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Do You Need SEO?

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Do You Need SEO?

How Search Engines Work

Google, Bing, and Yahoo seem to magically produce a wonderfully useful list of results when you ask them a question or give them a search term, but how do they do it? Search engine providers have special programs called “web crawlers.” Crawlers roam the servers connected to the internet gathering data about content and usage for all those trillions of pages. Sophisticated algorithms break down this data and classify each page according to the potential value of the page contents to a searcher.

When you come along and do a search, the engine decides, based on your search criteria, past searches, site and other factors, the most relevant options with which to present you. Can you go back to living without that? Most amazing of all, none of this costs you a dime.

The Algorithm

As one might expect, a whole host of factors go into a search engine’s algorithm. The algorithm is the heart of the search engine and perfecting its exactness and speed is the “Holy Grail” of the industry. Google’s ranking algorithm comprises over 200 components called “signals.” These factors find any given page’s value to any search as well as its overall validity. A good algorithm also protects searchers from malicious content and deliberately misleading content.

How Does This Relate to SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but it’s not about optimizing search engines. It is the science and art of using the inner workings of search engine algorithms to drive traffic to your site.  Optimization assures your site has what it needs to rank high in search results and ensures the measure and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

Quality traffic means attracting visitors who find the products and services that you offer genuinely interesting.  Quality prevents pointless quantities of uninterested visitors. Organic traffic is any traffic for which you don’t have to pay. Ideally, you are looking for lots of interested parties to come to your site at no extra cost per visitor. SEO aims to get you that.

How SEO Works

While Google’s list of 200+ signals overwhelms, there are some specific areas that improve any page ranking. Industry studies by SearchMetrics, Backlinko and SEO PowerSuite show the following areas are the most important in determining the ranking for a web page.

Backlinks

Backlinks are offsite links that refer back to your site and are one of the strongest factors in determining a site’s rank. This is because the more people who feel your site has value, the more relevant it is. Backlinks must have high ranks as well. Only one link per domain counts, so there must be a number of distinct sites linking back.

The algorithm determines the backlink site quality in the same way as it determines your website’s quality. Anchor text relevance,  content keywords, word number, and comprehensiveness are all factors taken into consideration by the magical algorithm.

Page Speed

Google has publicly stated that its ranking signal for page loading speed is two seconds or less. Speed is doubly important because it also affects another ranking signal of user experience. Slow pages affect whether visitors hang around to look (bounce rate) and whether they buy (conversion rate).

Mobile-Friendliness

Mobile internet use surpassed desktop use in 2016 for the first time since iPhone broke the mold in 2007. A web page not optimized for mobile phones will not rank in mobile searches at all. There go half of your results if you don’t have a responsive site. This becomes even more important very soon as Google plans to switch search results to “mobile first.”

User Experience

In Google’s own words, “searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives.” Satisfying user queries determines the results future searchers receive for similar searches.

Click-Through Rate

CTR is a ratio of times a user selects a result to the times the search engine presents the result. This ratio, though closely guarded by search engine providers, is considered by researchers one of the highest values given in rankings.

Is SEO Important?

A well-written site with lots of good information about your products, services and business will rank well over time. Tend it well and keep it up-to-date with authoritative information added in the form of blogs and information pages. SEO and a great content plan help to guarantee better rankings faster.

The Yellow Pages are dead. People look to search engines to find a mechanic or a carpet dealer or an attorney or even a physician. When you rank better in a search, you are closer to the top of the page.  Now you have a better chance of being the searcher’s new product or service provider.