Search Engine Optimization: What You Need to Know About SEO
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

As a member of the millennial generation, I have grown up with technology as an integral part of my life. It would be hard to imagine the answer to any question not being at my fingertips, not having a computer in the palm of my hand or dare I say it, not having my favorite tunes wherever I go. I often find myself in technological bliss, unaware of how the intricate the technology I use really is. Take the internet for example, a truly great and frightening tool. The internet is frightening in that it can be used to launch cyber attacks, leak sensitive documents and cause havoc in private citizen’s lives. Great in that the internet has revolutionized how business in conducted, offering “The little guy,” a fighting chance. Speaking of giving the little guy a fighting chance, a marketing campaign built around search engine optimization has the potential to put the entire internet’s eyes on a small business. But how? How can search engine optimization make equal David and Goliath?

The internet is like a big metro system with an almost infinite number of stops along the line. Search engines use links as a way to navigate the internet. Search engines take little bits of code from all the stops along the subway that are important I.E. the results that matched your search. Search engines store this data in massive data centers. As you might imagine, storing this amount of information takes a vast amount of computing power. Search engine data centers are huge in size and they process almost uncountable amounts of information.

Once the search engine has gathered this data, it ranks it in terms of relevance to search terms and perceived importance/value. Generally these items are determined by popularity, the logic being if lots of people look at a certain link, the link must obviously be worth looking at. Searches performed by search engines operate in accordance with intense mathematical algorithms. Marketers focusing in SEO constantly experiment with how to get better results from search engines. For example, they might put a keyword right in the beginning of an internet page’s code and then make another website with the same keyword at the end of the internet page’s code. They then test to see which one returns a better IE higher result in the search engine’s results. A key factor in building an online marketing strategy around SEO is to have a deep understanding of your target consumer. If you have this knowledge, you can use the search engine to its fullest potential.

Before we get too far into search engine optimization, let’s break down the steps of using a search engine.

  1. Have a need for an answer, solution or piece of information- (You want to find a good sushi restaurant to eat at tonight).
  2. Translate that need into a string of words IE “Query”- (Best sushi in Tucson Arizona).
  3. Execute that query in the search engine- (“Click”).
  4. Browse results- (Evaluate your options).
  5. Click on a result- (“This place has lots of good reviews”).
  6. Scan for a solution or link to that solution- (Browse their menu online, read reviews, find their location).
  7. If unsatisfied, return to the search results and browse for another link or…
  8. Perform a new search with refinements to the query. (Best sushi and Teppanyaki).

To put it simply search engines run the internet. You want to find something on the internet? You likely use a search engine. Think about how common the phrase, “Google it,” is. According to the website seomoz.org, search is very, very popular. It reaches nearly every online American and billions of people around the world. Being listed in the first few results is CRITICAL to visibility. Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic, but instills trust in the consumers as to the worthiness and relative importance of the company/website. An incredible amount of offline economic activity is driven by searches on the web. The answer to my previous question about David and Goliath is that effective search engine optimization marketing puts the little guy right up there with the big dogs when query results are returned. In many cases, effectively using SEO is simply the difference between being noticed or not. If your small business has no online presence, how can potential customers identify you as the solution to their need?

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