SEO 101, Part 1: Search, So They Will Find


This is the first of a 5-part series

Over the last 12 years, there’s been a massive amount of content written about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The majority of the content is decent, but there is a lot of dated information still being promoted as best practices (exact match domain names, keyword density targets, exact anchor text, etc.). In this blog series, I’ll be sharing best practices in SEO (organic, not paid, search) that companies of all sizes can use to increase site visibility, increase the number of visitors coming to their site, and most importantly, improve conversion rates. Topics we’ll cover include:

  • Part 1: How search engines make their money, and what that means to you
  • Part 2: Content for SEO
  • Part 3: More about content, and why old chestnuts don’t work
  • Part 4: Optimize your site for SEO
  • Part 5: Navigation, canonical URLs and other tactics

First, some groundwork

The United States Census Bureau research shows that a whopping 89% of internet users are going to search online before they buy a product – even when they intend to buy that product from a local business. Pew Internet conducted a survey that found 92% of adults online use search engines to find information, and nearly 60% of them do it daily. Of the daily searches, 46% are for information about products and services.

What does that mean for you? Most of your potential buyers are going to search online for information before making a purchase. In order to have a chance to make the sale, you have to be found. And so you have to be find-able.

How search engines make money


Search engines make money by getting searchers to click on ads, both on the search engine results pages (SERPS) and on ad networks they are associated with. The more people that use a specific search engine, the more advertisers are willing to pay for their ad to show up. There is a very low barrier for switching search engines. If a searcher doesn’t trust that the search engine they are using provides the best results, they can just visit one of the other search engines and repeat their search. This means that it’s in the search engine’s very best interests to ensure they have the best, most relevant organic search results – every single time. If they don’t, searchers will switch search engines. The search engine will have fewer searches to serve ads against…and advertisers will pay less for the ads that get shown.

All of the major search engines are working very hard to increase the quality of their organic results. For example, Google typically makes between 500 and 600 algorithm changes each year. The majority of these updates are fairly minor and are small feature improvements or minor tweaks to how Google ranks a site. Google update #82580 was an improvement for showing the sunrise and sunset times search feature.


There are a few major algorithm updates each year that have significantly wider impact. These algorithm changes are usually named and are always focused on improving a searcher’s experience with the organic results. This usually involves getting better at detecting web pages that deliver a bad experience or are trying to trick the search engines in order to rank better.

This year’s examples from Google include:

  • Panda, which was designed to lower the rank of low-quality sites, advertising-heavy pages, and duplicate content. You are probably safe from the impact of Panda if you publish high quality, original content that people want to read
  • Penguin, which looks for link spam and devalues it. There is minimum risk to your site from Penguin if you publish high quality, original content that reputable sites want to link to (and do not buy links of any kind for “traffic value”)

Focus on what your customer wants

If you optimize your site and content to focus on what you have that people want, it will be easier for people to find you when they want what you have to offer. Plus, it will be less likely that your content is shown to people looking for something else entirely.

This works in your favor in two ways:

  1. Higher quality potential prospects find you, which should increase your conversions and lower your cost per conversion
  2. Search engines notice that people like you and are sharing your content (linking to you), and your ranking improves as people appear to appreciate what your site offers

Stay tuned; we’ll dive into content next week.

Questions? Answers? Please take a minute to comment below.