Put simply, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) involves doing things to make search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo rank your site higher on their results page.
Why is this so important?
Because the higher your site is ranked on the results page, the more likely they will click through to your site, because the search engines have qualified your site as being the most relevant site for them to visit.
The truth is, landing on the front page of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) is no small feat.
In a sea of billions of webpages, ranking among the top dozen or so for a particular search term is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of competition!
How Search Engines Work in a Nutshell
Search engines use electronic robots (a.k.a. bots, spiders, etc.) that “crawl” the internet constantly. This is what they do:
- Visit & revisit web pages. The term “webpages” here is a general internet term referring to a single page of content online. “Webpage,” or “page” as they are sometimes called, shouldn’t be confused with a WordPress Page or Post. In this context, both WordPress Pages and Posts are considered “webpages” or “pages” since they each are a single piece of content with a unique permalink (“URL”).
- “Index” (categorize & organize) the information contained on those webpages.
- File & store that information away so when someone is searching, it can be found quickly. (Imagine if all the billions of pages on the internet weren’t organized in some way!)
This is helpful because when you are searching for something online, this is what happens:
- You hop onto Google or another search engine
- Type in your search term or phrase (“query”) and hit enter
- Google quickly looks through the web pages its bots have indexed (see above) and gives you a list of search results that are, ideally, exactly what you’re looking for.
Google determines which search results to show you based on many factors. The exact formulas (“algorithms”) for these results are closely-guarded secrets and highly complex. And they change CONSTANTLY.
What Does this Mean for Bloggers and Website Owners?
A search engine like Google is important because when a webpage on our site shows up on the first page of the search results for a particular search, it is very valuable. It’s like a golden needle getting found in a haystack.
Not many searchers click over to the second page of search results. If your site appears on the first page for a particular search, it’s huge. It means more traffic for you.
So, website owners around the world are constantly trying to make their site more SEO-friendly so the search engines will show their site’s pages on that front page.
Of course, getting there won’t happen at all if the search engines don’t know your site exists in the first place. As I briefly mentioned above, when your site has been indexed, it means:
- Bots (spiders) found your site.
- They crawled through it.
- They figured out what your blog is about by reading your content.
- They organized, filed & stored the information about your blog’s pages in their gigantic collection of indexed webpages.
- They determine how your page ranks among similar pages on the internet.
So, What is SEO Again?
SEO is about doing everything you can to remove any barriers the bots might encounter during those 5 steps.
It’s about making your site easy to read and really attractive to the search engine spiders. If the spiders can move easily through your site and get a good idea of what it’s about without getting hung up on broken links or dead ends, they’ll remember you as a good source.
And when someone searches for topics you talk about, hopefully, the search engines remember to recommend your site as a source. And on the front page of the SERPs would be a major score!
Want to know specific things you can do to improve your SEO? Read my SEO tips here.