What is SEO? And do I really need it?

The short answer: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and yes—you absolutely do! With consumers’ growing reliance on search engines like Google to connect them to products and services, search engine optimization is more than just a trendy tool for your business, it’s a necessity.

What does SEO mean?

Search Engine Optimization is essentially how you drive customers to your website or blog without paying the search engine to do so. With the right SEO implementation, you can optimize your website to show up higher in Google’s search results. Google, Bing, Yahoo! and all the others have mathematical algorithms that use a series of interrelated factors to determine relevancy and popularity to the search inquiry. This is how they determine which websites, blogs, and other links end up in their primary search results. The higher your position in the search results (called “rank”) the better your chances are of someone clicking on your website or buying your product or service.

The traffic you’ve gained from SEO is organic without the help of paid ads or marketing packages. If you’re familiar with searching for information on an online search engine, you know just how important it is to end up on the first page since most people rarely get to the second-page results. Good SEO implementation means you’re getting decent results without having to pay for them per click. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for ads at all. Let’s take a look at paid and unpaid ads and how they affect ranking.

Rank higher in search results

Once entered an inquiry into your favourite search engine you’ll be taken to a results page in a fraction of a second. During that time, the search engine has scoured the internet looking for relevant answers to your query. The results page is broken up into three sections:

  1. Paid ads to the side of the page
  2. Paid ads directly below the search bar that look like regular search results. There are usually 2 to 4 of these ads that have the word “sponsored” or “ad” next to them.
  3. The rest of the results ranked by SEO

Bing, Yahoo!, and Google will all obviously give greater priority to companies that have paid to be featured on the search pages. The search engines get paid based on how many people click it (a topic for another article). Immediately after those results is when the importance of SEO kicks in. A highly search engine optimized website or blog will show up immediately after paid ads which are still very high on the page. Every result after the first one is more or less deemed by the search engine to be less relevant to the query and so is ranked a little lower. Generally speaking, the lower the listing, the less SEO optimized it is for that particular search query.

What do search engines look for? Relevancy, Trust, and Authority.

Viewers typically will click on the first link that seems to be the most relevant to them (which is why paid ads are so valued) but are highly likely to scroll through the first page and pick one of the higher results. Those results are ranked that way primarily because of quality, trust, and authority.

Relevancy

Now Google isn’t reading every single article and critiquing its content for quality writing. It is, however, using algorithms to measure how relevant your web page is to the query. Keywords are a great way to measure the relevancy of your article and an excellent starting point to determine the quality of your content. Good quality content that’s relevant to what people are looking for is key for SEO ranking and repeat visitors.

Trust

Is your website trust worthy? Google actually enforces a penalty system to websites that have bad ratings or prove to be unreliable in other ways. This protects both the searchers and Google from bad, untrustworthy content. Google gets to maintain its brand image of providing good, pertinent results for its searchers and the searchers directly benefit from getting answers they can have faith in from a search engine they trust. If a search engine kept promoting bad, “spammy” websites every time you searched for something how often would you use it?

Authority

People want to hear from people and organizations that know what they’re talking about. Is your website viewed as an authority on the topic? Do other websites link to yours when referencing information? Getting a respected authority site to link you or building your own fan base that keeps coming back is a great way to have search engines rank you higher in the authority factor.

SEO is a complex subject that has hundreds of factors that determine how websites are presented. These main points are key in understanding SEO basics and implementing even just a few of these concepts can make a world of difference in your company’s online traffic.

Contributor: Jessica Gervais

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