How to Explain SEO:
What’s a robots.txt, and why do I need to care about my crawl budget? Often the best way to get to grips with a concept is to hear it explained in the most simplest terms possible. To make sure you properly understand SEO, you might want to hear how it would be explained to your tech-challenged mother. Here’s how you would probably have to go about explaining SEO to your mom (or at least, how I’d explain it to mine).
What Does SEO Stand For?
That’s a random question, mom.
SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization” and it is what businesses do to make their websites come up higher in Google search results.
For example, if you search for “online shopping” you’ll find that Amazon is one of the first websites that comes up. This is because they’re really well-optimized for those keywords and everyone does their online shopping there. Do you get it? Okay, good. Let’s move on.
So, What Is SEO?
Search engines “crawl” websites with digital robots (some people call them spiders). As they do this, they analyze the site, collecting valuable contextual data. (Simulate a crawl yourself here). They also have manual checkers who go out and police the web,
Here are a few things which search engines look out for:
- The size of the pages and the value of the content held on them
- The distribution of images and text on a page
- The links on the site to other websites
- The links from other websites to that site
- Whether or not contact information is available on the site
- Ads and monetization vs. user value
- What sort of titles the pages have, and how the site is organized?
These are just a few of the factors which will all determine where a website appears in the search results for different search words.
Fun fact: In the past, search engines were much less advanced. They’d base rankings on things like the frequency with which a keyword is used or the number of links that led to a site, but they soon realized that people could easily take advantage of this and that it was ruining the quality of websites (known as black hat or gray hat SEO).
What are the Benefits of SEO?
Well, I guess you can probably understand why coming up high in Google search results is important. People are going to buy from Amazon because it’s on page one. They’re not going to go to Gazza’s Dodgy Deals on page 46.
Also, the way that SEO works is that when people optimize their site, they’re also making it more user friendly (in almost all cases.) Search engines reward websites which have been designed with customers/visitors in mind.
So how do you do SEO?
Well, SEO is a huge area. There are lots of different things you can do to help your site rank. Off the top of my head:
- Update your website with fresh content to show that you’re current and relevant
- Put at least 300 words of well-written text on each page (preferably more) to show that you’ve got something substantial to say
- Get links from respected websites – these are used as a strong indication of a site’s quality
- Make sure that the title tags contain important keywords related to the theme of the site
- Make sure your website works properly and is well put together: no broken links, no glitched layouts, nothing that fails to load properly (use an easy store builder for e-commerce or build an SEO-friendly website in WordPress using themes and plugins).
That’s five very over-simplified summaries of the main areas of essential SEO work. Obviously, there’s so much to do for each of these things; I could probably give you five three-hour lectures on them if I were to give you all the details…
I Think I Understand Now
That’s good. Basically, search engines need to figure out the best way to order their results, and they do it by judging the quality of the sites in relation to the words you searched for. Modern search engines are all about focusing on USER INTENT.
And with that, even your mom could understand SEO. The general principles are not too difficult to get to grips with once you understand them. And, hey? Why don’t you try and explain marketing or your business to your own mother? Teaching others is a good way of learning yourself.
Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant & Freelance Writer.
I work with eCommerce businesses and marketing teams to create valuable content and targeted marketing strategies that yield strong results. Naturally, I know a lot about SEO, and so I am always happy to share some of my knowledge with others to help them get their own startups off the ground.