How search engine optimization (SEO) works in plain English

Google has one job — to provide answers to questions. You’ve heard the quote, “If it’s not written down it didn’t happen?” In this case it’s, “If it’s not written on your website, Google doesn’t know it exists.”

Search engine optimization (SEO), put simply, is showing Google and other search engines how to find you. If your website is all about you and your company, and not about your customers, Google won’t direct those potential customers to your site. So, how does Google really work? Here’s the only SEO advice you need.

The #1 “How-to” Google search query for 2014 (and 2013, 2012, and on and on) was “How to tie a tie.” Let’s say you have a clothing store and you sell ties. It states very clearly on your website that you sell ties. In fact, you showcase a hundred different kinds of ties on your website. Well, do you know how to tie a tie? “Of course!” you might say. “That’s a silly question. We know a half dozen ways to tie a tie.”

Well, if an article (or video) stating exactly what you know is not on your website, you don’t even show up on Google’s radar for that search. Google consists of a bunch of computers, and inferences and implications don’t work. Everyone searching for “How to tie a tie,” will never find your site. Why is this especially important? You have three distinct types of visitors your website must help and this ignores the third type (someone looking for an answer to a question) while making you just a commodity for the second (someone looking for someone like you).

As another example, let’s say your law firm can help people prepare their wills. On the “services” or “specialty practice areas” page on your website, it clearly states your firm prepares wills and does other estate planning. Here are the top Google search queries regarding wills:

  • “What does a will look like?”
  • “What does a will do?”
  • “What does a will cost?”
  • “What does a will mean?”
  • “What does a will consist of?”

Since your firm specializes in wills, you know the answers to these questions, right? Does Google know you know the answers, though? No. Google can’t read your mind. If you’re not explicitly answering these questions on your site, Google has no idea you have the answers. Google knows you can prepare wills, but that’s it. You need to clearly tell Google exactly what you know.

Timeless SEO consists of one simply strategy — answer the questions your customers and potential customers are searching for online. Keep your website in its current form, but start adding pages that specifically answer questions. Regardless of what happens the next time Google changes their algorithms, your SEO will only get better.

Download Spencer’s free eBook and start using Teaching-Based Marketing right away with your business. His book will share with you exactly how to implement these ideas on your website, and offer additional instruction on website traffic and what to offer when a visitor comes to your website.

Spencer X. Smith is a Waunakee-based business consultant.

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