What search engines do is literally explore millions and millions of files on the Internet to see which ones most closely match your search terms or keywords (the words you type to signal what you’re looking for). If you were to type in “Pet Sitters,” you’d get a long list of providers of babysitting services for your pet (although you’ll also get results for each of those individual keywords: Pet Shops, Pet Food, Baby Sitters, Pole Sitters). This level of relevance is usually too broad, returning tens of thousands of possible results.
But what if you have a purebred greyhound, and you don’t want to leave it in just anybody’s hands? You’d narrow your search terms to Dog Sitters, or Greyhound Sitters, or Purebred Dog Sitters. Each permutation of your search terms will narrow—and hopefully target—exactly what you’re looking for.
You’re up against the same problem when you want people to find your product or service. How do you get your website in front of the greatest number of potential customers?
That leads us to Search Engine Optimization: This process involves a complete modification and possible enhancement of a website’s content, so search engines will determine it to be highly relevant, giving it a ranking usually falling within the top one to 2 pages for a predetermined list of search terms. Why is this important?
When people are looking for your product or service, it’s beneficial to have your site show up at (or near) the top of all the results a search engine retrieves. That’s because most buying decisions are made reactively. If someone sees what they want near the top of the list, they’re unlikely to continue searching through several pages of results before they make their decision.
Prior to the Internet, when the only place people searched was the Yellow Pages, many businesses took advantage of how listings were sorted by putting an A (or several A’s) in front of their business name. The reasons were the same then as they are today: if you needed a locksmith, would you peruse every name on the list, or would you decide one locksmith is probably just as good as another, and call the first name listed?
Since the Internet doesn’t list things alphabetically, getting seen by the greatest number of people (which, in practice, means being listed near the top of the results in a keyword search), has become a much more complicated issue. And it continues to grow in complexity as the online world itself becomes larger and more complex.
Matt Ramage is founder of Emarketed a web marketing agency located in Los Angeles. He loves coffee, good design, and helping businesses improve their look and getting found on the Internet.