Research suggests that companies in the US will spend an estimated $79.27 billion on SEO services, in the year 2022. Imagine that!

SEO, it seems, is only just getting started.

The industry movers are aware of the benefits of good SEO, are you?

You should be.

It’s impossible to compete in the modern market without SEO.

You’ve probably heard all that before. That aside, do you understand why Search Engine Optimization is so popular in the digital space? Do you know how SEO works?

This article will help you appreciate the workings of SEO, and how invaluable it is to your business. Read on.

How SEO Works: The Basics

What does SEO stand for?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Contrary to what the name suggests, SEO specialists don’t optimize search engines. Search Engine Optimization is a set of strategies that improve the visibility of web pages.

How do I mean?

Google estimates that there are about 500 million terabytes of data on the internet. Only 4% of that data is visible to search engines. In other words, 96% of the data on the internet will never be seen.

Let’s break it down.

96% of 500 million terabytes adds up to 480 million terabytes of unindexed pages: On the internet today. Why is this important? Well, the first step towards success on the internet is visibility.

I’ll illustrate that with an anecdote.

Yahoo was an established search engine, long before Google was born. Back then, ranking algorithms were very primitive. In fact, Yahoo ranked pages alphabetically.

Now, for the interesting bit: Amazon ranked consistently higher than the competition. This visibility gave Amazon the edge it needed to carve out a name that’s endured to this day.

That’s the power of SEO!

Search Engine Optimization is all about increasing your website’s visibility. The higher you rank on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), the more clients you get. Let’s put a figure to that assertion.

Research shows that 91.5% of internet traffic goes to websites listed on the first SERP. Poor rankings will sink your business, no matter the quality of the product or service you offer. Below are a few reasons why SEO is vital for businesses in the digital age:

Search Engine Optimization: The Benefits

High Conversion Rates
Research shows that leads generated by SEO are almost 9 times more likely to convert than leads generated by traditional advertising.

SEO Benefits Last Long
SEO strategies are long-term in nature. In fact, it may take you upwards of a year to get an optimal ranking. That said, you’re assured of retaining the rank for a longer time.

In fact, continued optimization guarantees continued rank improvement. Many people, however, give up before the benefits kick in. Don’t be one of those guys.

SEO Improves Your Credibility
People place more trust on the higher-ranking pages. Most of the time, the decision to work with you or the competition is made long before clicking on your page.

Imagine that!

Services like online reputation management take things a step further. Word of mouth has the potential to make or break your business. Reputation management is all about monitoring and regulating negative word of mouth.

If you left reputation to chance, a few unsatisfied clients would easily bring you down.

SEO Follows Market Behavior
Search engine algorithms have come a long way. Today, the user’s experience is the most important ranking factor across all engines. To illustrate this, think back to when the ranking was done alphabetically.

Back then, aptly named sites ranked higher regardless of what they offered visitors.

Google is the most popular search engine because its algorithms are all about the value you offer your visitors. Let’s look at a ranking factor like bounce rate. If visitors abandon your site as soon as they visit you, Google algorithms rank you lower.

The logic is simple: The more value a site offers, the longer visitors stay. Consequently, SEO specialists have evolved into experts of market behavior. SEO campaigns will not only help you rank higher; you’ll identify your market’s most pressing pain points.

This list hardly scratches the surface of SEO benefits, but it’ll have to do. Let’s now dabble in the nitty-gritty of how SEO works.

How SEO Works: All You Need to Know

Let’s first look at how Search Engines Work. You’ll only understand how SEO works after you appreciate the mechanisms governing search engines. A little spoiler: It’s all about user experience.

The core intent of Search Engines is to rank high-value sites higher than low-value sites. The value here is synonymous with the user experience. The better users appreciate your site, the higher you rank.

Simple, right? Then let’s dig in deeper. Ask yourself:

“How do search engines determine the value your site offers?” Answering this question will shed light on how SEO works.

Optimization and User Behavior

Search engines analyze how users behave on your site and use the information to determine the value you offer. Let’s take an example: Do you know why viral content ranks high on SERPs? Because search engines work on the premise that people only share what they find useful.

Viral content also gets a lot of backlinks. Search engines love backlinks. Google officials are on record saying that links, content, and RankBrain are the three most important factors influencing ranking. That said, link building is a service best left to trusted professionals.

Why? Read on.

Link building requires both expertise and goodwill. Take guest posts, for example, they are effective link building strategies, but very hard to implement optimally via DIY approaches. You may be an expert blogger, but lack high-authority sites willing to host your blogs.

What about Search Engine Optimization Specialists? What do they do differently?

Enter Search Engine Specialists

SEO specialists run authority sites with good Domain Authority (DA). DA is a bargaining chip. When most sites are approached to host a guest post, they usually consider the DA of the requester.

It’s quid pro quo in most cases. “We’ll host some blogs for you now, but you’ll have to return the favor in the future.” The game is rigged, you’ll never get first-page-ranking links without hiring link building specialists.

Let’s turn the heat up a notch. It’s time to look at the mechanisms that influence how SEO works.

How SEO Works: The Secrets Revealed

Search engines work in three main phases:

  1. Crawling: Google bots navigate the internet looking for new content.
  2. Indexing: The new content is indexed (made visible). Only indexed content can be accessed through search engines.
  3. Ranking: Ranking algorithms analyze how people interact with various sites and rank them accordingly.

Let’s begin with the first two phases. For search engines to crawl and index your site, the architecture must be optimized. Architecture goes back to how your site was coded. Therefore, optimization should begin as early as web design.

Optimized web design also helps your pages load faster, a key ranking factor. In fact, every aspect of your site’s structure—including URL—can be optimized for better ranking.

Most people are unaware of the role of SEO specialists in web design. The result is an outstanding 480 million terabytes worth of pages that are invisible to search engines—remember the invisible 96%.

Now let’s head to ranking and the algorithms involved.

How SEO Works: Let’s Talk Algorithms

You’ve probably heard it already: Content is king. The higher the quality of your content, the better the user experience, the higher your ranking. The problem is that the internet is already full of quality content.

How do you stand out?

The answer, optimization. Content has to impress both user and search engine. Impressing the user is the easier part.

Search engines are a bit trickier. Great content is not enough for search engines because they can’t read. How then do they differentiate good content from poor content?

User experience is a late ranking factor. In fact, user experience influences existing rankings. What do I mean?

Pay attention.

Long before a user interacts with your site, Google has already given you a ranking. User experience will only guide to rank you higher or lower. So what’s the source of this initial ranking?

In a word, keywords.

Keyword Optimization

Search engines use keywords to rate your relevance to a search and rank you accordingly. Keyword optimization tells search engines that your content is highly relevant to the search.

It is a two-step process:

Keyword research: This step is easily the most beneficial service offered by search engine optimization specialists. You’ve been told it’s near-impossible to rank for high-value keywords. What if I told you it’s possible?

That’s exactly what good keyword research can do for you. Google says that 15% of the searches it handles are new. Specialized keyword research fishes out high-value low-competition keywords from that new 15%.

Keyword placement: Optimal keyword placement improves the user experience. Search engines, on the other hand, consider it a signal of your commitment to keywords. Let me illustrate:

Why Optimize Keyword Placement?

Internet users don’t read in the conventional sense. They skim through content before they decide whether to read or move on. Well-placed keywords catch the visitor’s attention as they skim through your site.

Placement is also crucial to ranking. When the search engine bots come across two sites competing for similar keywords, they turn to keyword placement. The higher up a page a keyword appears, the higher the ranking.

Keywords in titles and subtitles also carry more weight than their equals in the body of the content.

Now to a very popular question: With all this free SEO info, do you need to hire SEO specialists?

SEO Specialist: Need or Luxury?

There are SEO strategies you can employ at the individual level. Most of the high-value strategies are, however, best left to the experts.

Search engines are always changing their algorithms. Google, for example, changes its ranking algorithms about 500-600 times every year. SEO specialists dedicate a large chunk of their time following the changes.

Why is this important?

Most algorithm updates come with a backlash. What worked in the past may turn into a penalty-worthy offense after an update. This means that what you know now may not necessarily hold true for the future.

SEO is also too much of a high-value strategy to be left in the hands of a novice. Imagine the case of a faulty iPhone. What do you do?

Do you read a few guides online and then attempt to fix the iPhone? Of course not!

The iPhone is a valuable piece of equipment, too valuable to be left in the hands of a novice. Do you see where this is headed?

Let’s finish off with a startling fact: SEO agencies are cheaper than in-house SEO. It sounds ridiculous, right? Let me explain.

Quality SEO is a set of high-end strategies. It goes beyond content and keyword placement. For example, did you know that research has shown that 72% of your visitors would rather learn of your products through video?

Things just got complicated, right?

If you handled the content in-house, you’d still have to outsource video production. Considering that voice search is increasing in popularity, you’d have to outsource that too.

What if you’d outsourced all these SEO needs to an SEO agency from the get-go? Economies of scale would’ve reduced the cost of optimization. On that note, settle for an agency that also offers optimized video production services.

In A Nutshell

SEO is the lifeblood of businesses in the digital world. It has the potential to bring relentless growth or sink businesses. However, being a set of strategies, it’s best to outsource services to an agency that approaches SEO from different angles.

BrandLume offers all the services you need to stand out in the digital space. We’re a one-stop-shop for all your SEO and branding needs. Why would you try in-house SEO when we are cheaper and better?