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To be honest, the phrase “search engine optimization” once frightened me. I don’t know about you, but I thought it sounded complicated and intimidating.

As a newbie project manager at Element 74, I naturally decided to tackle my digital fears head-on and figure out how SEO works.

The internet is full of great SEO educational tools. I chose a “Search Engine Basics” course on distilled.net, which offers resources and courses for those interested in SEO from beginner to advanced levels of knowledge about the subject.

I started from the very beginning of the course to learn the fundamentals of search engines. In a matter of a few hours, I felt so much more comfortable with SEO and how it works! Basically, search engines use three processes to find content on the web: crawling, indexing, and ranking.

Crawling

Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to decide what, when, and how often to crawl on the internet. Search engines will gather URLs from the pages that they crawl. Certain web technologies, such as Javascript, AJAX and Flash, and content forms, such as video and images, can be difficult for search engines to crawl.

Indexing

When a page is crawled, the information from the pages is stored, or “indexed” into a database available for users to search within that engine. For example, when you perform a Google search, you aren’t searching the entire web, but instead searching Google’s index of the web.

Ranking

Search engines use algorithms to determine the order of importance in which to present the information you have searched. To put it simply, ranking depends on hundreds of factors relating to the keyword, and search engines give a score to each page so that results can be presented to the user in a relevant order.

There are two highly important tips I have taken away from this course. First, overloading your page with keywords may seem like a smart idea, but beware! This can easily backfire on you. Search engines have the ability to detect when a page repeats keywords too often and can consider this spam.

Finally, I will leave you with the most essential tip I have taken away from my SEO education, perhaps the holy grail of all SEO tips: your search engine optimization strategy is only as good as the content on your website! Without solid content, your site’s search engine performance will likely fall short.

If you find search engine optimization to be as intimidating as I once did, I challenge you to erase the phrase from your mind immediately. Instead, think of it as “that AWESOME gadget I need to learn more about to take my business to the next level” and challenge yourself to take an online educational course!

Jessica May

About the Author

Jessica May
Jessica is a former Element 74 Project Manager and contributing author for the Element 74 blog.

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