What is SEO and how does it work?

Find out what SEO means and how it works so you can start applying it to your organization.
SEO on a keyboard

We’re all guilty of using acronyms unique to our industry, often assuming that our clients know what they mean. I often talk with potential clients who already use digital marketing acronyms. More often than not, they don’t have a clear idea of what the acronym means, or sometimes even what it stands for.

One of the most common acronyms I run into is SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO is an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is all about how and where you show up in search engine results. Google has a massive impact on SEO because it had 88.62% of the market in 2020. By comparison, Bing was in second place with 5.73% of the market.

When I first started working on the web back in 1996, SEO was all about making sure your website was high on the results page for specific terms and phrases. However, many things have changed in the 20+ years since then. Two factors, in particular, are easy to explain and have had a significant impact.

First, search engines now show different results depending on where you’re physically located, what device you’re using, and what Google account you’re logged into.

Second, a healthy online presence now consists of much more than just your website. It can include directory listings, social media presence, and more. The point is that people find your organization online and verifies that the information is correct.

Google’s goal is to show people the information they were looking for, whether it exactly matches what they typed in or not. So, SEO in 2021—and beyond—is all about providing information people are searching for.

How does SEO work?

To optimize your online presence for search engines, you have to do two things:

  1. Know what people are typing into Google related to your business or industry
  2. Provide them with the information they are looking for

If Google thinks you’re doing a good job providing that information, you will show up higher in the search engine results.

SEO can get technical. There’s a whole area of SEO known as technical SEO. Nonetheless, if you research what people are searching for in Google and write about that in various places online, you can start improving your own SEO.

A few tips if you’re getting started:

  • Despite the changes, good SEO starts on your website. Being set up well from a technical standpoint is important, but the most important strategy is to blog regularly. You should blog at least once a month, ideally twice a month, or even weekly. As a rule of thumb, your blogs should be 300 words or longer, long enough to give a good answer to whatever the people are searching for.
  • Speaking of which, find out what people are searching for by searching Google for the services and products you provide. In the results, look for common questions in the “People also ask” section in the middle and in the “Related searches” section at the bottom.
  • To make sure your Google Maps listing is optimized, claim it through Google My Business, correct any inaccurate information, upload photos, and make sure everything is filled out. Also, make sure the name, address, and phone number match on other directory websites throughout the internet to help rank better. Google looks at that!
  • Sign up for the most popular social media websites. On some sites, an account for your organization will be sufficient. On others, you’ll need to sign up for a personal account then create a business page. Consider Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and others. Then, post consistently, at least once a week.

Sound like a lot of work? It definitely can be. It’s not as simple as, “If you build it, they will come.” If you want people to be able to find you online, it takes work, and it’s not instant gratification either.

I like to compare SEO to dieting or exercising. As a rule of thumb, don’t expect to see significant results for several months. I’ve found for local businesses in the Edmond and OKC area that have a local target market, it’s a good bet that it will take you around six months to really start seeing results. There are ways to cheat the system and get quicker results, but if you cheat the system using something known as black hat SEO, you also run the risk of Google blacklisting you entirely.

Play it safe, do the work, and be consistent. That’s how you get results with SEO.

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About Tim Priebe

Tim is a public speaker, author, publisher of Edmond Business, and the owner of T&S Online Marketing. He helps businesses that are worried they don’t have the expertise or time required to invest in doing their own digital marketing. He helps them plan where and how much to invest and often helps execute the plan.

Tim started the Edmond Business online magazine in May 2020 to fill a need in the community when The Edmond Sun shut down and stopped publishing their monthly magazine, The Business Times.