What is SEO?

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization.’ Webmasters are eager to help their websites and pages rank higher in the search results so they try to optimize pages to please the search engines. Ranking higher, of course, means more traffic, more visibility and hopefully more income.

Google Search is the most-used search engine on the Internet. Other, smaller search engines include Bing, Yahoo, YouTube and Baidu.

According to statisticbrain.com, during 2013 Google averaged around 5.9 billion searches every day. To get a feel for just how big that is, if you counted one search per second it would take about 188 years to count that high – and they deliver that many search results every day.

Google uses two basic elements to determine which pages to list in the results: relevance and authority.

They measure relevance using on-page factors such as keywords appearing on the page, (including how frequently they’re used), title elements, the heading and subheadings, and image ALT attribute values. They measure authority based on off-page factors such as the number and quality of inbound links to the page. They’re even using social signals – how often people like and share content – to help determine relevance.

It’s become almost a contest between webmasters trying to increase their website’s ranking and Google trying to find the best results for the users while weeding out the poor. Simply put, webmasters would do fine if they provided quality content with keywords used just enough to make it clear what the page is about plus encourage in-bound links that are both relevant and from quality websites.

Two problems with this approach are: 1) it takes time, often a long time to move up the search rankings and 2) because there are so many websites now, the competition is fierce.

Every so often Google updates their algorithm to improve the quality of search results. You may have heard of the updates nicknamed Panda and Penguin. Both updates caused major upheavals in the search results because some webmasters and SEO companies try to beat the system. Some of the techniques they use are termed ‘black hat’ because the bad guys in old western movies wear black hats. Of course, the good guys wear white hats.

When the algorithm changes, SEO gurus try to find what works under the new system. That’s not a bad thing if they’re also trying to produce quality content for visitors. It’s when they discover tricks and loopholes that allow crappy content to rank high in the results that it becomes bad. Google works hard to find these type of websites and they’ve been known to penalize them. This penalty is nicknamed a Google Slap. The website disappears from the search results. No more ranking, no more traffic and sometimes no more income.

In summary, SEO is not advertising and it’s not magic. However it does take work to develop something people are looking for and to encourage sharing your great website with other websites.

Did this help you understand SEO a little bit better? If you still have questions or would like some help, ring us up or send an email (even a carrier pigeon), ’cause we love helping our clients.

You might also like:

How Does Search Work?
Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
13 Tips to Optimize Your Pages for Google

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