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What Is SEO, How Does It Work and Why Do I Care?

September 24, 2020 Gina Gallup

SEO chart on screenDid you know that when people search online, 75% of all clicks go to the first three organic results (per Backlinko)? If you want to show up there, you will need to focus on SEO for your website. If you’re new to SEO, this primer will get you started.


What Is SEO?

SEO =  Search engine optimization. It is the process of getting traffic to your website organically, or naturally, through the search results on a search engine.

And let’s be honest, when we are optimizing for a search engine, we really mean that we are optimizing for Google. 

Most searches through Google

92% of the world uses Google to search online, according to StatCounter. Bing gets about 3% of searches, and not quite 2% use Yahoo. Then there are smaller search engines like Baidu or Duck Duck Go.


How SEO Works

Google’s algorithms use an artificial intelligence called RankBrain. It’s constantly learning and testing out new ways to ensure users find the content they’re searching for. 

A good way to understand SEO is to think about how you interact with people. If you are going through a rough time and you need to talk with someone, how do you choose who you seek out?

  • Is it someone you’ve known for a long time, or someone you just met in the Walmart line?
  • Is it someone who has given you solid insight and feedback before, or someone who seems to ignore your plight and only worry about themselves?
  • Is it someone who you know will keep your private thoughts a secret, or someone who blasts everything on social media?
  • Is it someone who knows when to listen and talk, or someone who just shoots off at the mouth whenever a thought enters their head?

You probably want the person who you’ve known for a while, who gives good advice, who will keep your secrets, and who knows what kind of advice to give and when to give it.

If you turn that into websites, you’re looking for one that:

best friends

  • Has longevity.
  • Is credible.
  • Is trustworthy.
  • Has good content.

What if it’s a brand new friend – or a brand new website – how does it work then?

  • With a friend, you do things with that person to get to know them better. For your website, it gets established and ranked in Google.
  • Over time, you’ll trust your friend more. Similarly, your site will rank for keywords and move up over time through optimized content.
  • The more you enjoy being with your friend, the more you’ll do things with them. In the same way, your site will move to higher positions in rank.
  • If your friend does something stupid though, you may stop hanging out together. Similarly, your website could slip in rank if you don’t implement best practices or if you don’t maintain the SEO work.
  • If your friend cheats on you or lies behind your back, you’ll stop being friends. If you conduct “black hat SEO” tactics, Google will drop you from rankings.

The moral of this story is to be a good friend and have good friends. Also: Use SEO.


Why Care About SEO?

I work in PR and communications, and I can see how crucial it is to use SEO. It helps all of our clients – no matter the industry or whether the company is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. SEO is important for: 

  • Brand awareness – making sure your company can be found online easily
  • Reputation management – making sure the good stuff pushes down the bad stuff
  • Capturing leads – driving people to fill out forms to get valuable information
  • Research – providing information that helps people learn and make decisions
  • Reporting – using metrics to show results, such as a site traffic spike after news story

SEO can be used in:

You got this!

  • Website content 
  • Blogs
  • Press releases
  • Social media
  • Online bylines and op eds
  • Talking points
  • Photo cutlines, titles and alt tags
  • Linked keywords in offsite content

Plus, for PR, it allows us to show metrics to our clients. For example, we can show:

  • Clicks to site from off-site content
  • On-site analytics
  • Bounce rate
  • Finish rate (for videos)
  • Time on site
  • Social media shares
  • Social engagement
  • Conversions
  • Share of voice
  • Value of visitors who come through PR or social media tactics

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be a master at SEO to start. Just start. Try things out and see how they work. Then modify things and see what changes. Eventually, you’ll get there. 

Check out this SEO blog to get more specifics about how to find keywords, use them throughout your site and evaluate how they’re doing. Let me know how it goes!


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