Search engine optimization is the “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” Okay, but what does that really mean?

Let’s start with the basics:

What is a Search Engine?

Simply put, a search engine is a computer program that identifies items in a database that correspond to keywords or characters specified by the user. All day, every day, these search engines scour the internet and index all the data they find. When you do an online search, you are asking a search engine to match your request with the information it has indexed. More specifically, when you search for something on google.com, you’re using Google’s search engine, and when you search for something on bing.com, you’re using Microsoft’s search engine.

So, What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine OptimizationSearch Engine Optimization is the effort to make your website more prominent in the results returned by search engines.

Let’s say you want to go online and find the hours for your local bank branch. You will go to your computer or phone, open a web browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or another), go to your favorite search engine (google.com, yahoo.com, bing.com, or another) and type in some words that you think will bring up the information you need.

Each time you type a new set of words into the search box and hit return, the search engine tries to match your search term with the information it found on the websites it has indexed. The search engine’s goal is to deliver a list of sites it thinks will provide the information that you are looking for. But with over a billion active websites in the world right now, how does the search engine judge which sites are likely to be the best match? That is the key question, and the basis of all SEO efforts.

Each search engine uses a set of rules to decide what order to display the entries on its search results page. Whether or not it displays your website depends on how well you have followed the rules when creating your site. Search engines look at things like structure, content, and markup. They also factor in the number of websites in your industry that link to your site, how much traffic your website is getting, and how visitors are spending their time there. But there is a catch. The exact rules are a secret.

Periodically, companies like Google provide insight into their processes, so web developers have a general idea of the basic rules. What we know can make a huge difference to how the search engines see and index your website.

Once you can answer the question, “What is search engine optimization?” you’ll be in a better position to improve the ranking of your own website.

Let us know if this article was helpful by leaving a comment below. See our blog post that answers the question, “How can I get onto the first page of Google?” to learn more about our search engine optimization services, or contact us by phone or email for help with optimizing your website.

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