Entrepreneur & Business Owner Jesse Willms Explains the Basics of Search Engine Optimization
While the underlying algorithms and programs that drive search engine optimization (SEO) are enormously — and for most people, incomprehensibly — complex, you do not need to have multiple advanced degrees in IT to understand the basics.
According to Jesse Willms, a seasoned entrepreneur and business owner with a deep background in digital marketing from Las Vegas, Nevada, here are the core points to know and remember about SEO:
1. It’s All About Relevance
Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! (which is actually a directory and not a search engine, but we can add it into the search engine category for the purposes of this discussion) are all built to do one fundamental thing: provide people who search for things online using keywords (a.k.a. search terms) with relevant suggestions.
For example, if someone types “best tennis racquet” into Google, then Google’s singular mission is to provide that individual with a list of websites (technically, search engines rank web pages and not websites, but we can ignore that detail for the purposes of this discussion on SEO basics) that address that query.
As such, businesses that seek to benefit from SEO — that is, have their website show up to customers in the search results — need to focus on creating content that is relevant on two levels: relevant for specific keywords (e.g. “best tennis racquet”) and relevant for potential customers (providing the person who clicks on a search result page link with useful information and accurate information).
“Getting people to click to a website through SEO strategies and tactics is obviously important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” commented Jesse Willms, who owns several vehicle history websites that enable consumers to check out the history of used cars and identify whether vehicles of interest have been in an accident, have any recalls, and are reliable according to other drivers. “Once visitors arrive to a website, businesses need to ensure that they engage content that is relevant, as well as compelling, engaging and memorable. Otherwise, people will just back away and head to another website.”
2. Strategic Linking is Essential
The next basic fact to know about SEO, is that links are essential. There are two kinds of links: internal links and external links. Internal links are links that point to other pages on the same website. External links are inbound links that come from other websites. Search engines pay very close attention to links (again, both internal and external) to determine two things: what a website is about, and how credible and authoritative it is.
“Link building and link optimization is very complex, and there are right ways and wrong ways of doing it,” commented Jesse Willms. “Businesses that don’t have in-house experts to do this for them should definitely outsource to a proven digital marketing consultant or an established agency. If a business uses the wrong tactics — even by accident — they can actually find their website penalized by search engines.”
3. SEO is an Ongoing Commitment
Last but certainly not least, some businesses lose patience with SEO because they expect rapid results. This is similar to folks who sign up for a gym membership and get frustrated after a few weeks because they do not look like they could be on the cover of a fitness magazine. Jesse Willms says while it is certainly possible to see some relatively quick SEO wins, in the big picture it is a long-term, ongoing commitment. Getting frustrated and pulling the plug too early is always a costly mistake.
“SEO is not a static thing, because it’s not just about what a single business is doing — it’s about what competitors are doing as well,” commented Jesse Willms. “For example, a business may have been enjoying page one rankings for years for certain search terms, but then a competitor or several competitors catch wind of this and aggressively start competing for those same search terms. Unless the first business gears up their SEO engine, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll be knocked off the front page. So, it’s not just about getting to page one, it’s also about staying there.”