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Search Engine Optimization: Learn to Love Your Website’s Ultimate Hero

Updated: Mar 9

The letters S E O on a white background. Each letter has a different design colored on it.
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Search Engine Optimization. Known to most people simply as SEO. You may think of optimizing your website as a mundane yet necessary chore. 

But search engine optimization doesn’t need to be a dreaded task. Once you learn more about SEO, you’ll learn to love this powerful gem. It’ll become your website’s best pal. 

Ok…. we’ve established what the SEO acronym stands for.  But what is search engine optimization? 

People who work with marketing throw SEO around like it’s the national headline of the day. But as a business owner, you’d like to know more about how SEO works - without sounding dopey. 

No worries.

That’s what this article is all about.

I’m going to run through the basics of SEO for you. Then, when you talk to your marketing team, you’ll be in tune. And if you handle your company’s marketing on your own, this knowledge will boost your website's effectiveness.

Let’s get started.

Who Are the Search Engines?

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There are quite a few search engines available. I’ve listed a few below  - some you’re familiar with and others you’ve probably never heard of. Some may surprise you that they’re considered search engines at all.

  • Google

  • Bing

  • Yahoo

  • DuckDuckGo

  • YouTube

  • LinkedIn

  • Pinterest

  • SwissCows

  • Ask

  • TinEye

  • Gibiru

  • Seznam

  • Ecosia

Think of search engines like your local library. You go to your library when you want to find information. Libraries exist all across our nation. Yet, not all libraries have the same information. The same is true for search engines.

What Do the Search Engines Do?

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Let’s use the example of your local library again - aka...your search engine. 

Your search engine (library) performs a few steps to help you find what you’re looking for. These steps include crawling, indexing, and ranking.

As you read through these steps, even though the example is relating to your library, notice how each of these steps are relatable to your website.

1. Search Engine Crawler

For example, you ask your librarian to help you find a book about dog training. The librarian acts as the search engine crawler.

The spider, if you will.

The librarian “crawls” through all the publications and resources within the search engine (library). Once the librarian finds resources about dog training, she provides them to you.

The results from the librarian (spider) may be exactly what you’re looking for. Or the results may somewhat of what you’re looking for. Or the results may not be anything like what you were looking for. 

You may be wondering: Why would your librarian provide books that aren’t even close to what you’re looking for?

The answer: The spider librarian relies on how clearly and accurately the resources are indexed. 

2. Search Engine Index

Your library has made finding books a bit easier by indexing them. A catalog of sorts, listing every book and resource within the library (search engine). Before the Internet, libraries had card catalogs - a cabinet with multiple small drawers. These small drawers contained a reference card for every item housed within the library. 

If those reference cards were incorrectly labeled, or inserted into the drawers in the wrong place, the results would be insufficient. 

With the invention of the Internet, the database of search engine (library) resources is stored electronically. This makes the crawling easier but does not completely remove the potential errors. 

Correctly indexing titles, authors, and subjects is crucial for finding the information you want. If you’re looking for a book about dog training, it won’t do much good if the book you want is indexed in the category of gardening. 

3. Search Engine Rank

The Internet search engines have algorithms. Algorithms are a set of rules that search engines use to determine what results to display. These results determine how the information will be ranked as compared to similar resources.

Using the example of your library, the algorithms are comparable to the library director and library board members. The library (search engine) tracks the number of people searching for specific books. The library also tracks the number of times a book is checked out. 

The library director and board members review this data periodically. The results of the data have an impact on how the book is ranked. 

If a specific book is requested frequently, the book is ranked more favorably. The library director may order more copies of the book - making it more readily available. The book may be placed on prominent display as a popular request.

Conversely, if a book doesn’t get much or any attention, the book is ranked less favorably. The library director may purge the book completely.

You can see how indexing correctly impacts ranking. The book you're looking for may very well be a top-rated resource. But if the book is categorized in the wrong genre, the description is confusing, or the book is placed on the wrong shelf, the librarian won't find it.

Thus, the librarian won't bring it to you.

You won't receive the beneficial value of this book. It's likely to be incorrectly ranked as stale and useless. 

If your website isn’t clear to the crawlers, isn’t using appropriate descriptions, and isn’t indexed correctly in the search engines, your site may be considered as unimportant and unnecessary. Therefore, the search engines won’t show your site to potential customers.

Does SEO impact Crawlers, Indexing, and Ranking?

Screenshot of website impressions and number of clicks
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Most definitely. 

Your business website is essentially the “book” people are looking for in the library (search engine). Consider the following:

  • If you don’t have your business indexed correctly, the crawlers can’t find it. If the search engine crawlers can't find your website, your customers won't see it.

  • If your business isn’t being associated with what customers are searching for, your site won’t be ranked high on the list of results.

  • If your business isn’t continually engaging with your customers, the search engines may ignore your business altogether. Consider yourself purged.

The next logical question you have is how to make sure your website is at its searchable best. In other words - is your website Search Engine Optimized?

Enhance Your Website for Search Engine Results

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I need to back up a bit here and touch just a smidge on the algorithms I mentioned before. Every search engine has its own set of rules for producing search results. I’m not sure we’ll ever truly know all of the factors involved in algorithms. And even if we did learn the secrets, they are sure to change.

Not knowing the exact algorithm rules doesn’t change your business approach. An online website should be treated much like a brick-and-mortar building. The steps for running a successful online business can be simplified with the following:

  • Make sure your website appears fresh. If the layout is outdated, do a website overhaul. New colors, videos, and photos are great for perking up your customers.

  • Make sure your website shows you’re active and open for business. Add regular and consistent blog posts, emails, and newsletters, which encourage customer engagement.

  • Make sure to index your website and its pages correctly. Each search engine has steps for proper indexing of your website.

  • Make sure your website uses specific keywords and phrases that crawlers look for. Use keywords and phrases that people are already searching for. Add these pertinent keywords and phrases to your blogs and web pages. 

  • Make sure your website shows you care. Provide value with coupons, recipes, freebies, online and in-person events, links to resources, and a behind-the-scenes look into your business.

These are the same things you would do with a physical business location. You make sure your store is clean, inviting, and up-to-date with products. You hang your “open for business” sign in the window. You host sales and community events. You send out flyers and coupons to attract customers to your store. You greet the public warmly, invite them in, and share a dose of genuine conversation with your patrons. 

The townspeople see your business activities. They can clearly see what you’re selling. There’s no confusion about your products or services. They can see lots of people coming and going. They refer all their friends to you.

Do you see where I’m going with this? 

Search Engine Optimization is important for your business. Learn to love it. SEO is important to your customers who are searching for what you have. And it’s important for the search engines to give your customers what they're looking for.

Time to Review Your Website for SEO

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Now that you’re aware of how important search engine optimization is, it’s time to put your knowledge into action.

Check the feedback and parameters your website host provides to you. Chances are, if you were unfamiliar with search engine optimization before, you likely skipped some key areas when building your website. 

If your website host doesn’t provide this information, you’re missing out on key ingredients that set you apart from your competitors. You may want to consider looking into a new website host.

If you’ve hired someone else to build your website and post your blogs, have this person show you the reports for search engine optimization from your host. 

Check your website through third-party SEO reviewers, such as SimilarWeb or SemRush, to see how your website’s SEO is performing. You can also ask colleagues, friends, and family to review your website for their feedback.

Whether you’re starting to build your website, or you’re doing a periodic review, make sure to start with these basic steps for the best search engine performance:

  • Create an inviting and trendy website.

  • Index your website correctly. 

  • Engage your customers consistently with regular blogs, emails, and newsletters.

  • Use appropriate keywords and phrases that align with your business.

  • Show you care. Be personable and vulnerable to your customers.

The search engines are here to help your business thrive. They are your website's hero. But you need to show the search engines that your business is worthy of them sharing your site with the world. 

Your website shouldn't be a one-time construction event left to drift aimlessly in the Internet winds. Instead, your website should be a continuous flow of information, updates, and invitations for your customers. Using the knowledge and steps outlined above, search engine optimization will help you build valuable relationships with your customers.


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