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What is SEO? Explained in Laymen Terms


Search Engine Optimization in the last five years has catapulted to the very core of any online marketing campaign. What once was a new fad has quickly become a non-negotiable, vital pillar of any successful business that wants to survive in the 21st century.

This hyper-speed growth has produced a wide gap between those who know SEO and those who don’t. If you like most people, Search Engine Optimization is a mammoth term. Knowing what it means is a whole other story that quite understandably is sometimes not worth it for many business people. Today I’ll go through Search Engine Optimization, most often represented as SEO, what you need to know, and best practices.

What Is SEO? (In layman’s terms)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the strategy of improving positioning on search engines. Search engines are comprised of Bing, Google, and others. 90% of search traffic comes from Google so most professionals just focus on Google.

How Is Rank Even Determined?

Rank is dictated by the search engine you are using. (For the rest of this piece I’m going to default my conversation with Google.) The method of ranking is not published by Google or any search engine. Most of our knowledge of ranking comes from trial and error from those in the SEO and digital marketing industry. However, every time Google updates their search algorithm (Algorithm meaning the formula they use decides what results match the search terms you inputted) they will announce what they have begun to put more emphasis on.

Let’s Stop Here…

I don’t want to move too fast because it is really easy to get lost. Here is where I like to use an analogy that often makes more tangible sense.

Think of SEO as a LibraryLittleLibrary

Let’s imagine you are a library curator. You have thousands, maybe even millions of books in inventory. What you need to make sure is that the patrons of your library get the books they want.

Let’s think about it. Essentially everyone who comes into the library has a certain book they are looking for. Some have a specific title and that is easy. We just have to find the exact title of the book that matches the one they are telling you. No biggie.

How do we find the right book for someone that asks you “How do I make a good-tasting hamburger?”

Now, what about those individuals who come in to learn how to cook. Someone comes up to the desk and asks for a book that will teach them how to prepare a hamburger. Well, now we have a not-so-easy problem to fix. Thousands and thousands of books have been published about hamburgers, how do we decide on the right book to find them? We could randomly pick a book that has the word hamburger in the title. But it is obvious to you and me, probably not a smart idea. What do we do here then?

Well, think about it. When you are telling a family friend or relative where to eat or what to do in your hometown, you will most likely pick something that is popular and of high quality. As a library, you should do the same! Pick the book that has received the most reviews, references from other books, the highest rate of checkouts, of course, the most relevance.

“How do you personally recommend a book or restaurant to a friend? By its popularity, quality, and relevance to what that person is looking for!”

Let’s convert this back to SEO terms now. Most Reviews? Sounds a lot like Yelp and Google reviews. References from other books? These are hyperlinks. The highest rate of checkouts? How many other users and visitors accessed your site. Most relevance? Does the content or website address what the person is looking for?

Let’s start wrapping this up

So really Google and search engines are nothing more than an electronic library. You go to find information, the search engine helps you find it. This is the essence of Search Engine Optimization. Is your website or web page providing the information that people are looking for?

The more people who go to you for information, the more people refer/link to you, and the more positive things people say the higher Google will place you.

Picture of Ron Arellano
Ron Arellano
President of Search Business Group, Ron is a Healthcare Business Consultant, Digital Marketer, Award-Winning Senior Creative Director Who Loves UX/UI, Web, SEO, Data, and Animals.

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