A Brief Introduction to SEO

Google is the most widely used search engine in the word fielding over 3 billion searches daily however when you remove the reverence afforded to it, Google is a still nothing more than a black box who inner workings simply attempt to calculate the relevance of a document vs a user’s search query/keyword. If you keep in mind the notion that Google only has a limited set for its algorithms to work with when calculating the relevance of a site, configuring a website to be found for a desirable keyword(s) ceases to be a dark art and more and exercise of common sense.

Why Does Everyone Use Google?

Google became the dominant search engine in the late 1990’s by returning superior / more relevant results than its competitors. Other search engines such as Dog Pile, Altavista, Lycos and a host of others were quickly abandoned and left to fade into obscurity.

Does anyone still Yahoo?

Google achieved market place dominance by the following:

1. Display results based on the content of the actual site (crawler)

2. Remove duplicate content from its index (keep the index fresh)

3. Promote content dependent on the number of other websites linking to it (PageRank)

Over the years Google has refined and improved its ability to identify relevant information and demote disingenuous attempts to influence search results however the three principles listed above are still the core function of how the search engine functions.

The Basics: SEO Is A Labeling Exercise

Configuring a website to be found within Google for a desirable keyword (SEO) is at its heart exercise of two halves:

  • A labeling exercise (keyword research: understanding what users search for and labeling your content accordingly).
  • Matching and exceeding your competition (quality / quantity of relevant content & links).

Use The Force…Let The Search Engine Define Your Site’s Structure

When explaining the above to clients I frequently use an analogy from the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) where Luke and Obiwan Kenobi are training on the Millenium Falcon, Luke asks “do you mean the force controls you actions?”

Let the search engine define the structure of your site. Its possible to extract information on what users search for from tools such as the “Adwords Keyword Planner.” If you let this information guide both the structure of your site and the way you write content you will create a targeted ranking signal for a desired keyword. If you’re in a semi competitive niche you may but hit the first page at first but you have a foundation to build upon. As mentioned above, SEO is also a game of match and exceed. Assuming you’re getting into a battle you can win, by identifying additional ranking factors e.g. links used by your competitors, achieving a first page position for a desirable keyword becomes an empirical a numbers game / a matter of time and resources.