What is SEO and How Does it Work?

Between working as a communications coordinator, planning my wedding and moving into a new apartment, there were days over the last few months that I could have used a break from technology, as I felt like I spent every waking minute on the Internet. Going through these life changes made it evident how often I trust Google as a confidant of sorts to provide all the answers I could possibly need.

Over the last few months, I’ve googled everything from how to choose renter’s insurance to the best songs to add to a wedding reception playlist and how to style a mid-century modern apartment. And guess what — Google delivers results that seem to be curated just for me EVERY TIME, but how?

While it may seem like mind reading or magic, Google searches through billions of documents that their crawlers have indexed to deliver the most relevant results. Out of the millions of results that each search yields, I rarely look past the first few, and it seems like I’m not alone. In fact, the first five organic results get almost 70% of all clicks.

If your content post doesn’t appear in those first five results — or at least on the first page — it’s likely that it will receive a very small number of views, if any. In order to be seen, it’s vital to make sure your content is developed with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind.

Ricky Bobby’s words never rang so true — if you’re not (ranking) first, you’re last.

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is defined as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”

There are a number of factors that influence the ranking of a website and moving up the ranks doesn’t happen overnight. Google strives to provide relevant results to consumers, so it’s important to develop a high-quality and engaging website that provides searchers (and crawlers) with the content they are seeking.

While the definition may seem cut-and-dried, understanding how SEO actually works is a little more complicated.

How Does SEO Work?

There are hundreds of billions of web pages on the Internet. In order to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, search engines use robots (or ‘bots’ for short) called spiders to crawl web pages and collect information about what is on each page. These spiders then follow links to other web pages to create an entire network of web pages that the search engine can reference. When a user conducts a search, a logarithm is used to evaluate each page for information that is relevant to that specific search through factors like relevance, keywords and backlinks.

Think about this — it’s a cool autumn day and you want to make an apple pie, but you don’t know what type of apple is best for baking. Before heading to the grocery store, you may search “best apple to bake with.” The search engine you use (most likely Google since it’s the most popular search engine) needs to understand what you are searching for in order to provide relevant results. Because crawlers have interpreted and indexed billions of pages, they are able to differentiate between an apple pie recipe and a blog post about an Apple iPhone.

Why Does SEO Matter?

Almost 4.4 billion people around the world are active Internet users. The Internet gives your business access to an enormous base of potential clients. If you’re content isn’t being seen, you almost certainly are missing out on business growth opportunities. Not to mention wasting your time creating content that no one reads.

Ranking higher on Google also helps build trust with your audience. Content that ranks higher is interpreted as more reputable and can position your business as a go-to in your industry.

While SEO won’t make your business a success over night, following best practices can improve your reputation and visibility over time.

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Mackenzie Arcuri
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What is SEO and How Does it Work?
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What is SEO and How Does it Work?
This article is a great starting point for marketers new to SEO. It answers the questions "What is SEO?" and "How does SEO work?"
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