Define SEO: Search Engine Optimization Explained

We hear a lot about SEO, but has anyone ever given you a simple explanation? Below is a video which will define SEO in plain simple English.

To define SEO we first need to understand search engines and what they do

Search engines are the librarians of the internet. They catalogue every single web page that is available to the public and organize them in a way which we are meant to understand. SEO, also known as search engine optimization, can be defined as the methods employed to make your website more search engine friendly. By figuring out the recipe search engines use, we can apply SEO to help us rank higher.

What search engines look for

All search engines have a specific algorithm or ‘formula’ they use to determine whether your web page is relevant for the searches that people type into their platforms. i.e. if I type ‘Prescott web design’ into Google, the algorithm will determine which web pages the user (in this case it will be me) would like to see.


#1 – The words on your page

Search engines will determine how relevant your web page is to a particular search term, by checking how many times that particular word, or string of words, appear on that page. The more the words appear, the more relevant the web page becomes, but only up to a point. Here is snapshot image of my web page which contains the keyword ‘Prescott web design’.


As you can see I mention the phrase several times (6 times in total). If I tried to mention it too many times, which will make the text weird and unnatural, Google will punish me and push my website down the search rankings.

#2 – The title of your page

Search engines also check the title of your page. The title of the page in the image above is of course ‘Prescott web design’ and when Google indexes that page, it will pay particular attention to the title. It is the same as a book title in the way that it summarizes what your page is about.

#3 – Links to your webpage

After indexing your page and determining whether it is relevant to a certain search term, search engines will count all the links from other web pages. Every time someone links to your page it is seen as a recommendation, or a ‘vote’, by the search engine. The more votes you have, the more important your site looks. This is what determines whether or not one web page, with similar content, ranks above another web page.

Some people try and trick the search engines by building low quality links from lots of rubbish websites. Therefore, Google in particular, has given more weighting to older websites with a lot of fresh and engaging content. A LOT more weighting. A link from a high authority webpage, like the homepage of YouTube, is the same as 100,000 links from low authority sites. Search engines also look out for unnatural link building. If you build too many links too quickly, then they will punish you for cheating.

#4 – Word within links (also known as Anchor Text)

This is simply a link which is disguised as a word. i.e. ‘prescott web design’ links to my page and disguises the real link of:

So if a lot of web pages have links with a particular keyword, search engines will determine that my web page has to be about that particular word, especially if the words on my page match it.

Once again you need to be careful. Normally when someone links to your site they don’t say ‘your awesome keywords’ and link to it. They normally say things like ‘Prescott web design – click here’ or ‘my site’ or ‘find out more’. Therefore, if all of your links contain your keywords, the search engines will punish you once again for unnatural anchor text distribution.

Bear with me. I know a lot of this stuff is mightily confusing, but once we wrap it up, the definition of SEO will be crystal clear in your mind.

#5 – Reputation

Search engines care a lot about the reputation of your website and they determine it in a couple of ways. The first is the age of your website. If it has been around for a long time it is assumed that you care about it enough to keep it going, and you establish a reputation of seniority.

However, the age of your website is not nearly as important as fresh and engaging content. A website that is 2 years old will do a lot better than a website that is 12 years old, if they add unique and fresh content to their site. You can easily achieve this by writing blog posts every week like I do. By doing this, search engines will see that your website is alive. Not only do you care about your site, but you care enough to continually invest in fresh content. Unlike the other 4 points, you can never overdo this one. The more content you publish, the more they will love your website.

To wrap it up…

To define SEO we have to look at all the separate elements. By optimizing your site to fit all of the criteria of the words on your page, the titles, the links to your website, the anchor texts, and the fresh content, you are performing SEO.

It is as the title suggests: ‘Search Engine Optimization’ or ‘SEO’ is the optimization of your website to fit all the criteria sought after by the search engines.

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