Have you always heard that websites need to do SEO, but never understood the specifics? Want to be ready the next time your boss asks about SEO out of the blue? Here is a high-level look at what all of this SEO talk means.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It means that your website is built to work well with search engines. This means putting information in the right places, so search engines can understand what your website says and rank it accordingly.
With 80% of the worldwide market share, “search engines” here really means Google.
Wait, you’re saying I shouldn’t care about anyone but Google?
Pretty much. There are a few ways you should optimize to each search engine specifically (especially for things like maps or location-based searches), but Google is so far out ahead of the pack that everyone is functionally copying them at this point.
So how DOES Google rank things?
Google has always been private about the specifics of their algorithm. (An algorithm is a set of rules or calculations that help solve a problem.) Recently, however, they’ve shared that there are three main elements: content, links and RankBrain. Across these three elements, there are 200 different ranking factors, each of which may break down into multiple sub-factors and sub-sub-factors. Of course, Google doesn’t tell us what the specific factors are, so the SEO industry works (often collaboratively) to identify them.
What is RankBrain?
RankBrain is what Google calls a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps them sort search results. Basically, it is an engine that continuously learns from how users interact with search results. As it learns, it can make better and better judgments about how well users will like pages. This, in turn, informs their rankings.
Ok, so what about content?
Content is just that: any text, photos, videos, audio files, etc. on your website. A big element here that most people have heard of about SEO is keywords. As Google has advanced, it is less reliant on keywords, which has curtailed much of the keyword stuffing that was prevalent even a few years ago. But understanding your keywords is still a necessity in SEO. There are other things we believe are factors in content as well: things like how many words your page has, what kind of content is there, how that content is laid out (paragraphs vs. lists vs. charts), etc.
And links are just links?
Yep! In ye olden days of SEO (you know, back in the 2000s), the scoring was pretty straightforward: 1 link equaled 1 “point,” and whoever had the most points won. Now, a little more nuance is in place. Some links give you those “points”; others don’t. Links from highly trusted websites are worth more than possible spam-bots. Websites that are topically related to you are also believed to be worth more.
Isn’t SEO super technical?
It can certainly be technical, and there are plenty of optimization tactics that require an expert. But there are also many SEO tactics that don’t. WordPress and other easy-to-use CMSs (or content management systems, the tool you use to create and manage your website) have made it far easier for even a tech newbie to optimize their website.
So you’re saying I can do some of it myself? How?
Check out our new eBook, SEO Condensed: A step-by-step guide for small business owners, which will walk you through four key projects that will help you optimize your website. From measurement to keywords to optimization, we’ll walk you through the most important projects that you can do for yourself.