Understanding Search Engine Optimization for Non-Techies

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

An Explanation of Search Engine Optimization for the Non-Techie

Revised November 15, 2017
Originally Published May 21, 2008

The goal of this article is to explain in non-technical terms Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and why it is important to the online success of a company's website.

In addition, this article will summarize some basic principles to adhere when it comes to a website's SEO.

A Basic Understanding of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is rather basic at its core:

Make sure a website is setup to receive top listing in search results, such as on Google.

When a potential customer performs a search on Google, the goal is to have the site come up as close to the top of the search results as possible; most preferably as the first place result, but at the least within the first page of results.

The closer to the top ten search results a website receives, the better odds that site will have receiving relevant traffic to the website.

There's a misconception by many business owners, that SEO is complex, requires special assistance, and should cost a lot of money.

The truth is SEO is simple, and most people can do most of it without extraordinarily expensive assistance; it just takes time.

The following are some tenants to basic SEO:

  1. Clean & Responsive Code:

    When building the initial website, a web development firm should create clean website code; following the basic principles of good programming. Website coding should be tidy, and as concise as possible.

    In addition, as of 2015, Google required websites to be mobile-friendly. Google is going one step further in 2018 with requirements to be fully responsive for best practice, in addition to clean code.

  2. Descriptive Content:

    Be descriptive with the website content and text. When creating website content (marketing text) use words that actually describe the service or product in detail.

    Avoid using "it" or "that" or other nondescript words. The goal is twofold:

    a. make the reader visualize a product or service using descriptive words and phrases (the text of a website must paint a picture),
    b. AND have search engines index these keywords and phrases for search ranking purposes.

    Graphics and images are excellent to use for visual purposes. However, at this time, search engines cannot read or understand what an image is portraying.

    Instead, search engines rely on ALT tags, and the text accompanying the image to provide a detailed description of any images on a website.

  3. Properly Utilize Keywords & Phrases:

    In order to be found for a "keyword" or "keyword phrase" in the search engines, that keyword (or related phrases) must exist in the content of the website.

    If the keyword isn't in the site content, and related phrases aren't used throughout the website content, then that site most likely will not be found for that keyword or phrase in search results.

      Search engines will not list a website in search results for a keyword or related-phrase, if that keyword or related-phrase is non-existent in the site content.

    a. Extraneous code and unnecessary programming clutter the website code, making it unappealing to search engines.
    b. Poor code may not always load on all browsers, in addition to making it difficult for future programmers to manage updates.

    For example, a house for sale with lots of junk in the yard is not as likely to sell, as a home that is clean with a well-maintained yard.

Why Is SEO Important To Me?

SEO is important regardless of industry; SEO brings in free, qualified, targeted traffic to generate sales and leads, naturally-organically.

Optimization should be a top priority for any company regardless of whether a site is strictly information, employs e-commerce and online sales, or even another special service.

If a website has poor code (programming), or poor content (the readable marketing content for customers), then that site is less likely to be found in relevant Google searches.

Google and other search engines give priority ranking to websites with quality, keyword rich content.

If a site has poor coding and content, or employs black-hat SEO tricks, then that site will most likely receive low ranking in the search results, or worst yet, the website may get completely excluded from the search results all together - BANNED!

Websites with incompatible code (meaning they won't run on all browsers - such as "Best viewed on Chrome" or similar statement) are often given a lower ranking than sites with clean, professional code that will run on any computer platform whether a PC or Mac using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and so on.

The SEO Bottom-line

The fact remains, search engines such as Google, want to deliver their customers (people performing searches) the most relevant information on any given search topic:

  • If a website lacks pertinent and relevant information related to that search topic, the site will be excluded from the search results.

  • If the website cannot load on various computer systems regardless of type (IE, Firefox, Safari, or iPhone, Android, Laptop, Tablets, etc) then once again the search engines will most likely excluded the website and put forth a competitor website the meets these requirements.

Lack of SEO adds up to lost potential customers and revenues!

Summary of the Important Basic SEO Principles

  1. Write the website's content and marketing text using clear, descriptive text. Paint a picture with words.

  2. Write content as though a sales person is speaking directly with a customer about the service or product. Be as descriptive as possible. DO NOT cut short pertinent and detailed information that helps to describe the product or service.

  3. Talk with customers and ask questions about what terms, keywords, and phrases come to mind when they think of the company. This question will give some ideas of keywords and key phrases to use through out the website content that other customers might search for too; use "customer jargon".

  4. Make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. A part of optimizing a site is making sure that every part of the site is in order, and looks trustworthy and professional.

  5. Make sure the web design firm builds the website application using clean code that is responsive, optimized and cross-browser compatible.

By understanding the basics of SEO, and following these simply guidelines, a company can be assured that the website will be found in search engines and receive the relevant qualified search traffic needed to be successful online.

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