How do search engines work?

Chapter 1: SEO Basics

Introduction

Hey there! Welcome to IMG’s SEO 101 course. You have questions about SEO, and we have answers. In this series, we’ll be diving into all the components that go into SEO. Whatever your experience level with SEO, this module is sure to have valuable knowledge that will help you better market your business.

Consider this chapter a quick crash course to familiarize yourself with SEO, what it is, how it works, and why it’s a valuable tool in your business’s marketing arsenal. We’ll focus on understanding the broad principles and concepts here, and in later chapters dive into the more technical and advanced concepts.

What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?

Let’s start from the very beginning. SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. True to its name, the core mission of SEO is to improve the quantity and quality of your website traffic that comes in from search engines like Google and Bing. This is accomplished by optimizing your website and its content to be ranked higher in search results that relate to your business’s products or services. SEO is the combination of practices that work together to that end.

Now, that may sound all well and good, but how does that affect your bottom line? If you’re familiar with the world of digital marketing, then you already know every business needs to have a good website in order to stay competitive. But a good-looking website without traffic is just digital wall art in an empty corner of the web. You want search engines to show off your website to potential clients or customers. To accomplish that, your website needs to be ranked high for searches relevant to your business. The higher your site ranks, the more visible your business is, and the more traffic and potential customers your business is likely to generate.

So you can see how SEO, when done the right way, is an investment into your website – one that can pay great dividends over time. If you already have a website and want to increase your organic traffic, SEO is a natural next step.

How SEO Works

Okay so we know the goals of SEO, though to better understand what it is, we need to understand how SEO improves website rankings and brings in quality search traffic.

But first, let’s talk about search engines to understand roughly how they work.

A search engine’s job is to aggregate all the billions of potential links throughout the internet and somehow determine which ones to show. In that way, search engines are like a magic 8 ball that you shake hoping to find the answer to your question. Depending on what you ask and how many times you shake it, you may get different results. Thankfully, platforms like Google are much smarter though, and actually give you the answers you’re searching for.

But with so many websites and possible answers that are comparable, it’s competitive, and search engines need to rank websites based on how helpful they think they’ll be to people searching their platforms. That’s where SEO comes into play.

Core Pillars of SEO

To get visibility on Google, Bing, or any other platform, SEO requires understanding three core elements:

  1. What are people searching for, and how are they searching for it.
  2. How search engines organize listings and how they see websites.
  3. How to properly optimize your website for both search engines and people searching at the same time.

An example of all that coming together would be this very article. You reading this now is a result of good SEO in action. You most likely were searching for some info about SEO on Google when this article caught your eye. So, you clicked, saw it had valuable answers for you, and kept on reading.

Technical skills and complex data analytics are vitally important for good SEO – no doubt. But all that aside; this is the human part of SEO. While many people assume SEO is all about optimizing for search engines, and reasonably so, SEO is also mainly about people. After, searches are human-driven – people have questions and both you and search engines want to give them the best answer possible. Everyone benefits.

Your Next Steps

While SEO is straightforward on the surface, naturally it can get a lot more complicated. Like humans themselves, the search algorithm is constantly changing – so SEO constantly evolves to keep up with emerging best practices. SEO is an entire discipline all its own, with specialists dedicating a career to mastering it. But, with an understanding of the primary elements, you’re already on your way to enhancing your marketing efforts. We encourage you to keep up with this ongoing series for even more in-depth breakdowns of how SEO works, and the best practices we employ to help our clients grow.

If you have any questions about SEO that you need answers to now or are considering bringing in some expert help, please reach out! The IMG team is always here to help you and your business grow.

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