What is SEO? – A Beginner’s Guide

By | July 21, 2014

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a way to help the search engines understand your website and potentially improve your rankings. It is important but it isn’t a guarantee of high search engine ranking.

Every website has text and images visitors see and many more things only search engines see. You can have a great e-commerce website for your visitors but if you don’t deal with the SEO pieces, you’ll have little to no chance to appear in the first pages of organic search engine results.

SEO versus Paid Search (Google AdWords)

You cannot pay a search engine to improve your SEO. The following is an example of a Google search for a specific product on one of my e-commerce websites.

SEO impacts Organic Search results, not Paid Search results

The Organic Search Results are the only parts of this search impacted by SEO. As you can see, even if your site doesn’t do well in search engine rankings, you can still get visibility using Pay Per Click Advertising.

Where To Start With Your SEO

I’ll cover this in-depth in later articles but there are three important parts to SEO.


The search engine user and website owner are often at odds. Most website owners think everyone would benefit from seeing their website (certainly their business would benefit). The goal of any search engine is to provide their users with the most relevant search results. They want to keep their users happy. The search engines do not exist to keep website owners happy. They exist to provide search results that have the greatest odds of satisfying the search user.

Because of this conflict, some website owners will put more emphasis on the search engines than they do on their visitors. First and foremost your website should be designed for your visitors with a nod to the search engines. This does not mean loading your text with keywords over and over. Search engines have algorithms that watch for this and will penalize your site for this type of keyword stuffing.

Being aware of the potential searches your visitors might use to find your site is very important. Knowing this you can weave these phrases into your text in a natural way. If it isn’t natural, it isn’t good for your visitors or the search engines.

Search Engine Awareness

If the search engines aren’t aware of your website you’ll certainly have little chance of appearing in them. You’ll need to make them aware and the best way is using the search engine’s webmaster tools (Google WebmasterBing Webmaster).

Once they know about your website they’ll “crawl” it (also known as spidering). Think of it as following all the strands of a spider’s web. They’ll weave their way through your website keeping track of everything they see.

The search engines will look at your content and the meta tags that are specifically placed for the search engines. This is the SEO part. These tags help them understand your website. You can tell them what to look at, the titles and descriptions they should use in their search results, how often your content changes and much more. I’ll cover these in-depth in a future SEO article.

It may take many months for the search engines to see every page on your website so be patient.

Authority (Popularity)

This is the level of importance the search engine places on your site. They have to have a way to rank the popularity and importance of a website. Their goal is to display websites that have the highest likelihood of satisfying the search user. A popular website has a better chance of meeting that goal.

Popularity has several components but links to your website are one. This doesn’t mean links to your website splattered all over the internet. It also doesn’t mean paying to get links to your website. Both may have a detrimental effect on your ranking.

It does mean getting links from other popular and important sites. Not an easy task to do artificially. Instead focus on getting your brand in the marketplace and become a source of information for your audience. It is exactly what this article is designed to do!

Be Realistic

It isn’t realistic to expect your brand new website to rank high in the search engines if you have older competition for the same products and topics. Those sites will more than likely have more authority. But through patience and good business practices you can improve your ranking and increase traffic to your website!

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