What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization In 2023

One area of expertise that I’ve focused my marketing on over the last two decades is search engine optimization (SEO). In recent years, I’ve avoided classifying myself as an SEO consultant, though, because it has some negative connotations with it that I would like to avoid. I often conflict with other SEO professionals because they focus on algorithms over search engine users. I’ll touch base on that later in the article.

What Is A Search Engine?

Simply put, a search engine is a tool to find a relevant resource on the Internet. Search engines index and store your site’s public information and use complex algorithms to rank and reveal what they believe is the appropriate result back to the search engine user.

What Are The Most Popular Search Engines?

In the United States, the most popular search engines are:

Search EngineMarket Share
Source: Statcounter

One search engine that’s missing here is YouTube. By volume, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, although all it is indexing is video content on its own platform. However, it’s a property that should not be overlooked since so many users use it to search for products, services, how-tos, and other information.

TIP: Many SEO practitioners are always looking at Google since they dominate the market. That doesn’t mean that an audience you wish to reach isn’t on another search engine that you could easily focus on and rank for though. Don’t be dismissive of these other search engines… who still get tens of millions of queries a day on them.

How Do Search Engines Find and Index Your Pages?

Content Management Systems (CMS) that are optimized for search engines will alert the search engine of its content being updated, and then provide the necessary information for the search engine crawler to crawl the content. Here’s how:

The process for a search engine to crawl and index your site is to read your robots.txt file, follow your XML sitemap, read the page status information, and then index the page content. Content can include the path (URL), a title for the page, meta description (only viewable to the search engine), headings, textual content (including bold and italic), secondary content, images, videos, and other metadata published in the page (reviews, location, products, etc.).

How Do Search Engines Rank Your Pages?

Now that the search engine understands the keywords and key phrases of your page, it now needs to rank it with competing pages. Ranking for keywords is at the heart of search engine optimization. Some of the factors involved in this process:

How Has Search Engine Ranking Changed Over The Years?

It was fairly easy to game the search engine algorithms years ago. You could write frequent, low-value, content, cross-promote it (backlink) on various sites, and get it ranked well. An entire industry popped up where consultants spent billions of dollars buying fraudulent backlinks built on backlink farms… sometimes unbeknownst to the organization that hired them.

As search engine algorithms changed, they became far better at identifying toxic backlinks over healthy ones, and honest sites (like mine) began to rank again. At the same time, cheating competitors were buried deeply in the search results.

At their core, what the algorithms did that was critical was pay attention to the quality of content, the performance of the site, and the authority of the domain… to ensure that the search engine user was provided a good experience. Remember above where I said I tend to differ from other SEO consultants? It’s because I don’t focus as much on the algorithms as on the user’s experience.

I’ve said before that traditional SEO was dead.. and it angered many people in my industry. But it’s true. Today, you must invest in the user, and you’ll rank well. Write exceptional content and you’ll earn links with the best sites rather than having to beg crappy ones to backlink to you.

Search Engine User Optimization

I wish we could dump the term SEO and, instead, focus on Search Engine User Optimization. How does one do that?

TIP: Too many SEO consultants focus on high volume, highly competitive keyword terms that are – frankly – impossible to rank on. The authority of many sites that rank on highly competitive terms may be spending millions to keep themselves there. Highly relevant, low-volume keyword combinations that are easy to rank on can drive fantastic business results to your organization.

And most importantly, you must prioritize your efforts. Not every site warning is going to hurt your ranking or the experience of your user. Most audit systems are comprehensive but they can’t weigh the impact of an issue or an issue versus an opportunity. I often tell my clients that I’d rather they invested in an infographic that could drive tons of visits, social shares, and backlinks… than fix some obscure issue that’s not hurting them at all.

The Rapid Influence of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has already significantly transformed search engines and how they operate. The core impact of AI on search engines includes the ability to process natural language (NLP), understand user intent, provide more accurate and contextualized search results, and improve the overall user experience. Here are some ways in which AI is influencing search engines:

Search engines will become even more integrated with AI, making them not just a directory of links but a comprehensive answer engine capable of engaging users in a conversation, understanding complex queries, and providing precise information or actions in response.

Search engines are already moving towards incorporating more contextual and personalized results. The role of AI in transforming search into a service that understands the intent behind queries rather than just the content ensures that the future of search is much more intuitive and aligned with individual user needs.

SEO Is About Business Results

Your investment in ranking organically is all about business results. And business results is about providing value through your content and marketing efforts to potential and existing customers. Understanding how ranking is helping you build brand recognition and authority with search engines, value with potential customers, provide additional value with current customers, and drive search engine users through to do business with you is the ultimate goal of SEO. Search engine users have the intent to research and often intent to purchase – it should be a huge focus of your overall digital marketing efforts.

Does it work? We shared this result with a multi-location client where we prioritized their optimization, rebuilt their site, rewrote their content, redirected their traffic, and provided a superior, multi-language experience… all leveraging organic search strategies. This is year-over-year monthly organic search acquisition traffic:

If you’re in need of a good, honest consultant who understands how to leverage organic search to increase business results, reduce costs, improve reporting, and incorporate it into a multi-channel marketing program… contact my firm, DK New Media.

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