The Basics of SEO

Dec 14, 2020, Written by Danny Myers

The Basics of SEO

If you haven’t heard of it before, “SEO” stands for “search engine optimization”. By working on your website’s SEO, you are increasing both the quality and quantity of your website traffic through non-paid (or “organic”) means. 

Knowing your audience is key to SEO because, in order to optimize your website, you need to know what people are searching for. What good does it do you if you are the top search result on Google for a phrase that none of your customers are searching for? 

The other side to SEO is understanding how to set up your website so that search engines can find and understand your content.

How Search Engines Work

 Search engines are answer machines. They sift through billions of pieces of content and consider thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer your question.

They do this by discovering and cataloging all available content on the Internet (websites, images, videos, etc.) via a process known as “crawling and indexing,” and then order it by how well it matches the question or phrase. 

What Are “Organic” Search Results?

Organic search results are the ones that are earned through effective SEO, not paid for. These used to be easy to spot – the ads were clearly labeled as such and the remaining results typically took the form of “10 blue links” listed below them. But with the way search has changed, how can we spot organic results?

Search engine results pages – often referred to as “SERPs” – are filled with both advertising and more dynamic organic results formats (called “SERP features”) than ever seen before. Some examples of SERP features are featured snippets (or answer boxes), People Also Ask boxes, image carousels, and more. New SERP features continue to emerge, driven largely by what people are seeking. 

Search Engines Want to Help You

Search engines want to help you succeed. Google provides an SEO starter guide here.

They’re also quite supportive of efforts by the SEO community. Digital marketing conferences – such as Unbounce, MNsearch, SearchLove, etc. – regularly attract engineers and representatives from major search engines.

While guidelines vary from search engine to search engine, the underlying principles stay the same: Don’t try to trick search engines. Instead, provide your visitors with a great online experience. 

Basic SEO Principles for Google

Best Practices:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website to a Google employee. 
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.

Things to Avoid:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content (i.e. copied from somewhere else)
  • Cloaking — the practice of showing search engine crawlers different content than visitors.
  • Hidden text and links
  • Doorway pages — pages created to rank well for specific searches to funnel traffic to your website.

Providing relevant, high-quality content on your website will help you rank higher in search results, and more importantly, it will establish credibility and trust with your online audience.

Need help with your website’s SEO or other online marketing practices? Contact us today to get started: 

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Danny Myers

As a Digital Marketing Specialist at Crossroads, I am responsible for the setup, implementation, maintenance, and analysis of digital marketing campaigns, through SEO, Email, Google Ads, Social Media, and other digital advertising platforms.

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