SEO Demystified: A Straightforward Guide to Ranking Higher on Search Engines
By: Lauren Hughes
March 29, 2023 | Content
You may have heard the term “SEO” if you run a website or post online. SEO (search engine optimization) means optimizing your content so that it appears higher up in search results when people look for something online. This is really important because you want people to be able to find your website easily.
SEO used to mean focusing on certain tricks to make your website appear higher in search results, but now it’s more about creating great content that people will want to read and share. This means you need to pay attention to what your audience wants and what they search for, and then create content that matches those needs.
SEO is an ongoing process that requires you to regularly update and optimize your content to make sure it stays relevant and useful to your audience. By doing this, you can attract more visitors to your website and improve your rankings in search engines like Google.
What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting a page to rank higher in organic search results by optimizing website content. Search engines are one of the main methods of discovering content on the web, which is why ranking higher in search engines can increase a website’s traffic.
Search results are presented in an ordered list, and the higher up on that list a site can get, the more traffic the site usually receives.
- For a typical search, the number one result will receive roughly 30% of the total traffic for that search
- Results 1-3 receive almost 60% of all click-through traffic
Because of this, many brands and website owners have tried to manipulate the search results so that their site shows up higher on the search results page (SERP) than their competitors.
How search works
Google and other search engines use algorithms to determine what pages to display for a given search term. These algorithms have evolved from the days of only crawling for keywords, they are now very complex algorithms that take into account hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of different factors to determine rankings – and on top of this, no two users will have the exact same search experience.
Why the term SEO is outdated
The term SEO, and how it is understood by a majority of people puts anyone who is working on a website in the wrong mindset, right out of the gate.
Website managers and marketers are often overly focused on building their websites and creating their content to meet “SEO needs”, but creating something just to please what we think an algorithm is looking for isn’t going to give users what they actually want.
It is far more important to remember that you are not making your website for Google. Google is not your end user. Google will not complete a purchase, subscribe to your newsletter, or become your customer.
But don’t just take our word for it – Google themselves take this same position.
Well, if SEO is out… then what do we do to help people find us through search?
The traditional aspects of SEO can’t be completely ignored, and keywords still matter. There are still foundational SEO attributes that search engines consider. The implementation of user-first strategies is also now vital to organic search.
If you build it (right) — they will come
It really is as straightforward as that.
If you approach your website content creation in terms of content discoverability and centering everything around what your users are looking for, the by-product of that is your site will naturally show up for the search terms/questions you’ve focused on.
How do you know what your users are looking for?
By following the secret formula, of course.
Identify your users + user research (researching the who, what, why, and how of their online behavior) = search intent
Users search intent + content that matches that intent = satisfied users
The most important thing to understand before you ever put pen to paper (theoretically, anyway) is your users and their search intent.
Once you understand your users and why they are searching a topic, you can respond with content that matches that intent. You can use tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMrush, Keywords Everywhere, or any one of the dozens of tools out there that assist with keyword/content research.
A more detailed description of these steps can be found here.
Successful SEO is not “set it and forget it” – it is an ongoing, long-term process
Oftentimes, people think SEO should be a quick fix. In this increasingly digital age, businesses understand the importance of SEO and content marketing; however, it’s hard to comprehend why a successful SEO campaign takes so long.
An effective SEO strategy may take anywhere between six and twelve months to implement. As with traditional marketing/advertising techniques, SEO requires ongoing maintenance. This timeframe is influenced by a number of factors, including:
The most important thing to remember when beginning this process is to be patient. Page optimization takes time even for the best pages.
Develop Content for People
That’s how we do it. From personas and buyer journeys to need analysis and keyword research, we develop a foundational understanding of what a user needs to help move them through the buying process. We then take this understanding and build content that supports a user’s ongoing needs.
The best way to keep users engaged is to provide valuable, meaningful content, which not only creates happy visitors (and maybe brand advocates), but will also provide you with great Google rankings.
Glossary of technical search terms:
- Index – Google stores all web pages that it knows about in its index. The index entry for each page describes the content and location (URL) of that page. To index is when Google fetches a page, reads it, and adds it to the index: Google indexed several pages on my site today.
- Crawl – The process of looking for new or updated web pages. Google discovers URLs by following links, by reading sitemaps, and by many other means. Google crawls the web, looking for new pages, then indexes them (when appropriate).
- Crawler – Automated software that crawls (fetches) pages from the web and indexes them.
- Googlebot – The generic name of Google’s crawler. Googlebot crawls the web constantly.
- SEO – Search engine optimization: the process of making your site better for search engines.
- Organic traffic – Users that come via search, and not an ad. In Google and other search engines, the results page often features paid ads at the top of the page, followed by the regular results (organic search results).