Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results.

People use search engines to gain relevant information from a reputable, or authoritative, source. This means that Search Engines have one job, to give the most relevant and authoritative results for the search terms entered by the user. And they make a lot of money based purely on how well they do that job.

The process of SEO for a website is to make the site an authority with relevant content for a given set of keywords or search terms. For instance, if we’re building a site for backpacking, our goal with SEO is to be an authority on backpacking with relevant information for the visitors to our site.

Relevance is how well does the content give what the visitor needs. If the visitor did a search for backpacking in Ohio, our site is not relevant if it provides information on how backpacks are made.

Authority is a measure of how valid our information is. Our information is authoritative if it is valid, timely, and can be trusted. However, search engines can’t gauge how accurate information is, so they measure authority by evaluating what other sites think of you; how many sites link to your site. This process is validated by rating these links by how relevant and authoritative the source of the link is.

In the case of our backpacking site; if a large number of backpackers blog about our trail guides then we can be considered an authority on backpacking.

Search engines continually crawl and index based on things like relevance and authority to provider its users the best results that they can. While every search engine is different they all lead the user to a Search Engine Results Page, or SERP.

These results pages consist of common components and sections.

Sections:

  • Paid results
  • Organic results

The results also have a common makeup, but will vary based on which search engine the user is on.

Result elements:

  • Headline: this is typically the title of the webpage.
  • Description: this is typically the webpage’s description or a section of the page’s content.
  • Visible URL: this is the URL of the page

It is becoming more common for search engines to return blended results. This is a method for a search engine to display a map, webpages, videos, and images on a SERP.

SEO is different from other strategies, in that nothing is immediate. We can optimize our content, html, website structure, but we will always have to wait for the Search Engines to re-index the site, update their lists, and page rank. With every SEO effort, patience is a virtue.

SEO campaigns consist of the following cycle.

  1. Execute strategy
  2. Research keywords
  3. Create content
  4. Build Links
  5. Resolve technical issues
  6. Measure your results

SEO campaigns are an ongoing, never-ending, long haul project. And because search engines are always trying to improve and return better results everything will change.

While SEO is meant to improve your rankings with Search Engines the end consumer of your product, or content, are people; the same is true for the search engines. This means that your goal should be to build content for people not search engines.