What is SEO, And How Does It Work?

We know, we know—SEO sounds super scary and intimidating. It sounds like something you have to be an expert to handle, right? It definitely doesn’t have to be!

Optimizing a website for search is basically just the process of making it more informative and user-friendly. So while it does take a little bit of understanding, some ingenuity, and a lot of patience as you test and iterate, it’s something that you can easily master on your own.

And once you feel comfortable doing it, you’ll be amazed at the way it boosts your brand’s online presence.

To get you started, we’ll give you a quick rundown on what SEO is and how you can take advantage of it. After that, it’s all about your own creativity (though we’re still available to help you out if you want it—more on that later).

What is SEO?

Okay, we’ve all searched for something online, right? You go into Google, type in a couple of words or phrases, and get a long list of results. Well, SEO is how you set your website up to make it a good fit for being listed in those Google results.

Think about it this way: Google’s primary goal is for searchers to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily on sites that are pleasant to use so that they continue to use Google for their searches. You wouldn’t keep going back to Google if it sent you to websites that were poorly written, inaccurate, or spammy, would you?

So you want to create a website with content that is optimized for — or makes it attractive to — Google and other search engines.

 In other words, if you help Google meet its goals, then Google will help you meet yours.

How Does SEO Work?

Most people understand that SEO is about making good use of keywords—those targeted words or phrases that you know a lot of people are searching for. But how is it that you can use all the keywords you want and still not end up in the Google search results?

Well, Google looks at a lot more than just your keywords. Three big things Google looks at when determining search rankings are:

  1. Prominence
  2. Relevance
  3. Authority

All of these come down to the online presence of your business. A prominent business is one that’s known by many people. You can improve your prominence by gaining more Google reviews for your business, which demonstrates to Google that many users out there have had an experience with you (for better or worse—though, of course, you always want more positive reviews).

A relevant business is one that is closely related to the search a user is making. A florist and a baker might have content about weddings on their websites, but if a person is doing a Google search for wedding photographers, then neither of those businesses would be relevant—even if they have optimized their site around the word “wedding.”

Finally, an authoritative website is one that is trustworthy. Do you have links to other authoritative sites? Are people frequently sharing and linking to your page? These can play a big part in whether a search engine perceives you as a reliable source of information.

Because of all this, SEO is about much more than just having content that makes good use of a few keywords. You need to have high-quality, well-researched content as well as good interaction from the users who are visiting your site.

How Can I Use SEO?

Yes, SEO is a complicated subject. But before you even go about trying to get Google reviews or trying to encourage people to share your page, you need to set your website up for success.

Check out our top 5 SEO tips here!

Here’s how you start optimizing your website for search engines…

SEO and Content Marketing

At Till, when we talk about an SEO marketing strategy, we’re largely talking about content marketing—writing well-researched, high-quality, informative content that answers the questions your potential customers might be searching for even well before they realize that they need the product or service you offer.

Don’t believe us? Here’s an example our in-house SEO specialist Leah MacDaniel gives about how one business earned her trust through content marketing (we bet you have a similar story yourself):

I am a huge bird nerd. I have had people tell me that they had to unfollow me on social media because I post too much about birds. A few years ago, I moved to a different part of my home city, and noticed a lot of different kinds of birds around than I had noticed before, and so I went searching for the “best bird ID app.”

Then, after discovering the identities of these new birds, I went on to make countless searches about different bird calls, bird diets, bird nesting habits, bird migration patterns, what to do when you find a baby bird, what kind of bird seed is the best if you want to feed a variety of birds without having a variety of different seeds and feeders (#minimalism), and finally, the best bird feeder for getting as close to birds as possible to look at them without scaring them away.

During these months of searching, I found myself on the same small handful of websites over and over again. I came to “know” these different sites and prefer the writing style or site design on one over the other, or trust the information the third one gave more than the other two, etc.

One of the sites was a shop that sold, among other things, boutique wild bird supplies. They weren’t an app-maker, or an educational foundation, or a wildlife preservation fund, or a bird sanctuary or anything like that. They’re just a little shop that sells bird supplies. And when it came time for me to buy my weird little domed acrylic bird feeder, I bought it from them! Even though it was about 50% more expensive from them than from Amazon or Wal-mart or Ebay. Why? Because they had earned my trust.

After all of the free but super valuable information they had given me over the past several months, I felt confident that getting it from them meant I was getting the right thing. And, honestly, I kind of felt like I owed it to them after everything they had done for me.

Ready to create the kind of content that will win over you customers the way this business won over Leah? Choose your SEO keywords by doing research, and aim to use each keyword strategically  throughout your content. Remember to prioritize quality, so don’t fall victim to the misguided notion that using your keywords as often as possible (aka “keyword stuffing”) is the only thing that matters.

Want more info on crafting content? Leah has you covered—check out her amazing webinar she delivered for Showit, Blogging For SEO: It’s Not As Scary As You Think.

Don’t Forget About the User Experience

Once you’ve drafted your content, you need to do a few more technical things so Google (and users) can quickly and easily decipher what your content is about:

·  Use header tags (H1, H2,H3) to break up and structure your text

·  Put important text in bold to highlight the main points (and keywords!) of your content

·  Connect related content on your website by creating a web of internal links (just like we’re doing here—wink, wink)

Here’s a helpful tip: If you’re using a WordPress blog, you can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to help remind you of those more technical SEO aspects. And be sure to check out this episode of Brands that Book for more SEO tools you might find useful.

If You’re Stressing Over SEO…

Sometimes SEO is one of those things that you just don’t feel confident undertaking. We totally get it. It can be a long, labor-intensive process, and until you get the hang of it, your time and energy might be better focused elsewhere. That’s why many businesses count on a professional SEO agency, and it’s why our team at Till is happy to take on SEO for you. Go ahead and fill out an audit request so we can develop a plan that works for your business.