The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of optimizing a website with aim of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic sent to your website from the search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go etc.).
What Does “Good SEO” Look Like?
From a purely business and return-on-investment (ROI) point of view, “good SEO” would simply be a website ranking strongly across many (or all) of its target keywords and generating a significant amount of relevant and targeted organic traffic from the search results (at least enough to make a profit and re-coup any investment made in getting the website to rank at the top of the search results).
How SEO Works
At first glance, most people think that search engines work like magic. More often than not, if you search something on Google.com, pages upon pages of relevant and useful websites will show up. In a sense, it is magic, with an incredibly intelligent and fast artificial intelligence (AI) powered magician (the algorithm used to rank the results) working behind the scenes to show you webpages that exactly match what you are searching for.
So, how exactly do search engines find and rank so many websites for billions of search queries each and every day? Well, they use an algorithm powered by machine learning and AI.
Search Engine Algorithms
A search engines algorithm retrieves useful and relevant information from the search engines database of webpages and data (or “search index“) before ranking and displaying the most relevant and useful results as efficiently as possible.
By analysing, researching and understanding the factors that a search engine might use to rank the pages and information stored in their search index, an internet marketer can more effectively structure their website and online content to help it rank higher in the search results.
What Ranking Factors Make up the Search Results?
The first question that comes to mind when you realise that Google, Bing and every other search engine uses various factors to rank their search results more accurately is “what the hell are they!?”. Fortunately, many people have found themselves asking that same question and extensive research has been done to uncover what factors Google (and other popular search companies) use to rank their search engine result pages (SERPs).
Note: I urge you to check out Google’s own documentation on how search works. In various documents, webpages and talks (like the regular video talks and Q&A sessions John Mueller offers), Google goes in to detail on how website owners can help them better understand the content on a website (and where to rank it/what keywords to show it for).
So, the optimization part of SEO is just website owners, business owners and marketers building their websites and writing their content in a way that gives it the best chance possible of ranking strongly in the SERPs.
How to Learn SEO
To effectively learn SEO, you must have a good understanding of what a search engine is, how it works, what a successful one aims to do and the various factors that are (or might be) used to rank websites in its result pages.
The main bases to cover are:
- How to build an SEO friendly site (everything from choosing an SEO friendly domain name to coding your website in a simple and understandable way).
- Which type of content you should write (depending on your area of expertise, your business goals and the keywords you hope to rank for).
- How to start building an online reputation that allows search engines and, more importantly, your users to know they can trust what your website is about.
- Other areas to optimize (such as conversion rate optimization).
Quick SEO Glossary
- Search Algorithm: An algorithm which retrieves information from a stored data structure and ranks them in the most useful and efficient way possible.
- Search engine: A search engine is a program which searches for relevant items and information in a database.
- Search index: A search index is a database or “index” of information and/or data (you will hear us refer to the “Google index” which is Google’s database of billions of websites and a seemingly endless stream of information).
- Search engine optimization: This is what SEO stands for and is the overall process of optimizing a website with the aim of increasing the quantity and quality of the organic traffic it receives.
- Search engine result pages (SERPs): A page (or pages) of URLs, information and data relevant to a search made on a search engine.
- Entity: An entity is simply a concept of existence. In the context of SEO, an entity can refer to a person, a company, a topic, a keyword or anything you might use to search for or surface a relevant website or search result. You will want a firm understanding of entities if you start looking into more advanced SEO ideas and strategies).
- Ranking factors: Any factor or variable that a search engine uses (or might use) to determine where a website should rank in its search results.