauge sites search rankings for years to come. PageRank is now defunct; however, it is still used internally by Google as a metric for page ranking in their algorithms.

Google and the other search engines update their algorithms constantly, sometimes, hundreds of times per year to determine a site’s ranking in search results. SEO needs to be continually updated as these algorithms are changed or a site will be left behind by all the major search engines. These algorithms also have been updated to punish or even eliminate sites from searches that use devious and aggressive SEO tactics. This greatly improves the average user experience when performing searches.

SEO Coming into its Own

Trial and error in developing SEO algorithms has resulted in a shift from keywords and phrase based SEO. Newer, user-friendly SEO algorithms focus more on giving local businesses and high-quality content the highest priority in search results. Major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo are working together to bring the end user larger and more relevant search results while also focusing on local results.

For example, the google search “vacuum” brings up 270,000,000 results. There is a lot of space given to local vacuum outlets. In fact, every listing on the initial visible area is a local place. These results are relevant because not many people order vacuums online. It is an item that generally the consumer wants to see in person before purchasing.

 

Screenshot of Google search results for the keyword vacuum.

 

Also, the organization of search data has also been substantially improved to deliver more relevant results. In this example of a local restaurant search, the results are segmented into the most common searches. There are convenient links to each section of their website addressing each question.

 

Screenshot of google results for the search term "athos restaurant"

Continuing Evolution of SEO

The evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had a large impact on search engines and their ability to increase the relevance of search results for the end user. Essentially, AI is used to learn from previous searches and refine the search engine to give the best results over time. There is no doubt that artificial intelligence is expanding the possibilities of search engine optimization. Thus, it is more important than ever for small business owners to be up to date with SEO algorithms and how they work to increase the rankings of their sites.

An increasing importance is being placed on mobile devices and apps for SEO. Average users are performing more searches on their mobile devices and moving away from traditional search engine queries on a desktop. With more technology developing everyday it is hard to predict the larger picture of SEO yet one can be safe to bet that SEO optimization will go hand in hand with popular technologies. Currently, these new technologies include Amazon Echo and Google Home as well as other voice activated devices. The average home has 8 devices connected to the internet and as we are more intertwined with these devices, purchasing habits are also changing. SEO optimization will evolve in accordance with these devices and present unique opportunities for small businesses to expand their internet presence and gain an edge on their competitors.

How do You Begin your SEO

As is the key to most business success, hard work applies to SEO optimization to generate the best possible traffic to your business. The more value your users find in the content of your site, the more search engines will prioritize your content over others. This leads to better search rankings.

For ease of getting started with SEO, we have 3 easy to implement tips that will provide a high Return On Investment (ROI). If you do not have the resources to allocate to a full SEO campaign start here and expand it as your company grows.

  1. Perform keyword research. Tools like AdWords Keyword Planner assist in identifying what is currently being searched for on the web. Understanding how your potential clients are using search is key to implementing SEO effectively.
  2. Know what title tags are in SEO. When you get your search results, you will thank us.
  3. Publish quality content. A recurring theme of this post is to create quality, relevant content that is valuable to your audience. Focus on user experience. If your content is valuable, people will read, share, like, favorite, heart, and link to your content all over the web. This social proof is becoming an increasingly important metric for search engines.

 

SEO and User Experience in a heart on a chalk board.

User experience is an important metric for modern SEO best practices.

 

Obviously, this post is not comprehensive, but we hope that it gives you an idea of what SEO is and how you can get started with a few easily implemented optimization tactics. These will provide a significant ROI and help you to attain your SEO goals.

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