What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO – You’ve most likely heard of it by now, but like the majority of people, you don’t quite understand it. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically, it is the process of getting your website to appear near the top of the page in search results so when people are searching for your industry products or services, they will see your website faster and be more likely to access it.

This article will explain to you the importance of search, what is involved in SEO and why it is important. We understand that SEO is complicated so we are going to follow a popular reddit style—ELI5, which stands for explain it like I’m 5 years old.


Importance of Search

Search – It has taken over lives. What’s the first thing you do when you don’t know something or want something? Search it.

There are over 40,000 searches every SECOND on Google.

That translates to over 3.5 billion searches each day. Search has become so ingrained in our culture that it is imperative to have some sort of search presence on the internet if you have a website.

Now think of what a search engine actually does. It scans the entire internet to present you with websites that it thinks will be useful to your search. So if you’re searching for puppies, any website containing the word puppies will be presented in the results.

You’re probably thinking—okay there’s probably millions of websites with the word puppies on their website how does Google know which one to show? Hint, it’s SEO.


How SEO Works

Since there are billions of searches and websites on the internet, search engines need a way to figure out which websites present the best information for any type of search. So they developed an automated method of rating each website based on a number of factors. This is known as an algorithm. Every time a search happens, search engines use this algorithm to sort and rank the websites on the internet automatically.


Some of the factors that search engines use to rank how well a website relates to a search are as follows:

Is the keyword or keywords used in the search on the website? If yes, are they on the website multiple times? If the keyword(s) appear on the website multiple times then a search engine can assume it relates to the search.

Is the website accessible, engaging, and user-friendly? Think about your own searches – do you stay on a website if it takes more than 5 seconds to load or if you have to go through 10 menus? No, you leave and look for another website. Search engines take this into account by testing page load speed, website organization, website images etc. so they can present users with high-quality and easy-to-navigate websites.

Does the website have quality content and is it kept up to date? Search engines don’t want to show users sites with unreadable content or articles from 1999. They want to present users with websites that have fresh, well-written articles and media so people stay engaged and don’t leave the site right away.

Do other well-known websites link to this website? One of the most important factors checked by search engines is if a website has other high-quality websites linking to it. Think of it this way – you and a friend both want to go on a date with the same person. 2 celebrities tell this person that they should go on a date with you, and your friend gets 2 of his high-school teachers to endorse him. Who do you think this person is going to pick? This basically describes backlinks. The more well-known websites linking to a website, the better reputation it will have in search.

These are not all of the factors that search engines use to order their search results. No one knows the exact factors as search engines must keep them secret, but research has determined that these are some of the most important to consider.


Why SEO is Important

Now that you know how important search is and how SEO works, it’s time to talk about why SEO is important. You may be thinking—my website is pretty good, so even if I come up somewhere on the search results I should get some users. Well, you’re wrong. According to Smart Insights, 30% of people click the top search result on Google, 17% on the second, and 12% on the third. After that, less than 10% of searchers click any websites lower than third on the search results! So if you’re way down the page, you probably aren’t getting any traffic.

This is why SEO is so important. If you’re in a top search result for an important keyword or search phrase in your industry, you’re going to be getting approximately 30% of all search traffic. For example, let’s say you own a bike shop in Toronto. There are 5,000 searches per month for the search “bike shops in Toronto”. If you are first in the search results, you will have an estimated 1,500 users coming to your website. If you are anywhere lower than the third search result, you will have approximately less than 500 users coming to your website. Although the website with the lower number of searches may have better prices and better bikes, odds are the website with 1,500 users is going have more sales than the website with less than 500 users. This is why SEO is so important.



SEO Reality

The reality of SEO is that it is a complicated process and it is very hard to rank in the top search results for broad, popular search terms that have hundreds to thousands of searches a day. If SEO was easy, any person with a website could rank well, and search results would be a lot less accurate and helpful. Search engines are almost always going to trust big-brand websites over local websites because of their popularity, the amount of high-quality backlinks they have, and the general knowledge of what a big brand provides.

Wait! We didn’t mean to scare you off! You might not be able to rank for broad popular search terms, but ranking for specific, long-tail keywords is a lot easier and a lot more effective. Here’s an example. A user who searches “auto insurance” might be looking for multiple things. They could be looking for auto insurance rates, they might want to know what auto insurance actually is, or maybe they want to know why they need it. The search is too broad to know the user’s intent. However, if a user were to search “compare auto insurance rates in sault ste marie” then we know that the user wants to compare prices of auto insurance in Sault Ste. Marie.

The best way to approach SEO is to understand what market you want to target and focus on long-tail keywords that your audience is searching for. Sure, it would be nice to rank well for “shoe stores” if you owned a shoe store, but the reality is that you are almost never going to rank over big name brands. Instead, focusing on ranking for terms like “shoe store in sault ste marie” is a better investment because the search is a lot more focused and the user’s intent is well-known.



So now you should have a good understanding of what SEO means and why it is important. Although it has arguably the hardest and most complicated process, SEO is considered to have the best ROI over any online marketing strategy. Even a few small SEO adjustments can make a big difference in helping you rank for profitable keywords.

While SEO is considered to have the best ROI, other marketing strategies are still very effective. In fact, other channels such as pay-per-click (PPC), email, and social media all play an important role in helping with your SEO.

If you are interested in getting started, Moz’s beginner’s guide is a staple in the SEO industry and gives you a detailed guide on how SEO works. Want to know your website’s SEO score right now? Enter your website for our free SEO audit!

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