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What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of aligning your business’ website with what your potential customers are searching for. While the “S” and the “E” are for search engine, your focus will always need to be on the users of your site. Google recommends this user focus in their Webmaster Guidelines and they consider a quality site to be one that creates content for users, not the search engines.

Why You Need SEO

Search engine optimization is important because it gives you the opportunity to place your business in front of tons of new customers. If your website matches what they are searching for, provides value to them, and follows basic quality guidelines, your site will be more likely to rank where these customers can find you.

If you haven’t optimized your site, you run the risk of allowing your competition to move ahead of you in the rankings. Where you are ranked has a large influence on how many views your website will receive, as the top few positions hold the most value. We’ve found that, in most cases, a first place ranking receives about 20-30% of clicks. Second and third only receive 10% and 8%, respectively, and anything lower typically sees between 1-5% of clicks. With the difference between click-through rates being so large, those top spots are highly sought after in the search engines as most users rarely look past them.

How Search Engines Work

While your optimization efforts should focus on the user, ultimately it is up to the search engines to rank your page. This is done through an algorithm that uses a number of variables to determine the quality and authority of your page on a certain topic. This algorithm has a lot of moving pieces and has become increasingly advanced over the years, giving it the ability to better understand the user and provide the most relevant results for their search query.

The algorithm is also advanced enough to know when website owners are attempting to game the system and will penalize spammy sites. These sites may be moved lower in the rankings or even removed from the listings completely.

Another very important point when it comes to SEO is that websites don’t rank for search terms, pages do.

What this means is that when the search engines are looking for a page to match up to a search query, it is looking for only that page. You’ll want to make sure that each page on your website is focused on one topic so that it may be shown for search queries on that information.

Tips for Getting Started with SEO

As you begin optimizing your site, remember to keep the Webmaster Guidelines in mind. Below are the most important and, if you are questioning any updates you might be making, you can refer to this list as your barometer.

Quality Guidelines to Follow

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your business
  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages and make sure that your site actually includes those words in it
  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field

Avoid the Following

  • Automatically generated content
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords

With the Why answered, now it’s time to cover the How. Read Part 2 of our series, Getting Started with SEO in 4 Easy Steps, to begin optimizing your site and putting your business in front of new customers.

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Matt NeSmith

Matt NeSmith

Matt NeSmith is a search engine specialist at PaySimple and is responsible for organic search strategy. While digital marketing fills his day, evenings and weekends are spent riding a bicycle up mountains, reading up on business strategy, or laying on the garage floor underneath an old car.

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