Search Engine Optimization  SEO

How SEO works

You might think of a search engine as a website you visit to type (or speak) a question into a box and Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or whatever search engine you're using magically replies with a long list of links to webpages that could potentially answer your question.

That's true. But have you ever stopped to consider what's behind those magical lists of links?

Here's how it works: Google (or any search engine you're using) has a crawler that goes out and gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all those 1s and 0s back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query.

That's all the SE (search engine) of SEO.

The O part of SEO—optimization—is where the people who write all that content and put it on their sites are gussying that content and those sites up so search engines will be able to understand what they're seeing, and the users who arrive via search will like what they see.

Optimization can take many forms. It's everything from making sure the title tags and meta descriptions are both informative and the right length to pointing internal links at pages you're proud of.

3 Things To Know...

SEO is about optimizing websites for search engines.

It’s almost 30 years since the launch of the first search engine, but plenty of responses still align with the more traditional take on SEO. That is, what coined the term “search engine optimization” itself.

These definitions of SEO explore the process of optimizing websites to best fit search engine algorithms, all in the name of ranking higher in the search results.

SEO is about matching searchers' needs to content.

Every so often, someone comes along and proclaims that “SEO is dead.” The thing is that since the field changes so quickly, they’re usually referring to an outdated practice that failed to work for them.

What is the field moving towards, then?

Here’s an interesting trend I noticed in the responses: aligning content with search intent and placing users’ needs first.

SEO is about strategy

Hold up a second. It’s kind of nice and all to put into words what SEO is, but what does SEO mean in practice? How does it fit into an actual business or marketing strategy, and why should you care?

That’s the final popular theme among the responses: going broader to address SEO in relation to business objectives.

This in itself is pretty telling of just how tightly interwoven SEO is with business development these days.