What is SEO? A simple way to understand Search Engine Optimization

Today I’m going to tell you about Search engine optimization otherwise known as SEO. I’ll break down what it is, how to understand it, why it’s important, and I’ll even tell you a simple trick at the end to make your WordPress more search engine friendly. Sound good? Alright, let’s get started.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Technically, it’s the act of optimizing your website so that it, ideally, comes up #1 on a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Overall, it’s how your website ranks and displays on search engines compared to other, similar websites. For instance, if you’re trying to rank for “Best Sneaker Store, Raleigh” – you’ll need to optimize your website so that a search engine like Google knows and understands that you are the best sneaker store in Raleigh and not your competitor. Therefore, your website will show up higher in the search engine results that the other shop.

Before we dive any deeper, I want to tell you the biggest component of SEO that a lot of people ignore – it’s not URL Structure, Site Maps, or even links. It’s PEOPLE. People, we talkin’ about people? Yes, people. Real human beings are using the internet to search for your products or services. Ignoring the people, well that’s like Shaq taking a three-point shot when Penny is standing under the bucket wide open.

You need to understand what types of questions they are asking, words they are using, and the type of content they consume. You might think your audience is searching “Best Sneaker Store, Raleigh” while this whole time they’ve been searching “Where to buy Nike running shoes?”

When creating content, you must keep the people in mind first and then you can worry about all the algorithm mess because if we’re studying the SEO playbook, 50% of the strategy is understanding your audience while the second half is understanding how to deliver the content in which search engine crawlers understand, rank and display it.

So, let’s break down the basics.

What is a search engine?

Search engines are like giant encyclopedias – loaded with information from all different sources. When someone inputs a search term or phrase, the search engine’s job is to deliver what it deems to be the most accurate piece of content that is most closely related to that particular term. For example, when someone puts in, “What are the best running shoes?” –  it’s the search engine’s job to provide the very best answers to that question.  They do this by crawling and indexing websites and then ranking them based on an algorithm, but we’ll save this for another day.

What are organic results?

Organic results are non-paid search results. They are the natural, or organic results that a search engine like Google displays that a website earns through optimization. Let me show you: If you search “Best Sneaker Store in Raleigh, North Carolina” – on the search engine results page (or SERP for short) you’ll see a row of sponsored ads selling sneakers, then map listings, and then below the map, you’ll see the organic results.

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, there’s one more piece to the puzzle. There’s also organic dynamic content. The best way to explain this is to again show you. If you search “Raleigh Weather”, the SERP displays a giant box with the current weather and future forecast all provided by weather.com. This box of content is being pulled in from weather.com and is always changing – but Google has figured out that this is the answer 99.9% of people are looking for when searching “Raleigh Weather” and it displays the information so that you don’t have to click and leave their search engine.

Today’s SERPs are filled with more ads and dynamic organic content than ever, which can make it difficult to decipher what’s organic and what’s paid. It’s important to remember that search engines make their money by paid advertising. We’re already starting to see organic results get pushed further and further down the page, but SEO should still be a part of your game plan in your marketing playbook. Which is a great Segway into my next point.

Why SEO is important.

Sure, paid advertising and social media along with other platforms can produce website traffic, the majority of online traffic is generated by search engines. The two most popular websites on the internet are both search engines. Google is #1 followed by YouTube. I bet you didn’t think of YouTube as a search engine, did you? If you don’t believe me, go to YouTube and try to find a video without searching for what you want to watch. (Mind blown)

Organic search results cover more digital real estate, appear more credible to savvy searchers, and receive way more clicks than paid advertisements. Think about it, would you rather click on a link that someone paid to show you or that they earned by being the best piece of content related to what you’re looking for?

SEO, unlike other online marketing channels, continue to pay dividends over time. If you produce a great piece of content that ranks well in Google, chances are, that piece of content will stay ranked (with some minor tweaking) for a long period of time and continue to generate website traffic for you. Social Media and Paid Advertisings need continuous funding to drive traffic to your website.

Like I mentioned earlier, search engines crawl and index the web in order to determine how websites rank on the results pages. We’ll dive more in to this in the next SEO video, but as I promised there is something you can do now to get the ball rolling – if you have a WordPress site, log in, click on settings, then reading and UNCHECK the box next to Discourage search engines from indexing this site and save your changes. This will allow your site to be crawled and indexed by Google.

Hungry for more? Check out our blog “Marketing is like Hitting a Baseball