The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

“So what is that?”

It is a common question asked of us when we tell them about “Search Engine Optimization”. While individuals are now very aware of the concept of search engines and the desire to show up on Google, it is much more rare for individuals to fully grasp the concept behind what makes something show up online and how their website can get found.

Common misconceptions about ranking online are that it’s just about money, or exclusive to big brands and unattainable by small businesses. Below we provide a quick review behind the history of search engines and how your business fits in.

Getting Online

One of the most important distinctions is understanding the difference between “online” and being included in the search engine (for the purposes of this discussion we’ll focus on Google) index.

If you as an individual decide to purchase and launch a domain and hosting service, your business is officially online. That’s it you are done! In the same way that if you open your store front business in the a remote part of the desert, it is up and running – it exists. However just as this business will not receive much foot traffic, your website while online will not receive much traffic until it can be found.

Before the age of the internet, once launched businesses would go through the process of marketing their business to try and drive increased foot traffic. Internet marketing and more specifically search engine optimization is the process of generating increased web traffic to your online store front; while the medium has change the basic goals remain the same as they have been for centuries.

Directories to Search Engines

Originally when individuals created their online website, they had the same issues that early businesses in remote locations had…if someone knew about your business/website it was easy enough to find, but if a person didn’t already know it was difficult to find them. At first this problem was addressed by directories, which similar to the Yellow Pages were singular webpages that curated websites and placed them in categories, allowing users to find the website they were looking for based off of the recommendations of the website. One of the oldest directory websites on the internet is still operational and available at

As you can imagine the process of maintaining these websites became increasingly challenging as the internet continued to scale. Additionally the listings within these website are subject to moderation leaving them subject to human error.

In response to these issues, the search engine was born.

Rather than a firm directory, search engines were created to give individuals a dynamic directory of websites curated for exactly what the individual was searching for. In order to do this, the developers needed to find a way to scour the web for the best webpages related to the search query. The major break through in search engine development was connecting the links between websites as “votes” for that webpage.

As a result of this breakthrough, search engines can best be thought of as dynamic polls of the internet, actually asking the internet “what is the best web page for this individuals search”. They instantaneously gather all of the polling data they have and then provide the user with a list of the top web pages. When a search returns 1000 pages, it means that according to that search engine there are 1000 pages that they believe provide an answer to whatever question the user asked, and those results are presented ranked in order from 1-1000. The search engine hopes that the first result will answer your question, and the developers at the search engine companies are constantly attempting to update their algorithms to ensure that the first ranked page is the best possible page that exists on the internet, and the second ranked page is the second best, and so on and so forth.

With this in mind, the way we normally explain search engine optimization is to state that your website is the same as a candidate in a global election, and our job is to be campaign managers for your website.


Campaign Management

When working with a website, the first goal is to determine what results/elections the owner is looking for the website to rank for. One of the challenges that smaller businesses will have against larger ones is the small ones that a local candidate would have running for President, with limited exposure they will not receive many votes nationally. However while this limits their website’s potential to rank well nationally in the near term, they can narrow the types of searches/elections they are attempting to generate votes on and as a result begin increasing their website traffic. In addition to improving their rankings on those results, as time goes on their increased foot print and traffic will eventually allow the website to continue to gain links/votes and begin gaining ground on more and more competitive terms.

When working on search engine optimization there are two main tactics which are called “On-site” and “Off-site”.

In continuing the election analogy, on-site search engine optimization work is similar to working with a candidate to ensure that they are best articulating their ideas and positions.

Off-site optimization has to do with getting those ideas and positions in front of voters, and working with them to cast a vote for the candidate.


You can learn more about our approach to both on-site and off-site optimization efforts here.

Our jobs are focused on working with your business to ensure that your website continues to be elected higher and higher for more and more searches.