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Intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For those new to SEO, learn about the core concepts that dictate organic search success, and how to formulate your own digital strategy.

Sam Smith avatar
Written by Sam Smith
Updated over a week ago

Demandwell is the platform that facilitates all aspects of Search Engine Optimization into one single pane of glass. SEO is a complicated practice that requires the alignment of your website, digital content and external sources. It’s an ever-changing marketing tactic as well, based on thousands of other sites online publishing content in the hopes of ranking better for the same keywords. To win at SEO, you must first understand what it takes to win with content online and outmaneuver your competition.

What is SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the process of refining your website to adhere to the standards of Google, so that you may rank for targeted keywords.

When a user types in “Tennis Shoes” into Google, the sites that appear first on the search engine results page (SERP) get the majority of clicks, traffic, and conversions. In order to rank overall for the term “Tennis Shoes” requires content on your site about the topic itself. But to rank #1 overall for the term, above every other website, takes a lot of work, content, and optimization.

To understand what’s available throughout the entire internet, Google has created programs called Spiders (or bots, crawlers, etc) that travel to every domain, every page, and every URL on every live website. There they read the content and information, and gain an understanding of what subject matter is on your domain.

Google’s algorithm is designed to take into consideration everything on a website, and assign a score for relevance on a keyword or topic. This then allows Google to rank all sites for the keywords typed in.

Google’s Algorithm

For SEO’s, Google’s algorithm is the only thing to pay attention to for optimization. That’s because over 90% of online searches occur through Google.

In order to rank as high as possible for a given keyword, you have to prove to Google that your website is relevant for that keyword, AND more relevant than other websites with similar content.

Google’s algorithm has evolved over the years, to include a variety of scoring criteria to help quantify what sites are the most relevant for keywords. Some of these algorithm criteria were out of necessity, to curb site admins from trying to manipulate results. Other criteria were incorporated to ensure users landed on the best websites possible.

Today, to win at SEO, marketers must align their website’s code and content to adhere to all these criteria. Your website must be coded so bots may access and read its information, friendly for users as well, and rich with content about a certain topic. Doing so correctly means ranking for more keywords overall, and generating more traffic from organic searchers.

Technical Site Performance

Your site’s code is critical for online experience, both for users and Google’s spiders. Spiders must be able to load your website, and quickly pull structured content to add your pages to its Index. These programs have to crawl literally every website, every day, so a slow experience, or one that isn’t conducive to understanding your site’s information, means you could be losing out on keyword value.

Part of SEO is ensuring all the technical components of your website are working correctly. Conducting audits of your site’s code ensures all items are addressed, and your site is performing well enough to rank for your target keywords. One critical error could mean none of your pages show up in Google, and you are missing out on traffic!

For more information on technical SEO, click here.

Content For Humans and Content For Bots

Digital content provides contextual information about a page and website, both to bots and users. People will read content quickly and click from page to page to find what they’re looking for. Bots operate similarly, but they can download all of your page's content, and find related terms throughout headline, paragraph text, and meta information. Having this content in the right places can help your page perform better and rank higher for terms!

It’s important to distinguish though the difference between content for humans, and content for bots:

  • People — Your audience is comprised of real humans, searching for answers to their problems

    • Real people dictate search trends and activity

    • “Search Volume” is the number of people looking for a given term on a monthly basis

    • Global search activity can ebb and flow, based on seasonality, events, or popularity

    • Google partially grades content by how people engage with it online, as well as a website’s overall experience

  • Bots & Spiders — Algorithms are set to quantify relevance across all content and all websites, ranking one page as better for a term than another

    • Google uses an army of programs online known as “Spiders” or bots to travel to every website, and read the information published there

    • Keyword-rich content, utilizing terms that Google understands to be related to one another, improves relevancy scores

    • The more pages with more keyword-rich information, the better your site will perform

If you ONLY write content for bots, people will find your content but may be UNDERWHELMED by its lack of connection to them.

If you ONLY write content for people, they may like what they read, but no one will get the chance if THEY CAN’T FIND IT!

To succeed in SEO, and achieve your marketing objectives, you must produce content for both People and Bots! Information that users want and answers their questions, while keyword rich enough to rank well and get in front of the right people.

Backlinks and the dark side of SEO

Another key component of SEO is backlinks, or hyperlinks from other domains, pointing back to your website. These carry SEO value because Google can understand the anchor text of the found backlink and where it’s pointing to, thus bringing a spider back to your domain.

In general backlinks are a key indicator to Google for relevance on a keyword. However, certain SEO’s manipulate this tactic to try and influence rankings. As such, Google has very strict requirements for what constitutes a valid backlink that provides value.

If too many links are found to be of low quality, Google may flag your domain as trying to manipulate rankings via backlinks. In certain cases, this can result in your entire website being “De-indexed” or removed from all search results entirely. This can be devastating for businesses and their marketing objectives.

Demandwell strongly suggests approaching backlinks with caution. It is best to have a technically sound website with relevant content before exploring backlinking options.

With SEO, more is always better!

All in all, when it comes to SEO performance, the more you have, the better you will perform. Sites with more SEO performance content, with more pages overall, with more backlinks from other domains, will rank higher for keywords. This is because Google has more content to read, understand and assign value to a domain. More pages on a website means Google spends more time there overall and has more content to assign to keywords.

If you want to win at SEO, you’ll need to optimize your site for technical performance, optimize your existing content for the right terms, and produce new content to rank for targeted terminology.

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