What is SEO and How Does It Work?

What is SEO and How Does It Work?

If you’ve used a search engine in the past decade, chances are you’ve been on the receiving end of search engine optimization.

Believe it or not, SEO is an acronym coined in 1997 by Bruce Clay, as:

a process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.

How SEO Works for the Customer

Here is a more layman’s terms example:

A potential customer in Tampa Florida searches Google for “pool cleaner”. Google, returns a list of businesses local to them, along with various details about the companies or listings based on a wide variety of factors and variables. They choose based on the ranking and quality of the listing, and make a call, purchase, or email.

Here is how SEO works for a potential customer on a basic scale in graphic format:

How SEO Works in 1 Image

How SEO Works for the Business Owner

Now, as a business or website owner, SEO still works the same way for you, but in the back end, you’ll need to spend time and effort optimizing and improving the ranking positions of your website through “search engine optimization”.

Here is how SEO works on a basic scale for website owners in graphic format:

How SEO Works in 1 Image

Although the Search Engines are continuously refining how they rank web pages, there remain two key elements that build a solid foundation for websites to begin reaching for higher ranking positions in search engines:

On-Site Search Engine Optimization

On-site SEO pertains to the structure, content and quality of a website.

This can include but isn’t limited to:

  • Website Code Quality
  • Website Content & Relevancy
  • Website Navigation & Ease of Use

Website Code Quality

Search Engines want to be able to crawl the web as fast as possible, and to help them out, many SEO guidelines include recommendations to improve the readability of your site by search engines. This means that the website’s code quality needs to be as good as the content quality, and visa versa. In addition to code, the website needs to have specific tools like sitemaps and meta tags to allow search engines even easier access to your website.

Website Content & Relevancy

When a search engine crawls a website, it determines the relevancy of it’s pages and content. Through headlines, paragraphs and image alts, they can identify the topical relevancy of a web page and determine it’s quality, which means your website needs to find the right balance of both keywords and content.

Website Navigation & Ease of Use

Navigation and ease of use has become an important metric for search engine rankings for a few different reasons, both helping search engines and user experiences as it tells search engines this website is doing it’s best to make navigation easy. Ease of use also refers to how well your website functions in the world of mobile devices, and how easy it is to tap and navigate through it, whether on an iPad on WiFi, or Android phone on 4G.

Off-Site Search Engine Optimization

Off-site SEO is the optimization of off-site factors and references to your website on the web.

This can include but isn’t limited to:

  • Relevant Industry-Related Referrals and Links
  • Company NAP Citations (Non-linking Citations)
  • Active Content Curation Through Keywords

This of course isn’t the full list, as Search Engines use over 200+ metrics to determine the ranking position of a web page, which means it takes focus and strategy to keep up with the 300+ search engine improvements they make each year.

Relevant Industry-Related Referrals and Links

As you’ve probably heard in your website owning travels, backlinks or referral links are crucial to search engine ranking positions. Probably the most complex area of search engine optimization, obtaining industry-related referrals and backlinks are a necessary part of any successful seo campaign. From guest posting, website outreach, sponsorships and more, website owners can build relevant links to their website that will never be penalized, as long as each link is legitimate and appropriate for both websites. Gaining these opportunities can be difficult, but with focus, deep research and persistence, you can achieve a highly relevant link profile for your website.

Company NAP Citations (Non-linking Citations)

Another new type of referral to a website that has come on the web recently in the past 5-6 years are NAP Citations. NAP, or Name, Address & Phone Number are text-based specifically formatted company information mentions that use Schema.org to identify and add to the Knowledge Graph and other search engine databases. These citations are crucial for local based businesses working within a radius, product-based websites that rely on reviews and ratings, or even photography based sites trying to keep their watermarks in action.

Here is an example of an NAP Citation’s code:

Here is an example of an NAP Citation end result:

Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware
A superb collection of fine gifts and clothing to accent your stay in Mexico Beach.
3102 Highway 98
Mexico Beach, FL
Phone: 850-648-4200

What is SEO and How Does It Work?

Active Content Curation Through Keywords

Another critical part of a successful seo campaign and ultimately a higher ranking website is finding new keywords users are searching for that are related to your website and create new, helpful pieces of content for them. This will allow your website to then gain more traffic from those new keywords, and of course improve the quality and size of your website as a whole. There are many tools online that help you identify keywords, be sure to check out our resources page to start using them.

That’s SEO and How it Works!

As mentioned earlier, SEO is an evolving area of marketing, full of constant research, adjusting, content creation and outreach. Search Engines these days look at over 300 signals when evaluating the quality of web pages, and each year they add more refinements and adjustments forcing you to stay on your toes if you want your website to rank well for your relative search engines.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve got a good idea of how Search Engine Optimization works on both sides, take some time to figure out your next steps. How much time and effort you can devote to an on-going campaign, and who you’re going to work with when you start it. Be sure to check out our New Website Checklist which helps you prepare for a new website or website overhaul, and then head over to our Basic SEO for Small Business Owners, that will give you a great head start on your next SEO campaign.

Learn more about our wide range of online marketing services or contact us today to discuss your online marketing efforts.

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