Image of computer screen showing graph of page views due to SEO.
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Search Engine Optimization Demystified

Search Engine Optimization demystified. SEO has come a long way since its advent about two decades ago. As it stands today, SEO is an industry unto itself, providing jobs to hundreds of thousands — maybe even millions — of people the world over. Indeed, there is so much to be thankful for about SEO.

Image of the letters SEO made in coloured wool.
SEO demystified.

With the impact it has had over the years on individuals and businesses alike, you would think that SEO would be a common and widely-understood and appreciated concept by now.

That, however, isn’t the case. Many people and businesses still aren’t sold on it, and still think of SEO as some sort of sorcery that they can’t comprehend, and won’t touch with a 10-foot pole. What’s funny is that they say these things even when there’s overwhelming evidence that it can deliver positive results for any business in any given industry.

So if SEO is not black magic, what is it, and what does it do?

Image of man staring at computer screen, wondering what SEO is.
If SEO isn’t black magic, then what is it?


In case you still don’t know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. The “search engine” part of the acronym, of course, refers to Google, Bing, Yahoo, et al, while “optimization” is all about the processes and strategies that those in the industry use to drive organic traffic to a given website.

Now how does that benefit your business?

Search engines all have robots — bots — that routinely crawl websites for signals such as high-traffic keywords within your website content, title tags, and meta descriptions, and report the information back.

The search engine will then process these signals to determine who ranks for each query. The higher you rank in the search engine results, the better it would be for your visibility, making users more likely to click on your link and check out your website.

In other words, higher ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs means more organic traffic, which will allow a website to get leads and hopefully, conversions that will ultimately benefit the business.

SEO is not that simple

While the basic premise of SEO is simple enough, the process of optimization could get a little more complicated than that.

For one thing, there are many ranking factors you have to consider before you can even get a fighting chance of getting ranked higher by Google. If that long-standing “fact” about Google ranking factors is to be believed, there are more than 200 of them.

You have to take care of site speed, title tags, anchor text, backlinks, mobile-friendliness, content, and many other ranking factors to give your SEO efforts some teeth. Doing all these, by the way, takes a lot of time, effort, and patience on your part.

SEO is not a magic potion that delivers instant results

Image of computer screen showing graph of page views due to SEO.
SEO is not a magic potion.

If you listen to the pitches being made by some SEO companies to businesses who are hearing of this thing called search engine optimization for the first time, you will likely hear them promise their audience instant results, that their website will rank high in the SERPs within a week or two. And if the business is mystified by the whole SEO thing, they would either decline, or say yes to the proposal and pay good money for the services they are being offered.

The thing is, there is no such thing as instant SEO results. SEO is a slow, deliberate, and long-term process. It would take about four to six months for a decent SEO campaign to yield any kind of result. After all, your business likely has competitors, and they’re probably running an SEO campaign themselves.


SEO works, but not as fast as many SEO companies promise.

The new focus on user experience

There was a time in the history of SEO when there wasn’t much regard for the quality of content or how relevant or useful it would be to users. That isn’t the case any more, with Google itself becoming dedicated to giving users the best possible experience.

Of course, the usual ranking factors are still in place, but Google has underscored the importance of high-quality content and the use of long-tail keywords instead of the usual singular keywords, as they serve a user’s intent better. With Google giving websites that do their best providing the best user experience better chances of ranking high in the SERPs, SEO practitioners all over are now focusing on creating quality content, among other things.

The best types of content for SEO

Not a few SEO experts have tagged content as the top ranking factor in SEO today, and that fits perfectly with Google’s current emphasis on quality, relevant, and useful content.

So what types of content should you create for your website to get noticed by Google’s bots and ranked appropriately?

Image of book and paper on desk showing how content marketing is the most effective SEO.
The most effective SEO is content marketing.

Authoritative blog posts – Assuming your website has a blog, you can use it to write posts that can put you in a position of authority for your niche. Industry news about your industry would be good, and so would any opinion you have on such developments.

How-to articles – Countless people rely on Google to provide guides for doing certain things, from baking the perfect brownie to safely clipping a dog’s toenails. Write how-to posts about anything in your industry and help people get what they’re searching for on Google.

Infographics – Articles are good, and so are infographics. With an infographic, users don’t have to read through thousands of words to get the information they need. Besides, infographics are more likely to be shared, and that means backlinks for you.

Videos – If you think infographics are engaging, imagine how hooked people are going to be on videos, which account for much of web traffic and media consumption these days. If predictions that video content will make up 80% of all web traffic by 2020 are to be believed, then start making videos for your business now.

Lists – Readers, online or otherwise, love lists. As long as it’s well-written, engaging, and relevant to your audience, people will seek your article, and they will likely share it, which is always good for SEO.

It’s true that SEO can be confusing, and in most cases, intimidating. Its basics, however, are simple enough to understand. With committed study and practice, mastering SEO wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea at all.

Shawn Byrne

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