“SEO” stands for “Search Engine Optimization.”
This is the practice of optimizing content to be discovered through a search engine’s results.
In order to understand how to effectively optimize your website, we first need to know how a search engine actually works!
When you type a phrase or query into a search engine like Google, it starts an algorithm (a program that then searches all of the results to find the best possible matches). Google is very secretive about their algorithm, but we have an idea of how it works:
To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query—for example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.
Understanding the words of your query
Google has perfected its algorithm enough so that it can understand synonyms to words in your query. For instance, if you are searching for “change a lightbulb” it knows to include websites that may have the result of “replacing” or “exchanging” a lightbulb instead.
Google also will include in their algorithm whether or not your search requires fresh content or not. If you are asking for a dictionary definition? Not so much. But if you are looking up results of a sports broadcast, then it will be.
A particularly important dimension of this query categorization is our analysis of whether your query is seeking out fresh content. If you search for trending keywords, our freshness algorithms will interpret that as a signal that up-to-date information might be more useful than older pages. This means that when you’re searching for the latest “NFL scores”, “dancing with the stars” results or “exxon earnings”, you’ll see the latest information
What does this mean for your SEO on your website? Unless you are a news writer, it is likely that you will have what they call “evergreen content.”
Evergreen content is content that is continually relevant. It also usually gets more traffic over time. For someone like me, a web designer, this type of content would be discussing something like typography and how it can affect your design, compared to writing a post about the most recent update of a software program I use.
Understanding relevance and ability of pages
Another part of the algorithm is understanding how relevant other pages are to your search query. This will go beyond simple keyword matching (which is why keywords, although still important, are not as important as they used to be) so the old concept of filling up your website with popular keywords is NOT the way to do it.
These relevance signals help Search algorithms assess whether a webpage contains an answer to your search query, rather than just repeating the same question. Just think: when you search for “dogs”, you likely don’t want a page with the word “dogs” on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithms assess if a page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword “dogs” — such as pictures of dogs, videos, or even a list of breeds.
Understanding expertise of sources
This is where “page ranking” comes into play. The more that users with the same query click on the same website, the algorithm is going to consider that webpage an “Expert” in this style of source. Same goes with other websites linking to that particular webpage, especially if those other websites have a high page ranking as well. Google is going to consider that quality content makers will only link to other quality content makers.
This does NOT mean to add a huge amount of links to your website from other sources or build dummy sites to help boost your SEO standing. Google will consider this low quality content and will rank you differently because of it.
Understanding usability of webpages
Another part of the SEO ranking system is knowing whether or not a website is easy to navigate. Things like whether or not your content is viewable among a variety of browsers, whether it is mobile-friendly, and whether or not your page will load if someone has a slow internet connection.
Understanding how your location plays a role
Information such as the location of the webpage allows Google to deliver relevant content to your area. This is particularly important if you are a website that needs to promote itself to local clients, such as a bakery, or a restaurant.
For instance, if you search for “Restaurant” Google is first going to bring up restaurants that are close to you first and this is based on them searching for relevant information such as their address.
CJ Price is the owner and web designer behind Courtney Jeanne Price Designs. She resides in the quaint town of Chestertown on the eastern shore of Maryland with her husband, two children and two miniature dachshund pups.
CJ has been coding and building websites since she was thirteen as a hobby, and in 2020 decided to share her knowledge with others.
Her primary focus is helping small businesses succed online through brand building, web design, e-commerce, and much more!