A Search Engine Optimization Primer for Marketers

For the majority of businesses, a large amount of traffic that you’ll receive on your website and other online channels will often come from search engines. Most of this traffic will come from Google, which is the leader among search engines by a wide margin.

What is search engine optimization? To answer that question, it’s important to understand what the search engines themselves are ultimately looking to accomplish.

According to Google, their primary goal is to provide the most relevant authoritative search results to assist their audience. Meaning, if I search for a particular search term, I can expect Google to provide me with the highest quality information possible regarding that search term.

Therefore it’s essential to understand what Google is trying to accomplish. Marketers sometimes look at Google as being a competitor, or a riddle that they need to decode. Trying to reverse engineer the search algorithm has been a quest that many have tried in vain to accomplish.

But the proper tactic, and more importantly, the proper mindset, should be to think of Google and the other search engines as your search partners. Since this is not yet your audience, your best bet is to learn how to play by the proper rules and give the search engines exactly what they need to be successful with their job.

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So if Google’s purpose is to provide the most relevant articles and the best results on each search for each consumer, then it’s your job to give Google whatever it needs so that your information and your expertise is available to them. That doesn’t mean you will be creating content and writing articles specifically for Google. But it does mean that you’ll be aware of the specific priorities and recommendations that Google makes so they can access your articles and information quickly and efficiently. Then when a search engine crawls your site, your content can appear for the appropriate search query in their search results.

Here’s another extremely important point. Search engines, and the algorithms that they use to help convert a search query into search results, are always changing.

Google search engine algorithms literally change every day. What that means is trying to create content or modify your website to reverse engineer a Google algorithm is a losing battle. A better approach is to find out what Google is looking for in general, and give them exactly what they need.

What Google Wants

Google looks for highly relevant, unique, quality, original content. First and foremost, your articles have to be new, and they have to be original. With the technology available to the search engines these days, copying someone else’s work is quickly and easily revealed. Therefore you need to be able to provide your own voice and your own expertise in your own unique and engaging way.

Whenever possible, it’s also a great idea to take a deep dive into particular subjects and topics that are within your expertise. The more in-depth information that you can provide within your range of knowledge, the better chance you’ll have of being unique and standing out amongst all the other potential information providers.

Another component that is essential for search engines is the concept of authority. If I’m searching for a particular question, I not only want to have in-depth, quality information, but would prefer that it come from a highly knowledgeable and trusted source. Google realizes this and favors content providers with a larger degree of authority within their search engine algorithm. Therefore, if an expert financial analyst writes an article about managing investments, their specific topic authority will have a much better chance of ranking high in the search engine output than someone with no background in finance who writes on that topic.

Identifying this authority by search engines is dictated by a number of factors. Two primary factors are back links from other websites to that particular article and the social authority of that author. This could include Facebook likes, re-Tweets, or any other sharing of links towards this content or by showing signs of approval across other social media networks.

The topic of whether social signals impact search engine rankings has been debated for many years. Google itself has provided mixed messages on this issue. However, here’s an excellent article on the importance of social media on SEO.

In any case, if you write a well thought-out and highly researched, valuable article about a specific topic and are successful in sharing that content with a large audience, two things may happen.

  1. There’s a good chance many of your readers will link to your article from their websites and blogs.
  2. Your readers may also share your article with friends across all their social networks.

When this happens the search engines are able to collect this data and determine that due to these factors, there is a very good chance you know what you’re talking about. When that takes place, your article will often appear closer to the top of search engine results for relevant keywords.

Keep these concepts in mind when you’re looking to optimize your content. By working with the search engines to achieve their goals, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving a consistent source of traffic for your website.

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