SEO. The letters seem to be everywhere. From job applications, to resumes, to seemingly everybody’s skills section of their LinkedIn profile, to business tips, SEO has become a common acronym in the world of marketing and beyond. So what is organic SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization? How does it work, how are brands using it, and how did this simple acronym work itself into nearly every marketing conversation? We’ll break it down below.
If you haven’t already been clued in, SEO stands for search engine optimization. In layman’s terms, it’s all about taking advantage of the algorithms of search engines to ensure that when someone searches something related to your product or service, your brand shows up as high as possible on the search engine results page. And since everything has an acronym these days, we call those results pages SERPs.
Search engines have a mind of their own, but that algorithm-driven mind can be less complicated than one might think. Essentially, search engines want to show the most relevant results to the words being searched. So in just a split second, these search engines will analyze every web page ever visited and come up with the ones that are most relevant to the search, organizing them by their level of relevance. The goal? Make it onto the first page of the search results. An even more ambitious goal? Make your brand or product the first result on that first page. There are various techniques in SEO to help you achieve that goal, from on-page work like content optimization and technical SEO to off-page work like getting backlinks. And at the end of the day, all of these tactics combined can help your brand or website get the most exposure possible.
There are numerous ways to go about using organic SEO to rank your brand and product above others in search results. It’s all about proving to the search engine that your page deserves to be at the top. And a search engine will determine its worthiness largely based on relevance and authority.
This one is fairly self explanatory: the search engine wants to show you the results that best match what you’re searching for, the most relevant results. To evaluate relevance, the search engines look at things like content of a webpage and what other web pages link back to yours. So if you’re searching for shampoo, it’s not going to display results about showerheads at the very top. Instead, it’ll give you a list of web pages that are most relevant to shampoo, with votes of confidence from other relevant web pages that link back to these top results.
Another way search engines evaluate which web pages to prioritize is authority, or safety, of a web page. To determine safety, they’ll look further into those other websites that are votes of confidence, as I called them before. Are the web pages linking to your site legit? Are any of them government pages or academic institutions or other kinds of authority? These will place you higher in results pages, as it’s clear that your product or your webpage is trustworthy if the pages giving you that vote of confidence are also trustworthy. In contrast, if a bunch of web pages that have only been in existence for a short period of time are all linking back to your page, then that looks a little fishy to the search engine.
There are several methods to increase your relevance and authority and get your web page ranked high up on SERPs. This article could be the length of a short novel if we explored them all. So here, we’ll start with the most basic, and perhaps the most important, of all: keywords.
Keywords Are Key
At face value, keywords are the words you’re entering into a search bar when you click that “search” button. But in SEO terms, it goes further than that. In organic SEO, you utilize keywords to increase relevance and rank higher in SERPs. In choosing those keywords, it’s important to consider your customer’s intent. What goods or services do you offer, and what words might someone who’s looking for those goods or services use to describe what they’re looking for? If you’re selling distance running shoes, then people will enter searches with words related to running and shoes, obviously. But you can get a lot more creative than that to actually take advantage of SEO.
When thinking about keywords, you’ll want to consider three factors: the frequency with which your keywords are typed into search engines, the relevance of that keywords to your brand or product, and the competition, or who else might be using your keywords. The key to keywords is finding a perfect balance between specific descriptions and words that still have search volume. You’ll want to be specific to shake off the competition (perhaps by stringing together a few words to make a long-tail keyword), but you also want to use words that are still getting search volume. So for those distance running shoes, you may want to utilize keywords like “best running shoes for long-distance” or “running shoes for pavement” or “marathon running shoes,” and so on. This way you’ll show up in fairly common searches for a product related to yours, but you won’t be buried by the competition.
There are several tools online to help you conduct crucial keyword research, giving you ideas of how frequently keywords are searched and providing other keywords to work into your webpage. Google analytics is a good place to start for this, but there are several more. You can find them by googling something like, “SEO keyword tools.” Those are probably keywords for those services, and the best ones will show up on page one of your search engine results. Make sense?
So why is everybody so into SEO, and how does it really help your brand? First, if you do the research yourself, it’s essentially free marketing. You’re not paying for advertising, you’re not creating paid searches, you’re simply strategizing to make your page the most relevant page for your type of product. But beyond its low-to-zero cost, perhaps the most important benefit of SEO is that it provides measurable results. Since this all happens online, you can use data from your own website analytics that tells you specifically, with real numbers and accurate data, how successful your SEO methods are. When someone visits your webpage, you can see what they’re clicking on and engaging with, how many people are making purchases or signing up for more content, how long people are spending on your webpage, and more. The data that organic SEO can provide you with is invaluable and will tell you more about your customers and what it takes to gain customers than nearly anything else. And best of all, that data is yours for the taking.
This guide is merely a doorway into the world of organic SEO. From here, the various methods go far beyond just keywords. There’s backlinks, there’s multimedia use, there’s content optimization, there’s technical SEO – the list goes on. But a sound understanding of the goal of search engines, and a little thought into what it is your customers are going to be searching for is a great place to start.
So think about the last time you searched just about anything and made it through not only all of the results on page one, but actually clicked onto page two. If you do this regularly, you’re actually an anomaly. Most people browsing the internet stay in the easy and safe zone of Google’s page one. Why? Because somewhere deep down, whether this is the first you’ve ever read up on SEO or whether you’re working your way towards expert level to optimize organic SEO for yourself, you know that that second page is likely going to give you less relevant results than the first. And that, in a nutshell, highlights the importance of organic SEO. If you want the clicks, you’ve got to make it onto page one.