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Updated Search Basics

Edited version of "The Complete Beginner’s Guide to SEO" by Courtney Seiter
To view the original article - click here

What is SEO?

If you’ve ever searched for something online (and most of us have), you already know more about SEO than you think you do.

Think about how that works: You put a word or a phrase into a search engine like Google (the main search engine we’ll talk about throughout this article) that describes what you’re looking for. Then you pick the result that seems the best or most useful for your search, from pages of results... sometimes hundreds or thousands of them. Check out Google's video that explains "How Search Works":




But there are a few different agendas under the surface of any search. Let’s say your search is for sneakers.
  • You want to find the shoes you want (so you can look cool/play sports/etc.).
  • Your search engine wants to provide you the best, most useful results (so you’ll come back).
  • And any business that sells sneakers – whether online or in a store – wants to be the first result you see when you search (so they can sell more sneakers).
  • Making all those "wants” match up is the job of search engine optimization. SEO professionals employ a variety of different strategies to make websites appear higher in your list of results and make it more likely that you’ll click on them to find what you’re looking for.
SEO is important for lots of companies because if people find you via a web search and find what they’re looking for, you can receive lots of new web visitors that can help you make more money. If people can’t find you in a web search, you miss an opportunity – and they might find your competitor, instead.

SEO is often part of an overall online marketing strategy and complements other tactics like social media marketing, content marketing and more.

What factors affect a search?

When we type something into the Google search box, there’s a lot going on under the hood. Google takes into account more than 200 different factors to help it determine the results for each query. No one knows all of the factors, but there are a lot of guesses – meaning there are many different paths to optimization.

Below the is a summary of Google’s excellent Inside Search interactive resource offers a small glimpse into the process and algorithms:



Let’s look more closely at a few of the major factors that we know Google takes into account as it considers your search.

1. Your question: The first thing Google tries to do is understand what you’re getting at with your query. It uses a technology called Knowledge Graph to help it better understand the nature of what you might be looking for, and whether it can best satisfy you with a definition, a list, a map or something else.

2. Your location: A search engine not only takes into account the nature of your question but also where you’re asking it from. For instance, when I put a query like "pizza” into Google, it does some thinking for me and assumes I’d rather have a list of pizza places near me than a Wikipedia entry about the history of pizza.
local SERPs result

3. Who created it: Google likes rewarding real people who write great content. One way it accomplishes this is through Google Authorship, which gives a special designation to authors who are verified through Google+. You can identify a verified author by the small photo next to their content in search results.

4. Your friends: Another factor search engines are increasingly banking on is each individual’s social network. "Social search” allows you to easily find content – like restaurant reviews, blog posts, photos and more – created by your friends and the contacts in your "social circle.”

5. How it got shared: More that using your individual social network to serve you personalized results, search engines also use social sharing as a signal to determine the quality level of a piece of content.

6. Your device: Finally it’s important for a search engine to understand whether you’re on a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone as it prepares to give you search results.

All these factors combined mean that my search engine results for a specific question might look totally different from yours, depending on things like who we know, where we are and what type of device we’re searching on.

When you put all the main components of an SEO strategy together, it looks kind of like this diagram.


Creating the tactics that support the strategy is tied directly to your expectations... and for most people, having thier expectations met is pretty high up their list of things to do. This is precisely why we spend time educating our clients about the reality of their specific situation in terms of SEO and SEM. We also help you understand what your intended results should look like and everything that can be done to get there.


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