Search Engine Optimization

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Lesson Overview

In this series of lessons, we will talk about one of the most valuable services you can provide when designing a website: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In this particular lesson, we will learn:

  1. What is SEO?
  2. What is the purpose of search engines?
  3. How do search engine ranking algorithms work?
  4. How do you increase your search rankings?


Lesson Transcription

Welcome! I’m Leighton, your webmaster. In this series of lessons, let’s talk about one of the most valuable services you can provide when designing a website: Search Engine Optimization (or, SEO, for short). Have you heard of SEO? And why is it such a valuable service? SEO is a very complicated subject, but for you, I’m going to demystify it. We’ll take this advanced concept and make it as simple and easy to understand as possible. Ready?!

Alright, let’s start with the name, Search Engine Optimization. What does that mean? Do you have any guesses? Put simply, it’s “Optimizing” a website for better “Search Engine” rankings. Best case scenario, you and your clients would rank on page 1 for all relevant searches.

But why do we care about ranking well in search engines? Well, if a business wants to hire a web designer, they have a few options. They could ask people they trust for a recommendation, or they could search online. So they go to Google… but wait, why Google? Well, which search engine do you use? Most everyone uses Google; in fact, over 90% of searches globally are on a Google service. So that’s where we’ll focus our efforts.

So back to why we care; a business owner goes to and searches for a website designer. Then what? Who pops up? Better yet, what’s your chances of landing that account if you don’t show up on any of the first pages? That business opportunity will go to another web design company, and think of that! Think of the value of that transaction. That website account could have been worth thousands of dollars, offered to somebody else simply because they showed up above you on a Google search. I’ve gotten plenty of work, worth thousands of dollars, from complete strangers whose only connection to me was my name popping up on a Google search. And the best part? I don’t pay a dollar to Google. Not a dollar. But what about Ads? Don’t they cost money? Yes, Google does charge for Google Ads, but that’s not what this particular lesson is about. You can always pay for Ads to show up in the Ads section of Google search results, but Search Engine Optimization is about optimizing your site to rank well on the FREE (or: organic) search results. Free! Not paid.

And we’re not in the dark! Google is quite clear when it comes to DO’s and DONT’s. While nobody knows the exact algorithm, Google does put out tons of free resources for webmasters, in addition to the plethora of SEO tutorials and education available on the Internet. Are you starting to understand why SEO is so important? It basically comes down to money on the table. Someone’s going to pick up that money, and it’s pretty much only offered to people who rank on the first or second page.

So how do search engines like Google work? Let’s break this down to its simplest form. When you ask a teacher a question, what do you expect to find? The answer! When you ask a trusted friend for a recommendation, what are you expecting? A good one! Google wants to be like both the teacher and the friend. If you need an answer or a recommendation, they want to fill that need, and fill it correctly. For example, let’s say you ask Google… “What is the capital of France? 

(Demonstrate this search as well as “how many inches are in a yard?“)

So Google wants to correctly answer your question as effortlessly as possible. That’s their goal! For many searches, that can be done without even leaving But Google can serve other purposes. For example, some people are simply looking to be connected to a specific company’s website. If you do a Google search for “Walmart,” what do you think correct answer to that query is?! The official website for Walmart. In that case, Google helped you navigate to the website you were looking for. What about the 3rd type of search? Not a question. Not a specific website. But a recommendation for a website or business. Let me show you an example. 

(DEMONSTRATE: Search for “where to buy an iPhone.” Search also for “best coffee in Austin, Texas”)

So with those searches, Google is hoping to connect you with the right website or business to answer your question or fill your need. Imagine if Google was a person! Imagine the stress! Of people expecting you to have the right answer or best recommendation every time. That’s why Google takes very seriously who ranks on the first page. They want to connect you with the best business, the most accurate answer, or the correct destination. No pressure, right?! So let’s figure out how Google goes about that. By crawling, indexing and ranking the Web. What do those 3 involve?

  1. First, let’s learn Crawling. So think of Google like a spider. Spiders “Crawl” across webs, right? Well, Google Crawls the Digital Web. Specifically, that digital spider is called Googlebot, and it scours the Web looking for content. What happens when it finds content?
  2. It indexes it! That’s the 2nd process. Indexing is when content is stored and organized. So basically, Google is a massive database of content. Like a city! A city is divided into streets, addresses, neighborhoods, businesses, parks, government buildings, etc. Hopefully, it’s organized well enough so you can find what you’re looking for with just an address. Likewise, the digital Spiders index and organize the Web to make it easy to find what you’re looking for online!
  3. And third, after content is discovered and organized, it must be ranked. Again, like a city, what’s your local favorite coffee shop? The best place to buy meat? The most family friendly park? In your mind, you can probably answer those questions by ranking various places. And that’s what search engines try to do with the Web.

To be clear, as a Search Engine Optimizer, you’re enabling all 3 of those processes: Crawling, indexing and ranking. But how? How do you optimize a website to improve its rankings? Well, there are 2 tactics. Basically, a right way and a wrong way. The right way is called WHITE HAT, and the wrong way is BLACK HAT. White Hat are techniques that Google endorses. Things that they say, “yes, if you do these things, you will enjoy better rankings.” So what kind of techniques are we talking about? Well, I’ll let Google answer that. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts.


That was exciting! You just saw, directly from the source, that search engines are pretty transparent with their ranking principles. In the following lessons, we’ll consider White Hat techniques you can use both ON and OFF your website (and when I say “your website,” I’m referring to the websites you build for your clients). Before we recap, just 2 more points:

  1. First, please understand that ranking well in Google takes time. You won’t find your website on page 1 the day you launch it (and some clients will actually expect that). Think of this from Google’s perspective. You have all these respectable, reputable businesses to rank, and here comes this brand new, digital infant! You don’t know much about it, it has no reviews, it hasn’t established an online reputation, and nobody else links to it. Would you rank that website at the top? No! You would want that website to prove its credibility first. That could take months, even years! Of course, search engine results are NOT chronological. In fact, Google engineers have debunked the myth that Domain Age is a ranking signal, but what is a ranking signal? Credibility. And that takes time. We’ll talk about Links and Credibility during the Off-Site SEO Lesson …..
  2. The other point is Local vs National vs International SEO. For the purpose of this course, we’re focusing on Local SEO since most small businesses conduct business in a certain area. That means helping you and your clients to rank well in your local area.

So to RECAP: What have we learned in this Intro to SEO?

  1. Search Engine Optimization helps websites rank better in search engines like Google.
  2. Search engines ultimately want to accurately answer questions and connect people with the right business.
  3. Search engines work by crawling, indexing and ranking the Web.
  4. Websites rank well by following White Hat SEO techniques that obey the search engine’s quality guidelines.

Are you ready to dive into these techniques? I certainly am! There’s so much to learn, and in the following lesson, we’ll focus on what you can do ON your website.

I’m Leighton, and now you know, Search Engine Optimization!


Lesson Homework

Peruse the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Start learning directly from the source of SEO, Google itself.