Whether you are in the marketing industry or not, you have probably heard the phrase “Search Engine Optimization” or “SEO,” but you might not know what it really means. Even experienced marketers find it difficult to explain exactly how it works. To understand SEO, you have to learn how search engines like Google determine search results.
UNDERSTANDING SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS
If you’re standing in line at the grocery store and you see the magazine The National Enquire with a headline that reads, “Hillary Clinton: Brain Cancer Drama,” you’re likely to take the headline with a grain of salt. You know the magazine has more of a reputation for sensationalism than for factual journalism, and you also know that if Hillary Clinton did have brain cancer, other news outlets would also be reporting it.
In contrast, if you see that the cover of a Time magazine reads, “The Poisoning Of An American City: Toxic Water. Sick Kids. And The Incompetent Leaders Who Betrayed Flint,” you are more likely to believe the facts represented in the article because Time is a respectable news source with a track record of quality journalism. You also know that the Flint, Michigan water crisis has been widely covered by nearly all major news outlets for weeks.
Determining which magazine is more legitimate is easy for most people. A lifetime of experience and knowledge allows people to decipher the legitimacy of a magazine cover in matter a seconds.
For a search engine like Google, determining the legitimacy of information is nowhere near as easy as it is for humans. Without experience, instinct, or intuition, search engines must rely on other methods to determine legitimacy and quality. When someone enters a search term into Google’s search bar, Google has to comb through thousands, or even millions, of possible results to find the high quality results.
HOW SEARCH ENGINES DETERMINE SEARCH RESULTS
Just like a book with an index, search engines index webpages in a manner that allows them to efficiently pull the most superior information relevant to a search query and provide it to the user. In order to index websites, search engines have “crawl bots,” which are computer programs that comb through website content to determine what a website is about. These impressive little crawl bots index billions of webpages, but they are only the first step in delivering search results. Search engines also rank the relevancy of websites using an algorithm of over 200 different factors.
Search engines like Google keep their algorithms for determining website relevancy secret. Factors like PageRank are known to help determine relevancy, but many of the other 200 factors are unknown. This doesn’t mean marketers are completely in the dark.
The Process of Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is the process of making a webpage or website appear more often and/or higher up in organic search results. Through extensive A/B testing, experience, trial and error, and plenty of patience, marketers have uncovered many factors that influence search engine relevancy, establishing SEO best practices with a proven track record of success.
On-site SEO tactics like including focus keywords in custom titles and meta-descriptions are easy ways to help improve a website’s search engine rankings that can be done by nearly anyone. More complex SEO tactics begin with the design of a website and require the assistance of a skilled website developer to complete. While search engines remain very secretive about their methods, a skilled digital marketer can analyze organic traffic and determine what is and is not working with regard to SEO.
WHAT DO SEARCH RESULTS MEAN FOR LAW FIRMS?
When a user performs a search and visits one of the websites listed in the results, this is called organic traffic. Organic traffic might be the most popular way users reach your website, which makes appearing in search results extremely important for your business. If your law firm website doesn’t appear on the first few pages of search results, you’re missing out on potential customers. Or even worse, search engines might not even know your website exists and thus exclude it from all search results effectively preventing any organic traffic. The bottom line is that search engine results can make or break the success of a business, and if you don’t want to break, you need to include search engine optimization in your law firm’s marketing strategy.