Being a website designer and marketing professional, I often get asked, “How does SEO work?” I’ve come up with several ways to explain it simply; but today, my wife asked me the question and I had a revelation. I answered her, “Well, Honey, it’s like this. It breaks down into three parts: making Google happy, how the public votes and how big is your bribe.” As I explained the parts to her, I had an epiphany to write this article! So here is my explanation and hopefully it will make sense to those who have better things to do than trying to do this themselves.
Disclaimer: This is NOT an exhaustive article. If you’re an SEO professional, I am not diminishing what you do; I am simply explaining SEO in the most basic laymen’s terms possible. Okay, let’s continue.
It all starts with the most basic, your website. After all, your website is where everyone eventually comes to make a buying decision. A buying decision is NOT made on an advertisement, social media, commercial or email newsletter. These are the mechanisms you use to get one’s attention and pull them to your website, so it can do what it was designed to do – capture the identity of your visitor to continue the conversation (because few if anyone buys on the first trip) or make a sale (typically from a repeat visitor). For more information on this, read Newsletter Versus Blog: Which is Better?
However, in order to be found, you must pass Google’s smell test. If Google feels your site is not a quality site, well, it will rank it so far down the search results no one will find you. Therefore, you must make Google HAPPY! You do this with on-page SEO.
You see, Google wants to make sure they are the preferred search engine; hence they want to provide only the best, most relevant and pleasant results. And, let me tell you, their criteria is high! For more information, read Google Sets New Standards: Violate Them at your Own Risk. In this article, I cover the top four (4), but in the article, you can download Google’s manual used by its employees to rank your website.
Therefore, they want it to load fast, for the images to be on message and have impact, for it to serve the disabled, the content to be written at a magazine’s level and be accurate to the topic of your site. If you’re in a profession that deals with the quality of one’s life or money (Your Money or Your Life – YMYL is the category), like services regarding medical, financial, real estate, health, legal industries for example; they scrutinize you with a magnifying glass and a fine-toothed comb.
If you pay attention to this part, you will not only make Google happy, but will please your visitors as well, making it more likely to win converts. Once you’ve made them happy, they will give you a good ranking and you’re on your way!
Now that Google’s happy, you must compete against everyone else who has ALSO made Google happy in your category or genre. You see, if there are 100 companies that passed the smell test, how does Google decide which one should be #1, #2 and so on? Well, Google lets the people vote!
There are several ways people vote. Like in any election, he or she with the most ballots wins. Then the second highest tally gets second place and so on. You win votes, just like in politics, with your marketing campaign! You have many options:
Any way you can reach the public, engage them, get them to come to know you and visit your website, like and share your content, link to your website and give you reviews earns you votes – called a backlink or review.
For example, when someone likes your message and shares it through his or her network, it creates a backlink (any LINK which goes BACK to your website – BACKlink). If someone likes your content and decides to quote it, and shares a link on their blog or article, it creates a backlink. If someone feels your service or product is worth offering to their customers and puts a banner or inline ad or a link on their site or social-media page which leads back to your website – it’s a backlink. You get the idea. The more backlinks you get, the higher the tally. WARNING! Not all backlinks are equal. A backlink from a poorly ranked site hurts you; so, when you have a say, be selective.
There are also reviews. Finding people willing to leave you a review is a HIGH vote. Especially in local search results. Google makes this simpler with Google My Business. Here, you can create a local business listing, share images and a map, and collect reviews. After you’ve set it up, you can email your friends, family and customers the link to the review page and ask them to please provide one.
Okay, Google likes you and the people have voted. Google has decided the order (which is ever changing, so don’t become complacent). But, you can still jump to the front of the line (or top of the page) by bribing Google! Okay, bribing is a little tongue and cheek (but not by much). You can choose to use Google AdWords and/or Pay Per Click.
These Google services let you bid on keywords. Whoever pays the most will win and their ad and/or link will be displayed at the top of the page. The site owner pays if someone clicks on their link or ad, or if it appears (depending on which service you chose and how you wanted your ad dollars to work). This is HUGE business and can garner lots of traffic, but two warnings:
In a nut shell, there you have it! You must make Google happy, get the people to vote for you and, if you choose to go the paid route and not be strictly organic, bribe well and high. However, it all starts with part one. If your website is not a high-quality site, it won’t matter what you do. Think about it. If you clicked on anything and landed on a poorly designed and written website, would you be likely to buy anything? Probably not. So, do it right, be effective, and THEN start your campaign – putting your best foot forward to win the race!