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For some of this explanation, I am going to pretend Google is actually a person (getting scarily close) and also I will say it in a way that will help you understand, but it is oversimplified.

The Goal of SEO work

SEO is the process of doing things to improve your website placement in a search result and increasing the number of search phrases you show up for. 

There are a lot of different things that will move your website up in search results

Without doing any SEO work google will look at your website and try and decide what your site is about and what search phrase that someone types on the website would be useful to show up in.  The sites that show up number 1 thru 3 get most of the traffic.  

So If I want to show up number one when someone is doing a google search for “web design,” but I would also like to show up number one for the other phrases someone might type in that is relevant to my business such as: “The best web designer in Maryland.” 

This last one is probably a waste of time to try and show up number one for because there are probably not a lot of searches typing for this. 

Good SEO work is finding the best opportunities or the most searched phrase and then doing the work to show up at the top of the search page

TMI

In SEO, there are a lot of technical issues that need to be taken care of before you are even playing in the game.  The technical stuff has very little effect on your placement but without them, your site will not be even considered.  Once your technical or on-page SEO is complete google starts paying attention to how well your pages are received.  If someone types in a search, let’s say “dog walking near me” once they click on your link google will pay attention to how they like it.  You could think of it as a point system sticking with the sports reference.  If they take the time to read the content on your home page and click a few links in your site you gain points.  If your site has higher points than your competitor then they will move your site up.  

The way you achieve this is by writing better content than your competitors. Not in the Hemingway way, but your content must answer the problem better for the search term the visitor typed in.  Better can mean a lot of things.  This does not mean longer necessarily.  A site that is received well by your audience will deliver the content in a nice design.  Laid out in a way that allows for quick retrieval of additional questions they may have a thorough concise answer for all the questions they are looking for answers for.

This is a part of the battle. Great content connects with your audience. It must speak their language while being very easy for the user to use with a design that will leave them with an expectation of the quality of your service or product.

Great content is one piece of the elaborate puzzle.

As mentioned Google scores your site with some secret number that determines where your site or page shows up in search results.  Here are some of the other bonuses and penalties that help determine placement

  1.  Making sure the page’s purpose or who it is good for is made clear with the help of an SEO plugin.
  2. The pages performance. If the page loads slow people will leave quickly which will indicate to Google that people do not like your site.  If the page loads too slowly google will give you a double penalty. 
  3. Links – this is an important one.  If you can get a site that has a great reputation on google to link to you. It’s like they are saying.  Don’t worry this site is cool.  This can have the fastest impact on getting your site moved up in search results.  Linking outside of your site to a great additional source can help with with the bonus points you get for visitor interaction (just make sure the link opens in a new tab).
  4. Active community bonus.  Google likes sites that are active.  This can mean working on your website, posting to social media, or writing blogs. There is room here for extra points. You can get the fresh content bonus, the traffic bonus (getting visitors), and then the like what they see bonus when they stay and hang out.