What is SEO?

What is all this talk about SEO? Well, before we get in on the conversation let’s do a quick web search.

Say we want to throw an impromptu birthday party for a friend and need a custom cake…today. We immediately get on the phone or computer and type “custom cakes Huntsville, AL” in the internet search bar. Before we have even finished typing, a list of results comes up. Where did this list come from? In most cases, Google, Yahoo or Bing, also known as search engines.

The important thing to note here is that when people need something, they search the web first and very few of them will look past the first or second page of results. What this means is that if you are in the business of making cakes, it is imperative that your business not only shows up on the list but also toward the top. This is accomplished with Search Engine Optimization also known as SEO.

The Mighty Search Engines
The search engines (the SE in SEO) are in the business of finding the exact information people are looking for. They have a reputation to uphold and want to provide information that is current, correct and relevant to what was typed in the search bar. Search engines gather this information through programs called “bots” or “crawlers”. Crawlers follow links and visit websites 24 hours a day, continuously cataloging information into a program called an index—a giant version of the yellow pages if you will. If your website has not been found or indexed by these crawlers, it will not show up in a web search. But don’t worry, it is never too late to be discovered. It is just a matter of shooting up a few flares.

It is interesting to note that different search engines will provide different results because they each have their unique criteria for indexing sites. Try it out. Search for the same item on Google and then search again using Bing or Yahoo.

The Order of Things
The order of results that come up in a search inquiry is not a random roll of the dice, quite the contrary. The results are placed in order of importance or relevancy to what was typed in the search bar. There are usually two types of results that will come up in a web search. The first results are those who have paid to be there through an ad. The ads are placed in a separate section at the top or bottom of the page and identified as such. The second type of results are those that come up naturally (organically) and placed in order according to a rating system. Who or what determines the rating? Yes, you guessed it, the search engine. The higher the rating, the better your position on the page. The ratings are based primarily on:

1. Relevant Content. The content on your website must not only match the information typed into the search bar, but also be an authoritative source of information. In other words, you have to know what you are talking about. If someone types in “air conditioner not working”, an article about troubleshooting air conditioner problems, written by an HVAC company, is going to be considered quite relevant. It is important to have content that goes into depth and really provides useful information. Content that just scratches the surface of a topic is thin and falls short of meeting the true needs of your customers. Here are some additional considerations when writing content.
  • Unique and original content. Don’t just copy what someone else has already written. Bring your own expertise and experience into the topic.
  • Quality content. When people have questions you want them to come to you. Become a trusted source in your field. Make sure your content is professional and free of grammatical errors.
  • Research. Back up your facts with the proper research and cite your sources.
  • Word Count. Content on a web page should include a minimum of 500 words and preferably 700-1000 words.
  • Answer questions. Address the questions your customer ask. This can include “How To” tutorials or “What is the best…?” Do your own ratings and product comparisons.
  • Keep it fresh. Provide up to date content on current topics and trends. Keep your customers coming back to get the latest news.
  • Go deep into the subject matter. Don’t be afraid to address technical issues or discuss in-depth topics. This type of content may not be for everybody but it will appeal to some and be advantageous in search engine ratings.    

2. Links. These are links to your site from other more prominent websites. These links give your website a stamp of approval and validity in the search engine world. Each link is like a vote for your website. The more votes your website gets the more search engines believe you have valuable information. Once again producing quality content on your website is the magic formula. There are many link building tactics. Some of which include becoming a member of an industry or community site where you can set up a profile with a link back to your website. You can even link to different pages on your own website. By linking from page to page on your website, you show search engines how the content on your website is related.

3. Mobile Friendly. There are already more people who access the web from a mobile device than from a personal computer. It is estimated that by 2020, over 2.8 billion people will use smartphones (over 1/3 of the world’s projected population growth). Smartphones are used for browsing because it saves time—and time is a valuable commodity. Search engines are quite aware of this and rate your site according to whether or not it is mobile friendly. Factors which include:
  • How quickly your site loads. A slow loading site with pages that are too big is not considered mobile friendly.
  • The size of the text. Can links be easily clicked and is the content readable?

To Optimize
How do you improve your place or rating according to the search engine? This is where the optimization comes in (the O in SEO). There are things you can do to draw the attention of a search engine. First, you have to determine what makes your business stand out? What do you have that people want? How are you going to make their lives better? Once you have determined that, you have something solid to build upon.

1. Create shareable content. Give your customers information they can use. For example, if you sell cars, have a page on your website that helps people know what to look for when buying a car, such as “Ten Things to Know When Buying a Car” or “What to Watch Out For When Buying a Car”. If people like what you have to say they will share the link with others. A search engine is on a mission to give people authoritative and interesting pages in its results. The increased activity of sharing links alerts Google that the pages on your website are important.

2. Create relevant content. Put yourself in the minds of your customers. What do your customers type in the search bar when they are looking for an item or service? Be specific. Here is an example of possible internet searches for a dog groomer.
  •  good - “dog groomer”
  •  better - “dog groomer in Fayetteville, TN”
  •  even better - “dog groomer for Yorkie in Fayetteville, TN”
All dogs are different and have different needs, just ask any dog owner. So why not narrow the search results and share some helpful information about properly grooming a Yorkie?

3. Page Titles. Having the correct page title is key to getting a page indexed by a search engine. This is where an experienced web designer can help. In this case, clever titles are not always the best. Search engines are looking for keywords. A page title should get to the point.

4. Page Description. The page description is the text that is displayed below the blue colored links in a search result (also known as the “meta description” or “snippet”). It should be a summary of what the page is about. The page description can influence whether or not a person clicks on the search result, so it is important to have the right words. The page description is another place where it is beneficial to have the help of an experienced website designer.

We live in the information age where consumers want to be informed and educated before they buy. Providing information and answering their questions makes you an authoritative source not only in the eyes of prospective customers but in the eyes of search engines, like Google, as well.

SEO is a constant process. It requires staying informed as well as checking and maintaining your website to make sure it is performing at its peak. Go through the following checklist regularly and address any problems immediately. (These will also affect search engine ratings.)

            1. Does your website have fresh content that is current, relevant and unique?
            2. Is your website easy to navigate?
            3. Are the buttons and links working properly?
            4. Does your website load quickly?
            5. Is your website responsive on all devices?


In today’s world, search engine traffic is essential for a successful business. Through SEO you can improve your ranking in search engines, draw more traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads and customers.

I Want More Information.