How does SEO work? If you’ve asked yourself this question, you’re not alone, especially if you’re a small business owner. So many of the businesses I work with want to know how search engine optimization works and whether it can improve their bottom line.
Every time someone asks me this question— how does SEO work. and can I benefit from it?—I get the urge to take out the soapbox that I always keep handy and yell at the top of my lungs “YES!!!”
Just kidding. I don’t always have a soapbox with me.
Sometimes I forget it at home!
But anyway, I do think it’s important to address just how much businesses can gain from implementing an SEO strategy. Many small companies shy away from it because it seems so convoluted and confusing and it’s *literally* always changing.
What we need is a simplified explanation, and that’s exactly what I’m here to give.
SEO and Google
If we’re talking about SEO, then Google should be the first part of the conversation. After all, it is the search engine to end all search engines.
Have you ever had someone from a marketing company approach you and ask this question?
“I’ve got an organic listing on the first page of Google, and it’s reserved just for you!”
Does this make sense? Would Google, a corporation, allow this? Their goal is to make money, which means they need to deliver value while maintaining a standard of business ethics. Much of the value that Google offers is their implementation of organic search. What I mean by organic is that the results that appear on their pages get there through merit.
What are the chances that Google would sacrifice their integrity and risk losing public trust just to let your business get a top spot?
Not very likely.
But that’s not to say that Google doesn’t sell spots on their pages—they just make sure to tell you that these listings are ads.
How Does SEO Work? Let’s Break It Down
Among the services Google delivers are advertisements right at the top and bottom of their search engine results pages, denoted with the word “ad” underneath the result. Whenever you see one of these ads, you know that many companies had to bid for the chance to occupy that spot.
Directly underneath the top ad spots is the map that we’re all familiar with. This map shows the locations of businesses that match your search terms. For instance, if you type in “restaurants near me,” Google will show all the restaurants in your area. This is what is known as Local SEO, and I get into that here and here.
Then, if your search returns any local listings, underneath those results are the organic results. The goal of SEO is to put your site in one of these spots on the first page.
Google takes into account HUNDREDS of factors when deciding rankings for their search engine. But there are a few key factors that you really need to pay attention to when optimizing your site.
First, Google looks at the age of your domain. I like to think of this as a relationship—are we meeting for the first time, or are we old pals? Google favors established domains just as you might favor tried and true relationships.
Next, how close are the search terms that were typed into the engine to the keywords on your site? Google is invested in delivering accurate, helpful information to its users, so they want to return results that can help solve real problems.
This factor is the reason why the content on your site is so important. The more content on your page, the better your chance will be to rank. This is why businesses need to blog—because it allows for an unlimited number of pages on your site. In fact, most businesses’ sites get on the front page because of their blogs! All you have to do is think of exciting topics to write about.
Finally, your code needs to be impeccable. A lot of times, I’ll talk to business owners who are really excited because they built their website themselves using Wix or Squarespace. “It looks amazing!” they tell me. Well, it might be the best looking website on the internet, but because they used these platforms—which limit what users can do to optimize the code behind the content—they won’t be found on Google.