What is SEO?

If you have a website, or post content on social media, you have surely come across the term SEO. You know it’s important, but what is SEO?

SEO means search engine optimization. It refers to the content of a post or a web page set up in a manner that makes it easier for a search engine to find and categorize the information. If you follow certain guidelines, your content may show up higher in the search results than it would if you didn’t follow them.

Whether you create content or not, this overview of what SEO is should be helpful.

How do search engines work

The most popular search engine is Google. This should not be confused with Google’s Chrome browser, or the Google apps. The Google search engine is available at Google.com. Any browser can be used with any search engine. If you are using the Google search engine, you will enter your search terms in something that looks like this.

Other search engines include DuckDuckGo, Bing and DogPile. Here is a great article from LifeWire about the Best Search Engines of 2021.

Each search engine has a proprietary method for locating content, and for determining which content to present in search results. They also have their own algorithms determining how to rank those results.

The example below shows the search results for two different search engines, Google and DuckDuckGo. In both examples the search term was identical – SDM Foundation.

Google Search Results
DuckDuckGo Search Results

The search results for both contain the SDMFoundation.org home page, although the other web pages in our website are not the same. In Google the top results are all about the same SDM Foundation. In DuckDuckGo, the second result is a different SDM Foundation organization. The fourth result is an organization called SDMS Foundation. One reason for these differences is that Google stores information about us and tailors search results based on our past behavior. Because of this, Google knows that this SDM Foundation is most likely the one we are interested in, and the search results are displayed accordingly.

DuckDuckGo is a very privacy oriented search engine and does not store or use information about users. Because of that, they did not have any prior knowledge about our past searches for SDM Foundation.

How to optimize for search engines

In a future blog post we will discuss how a small business can optimize their content for search engines, but here we are providing a simple description.

The goal is to create content that is both easily accessible to search engines, and also can be categorized by search engines easily. Everyone wants their content to be at the top of the list of search results for relevant search terms. Knowing how to get there is hard.

Because the search engines each use different rules for ranking results, there is no specific way to always have your content rank at the top. Some general rules of thumb that make up good SEO are as follows.

  • Simple sentences that follow good grammar rules.
  • Content that supports the title, but does not repeat the exact terms too much.
  • Links to other pages.
  • Links from other pages.
  • Consistent use of markup (document structure).
  • Titles and subtitles appropriate to the content.
  • Appropriate use of keywords.

Within these general rules are uses and abuses. The search engines try very hard to idenitify abuses and remove them from the search results. This can also catch sites that are just not applying the rules very well.

Other resources

There is no magic bullet. If people click on your link when it displays, this will be a much greater signal to the search engine that it should display your link more often than any other action you can take.

Here is a link to Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide. This document provides some interesting Google oriented guidelines.

If you are a small business owner who wants to learn about SEO, you might consider joining our Facebook group SDM Small Business Tech Support. We also periodically hold in shop lessons for small businesses. See our lesson schedule here.

If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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