Getting Started with Search: An Intro to Search Engine Optimization

by Andrew Vinas

Think of the last time you searched for something—it may have been a product, a local music artist, or a question like what time does the Domain close? A search engine like Google receives 63,000 searches per second on any given day. However, the average user won’t scroll past the first 5 listings on the results page. It’s challenging to gain search visibility for any business, website, or blog. This is where SEO comes into play.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website in order to increase search visibility on the search engine results pages. SEO focuses on increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search results over time. This optimization process involves continuously updating your website in order to make it more attractive to search engines. With the market, the competition, and search engines constantly changing and evolving, this makes SEO an ongoing process. SEO is never a quick-fix and if you want your website to survive in the treacherous waters of online marketing, you must maintain a continuous and regularly sustained SEO optimization game plan.

How Google Works

In order to fully understand SEO, you first need to understand how search engines work. Search engines use computer programs called web crawlers (or spiders) to crawl the internet. When they find a new web page, they add that web page to their index similar to an old-fashioned Rolodex.

When a user inputs a search query into Google, they are presented with various results. The search engines use an algorithm to determine which web pages get pulled from their index and displayed in the search engine results for that user’s search query. An easy way to think of the Google algorithm is similar to a process or set of rules to be followed when solving a problem. In SEO, the problems are the search queries and the answers are the webpages in the search engine results. The goal of the search engine is to provide the best possible results for each individual search. 

The Google algorithm that calculates search rankings is complex, ever-evolving and, unfortunately, confidential. This can make SEO feel complicated and overwhelming, but Google’s mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” will always stay the same. By taking a holistic approach to SEO, you ensure that the pages on your website help fulfill Google’s overall mission.

So the question we all ask ourselves is: how many Google search ranking factors are there? Although nobody but Google knows the exact answer, SEO experts have arrived on a list of over 200 factors used by Google’s search algorithm to rank websites and pages. Though 200 might sound overwhelming, not all 200 Google rankings factors hold equal weight. When owning a website, it pays (literally) to have a basic understanding of the factors that really do matter. The basic breakdown of the top rankings factors are: secured websites (HTTPS vs. HTTP), websites that are mobile-friendly, schema markup, content quality, content length, page speed, social signals, quality backlinks, image optimization, domain age, and user experience. Understanding which factors Google considers top priority can help you start the auditing process, reoptimizing your content, and getting your website to the top of the search results page. 

Search engine optimization can be competitive, but it is still by far the most effective way to drive sustainable traffic to your website. Research shows that websites on the first search engine results page receive almost 95% of web traffic, so it’s essential to have a website that is regularly updated to accommodate the constant changes of the Google algorithm and user needs. 

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