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What is SEO?

What is SEO? This is a question we often get from customers who don’t know what SEO is and often aren’t even sure what it stands for. That’s the easy part! SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”.  After explaining this, I still generally get blank stares. So let’s dive in and get a high level understanding of what Search Engine Optimization means. In this post, I’ll spare you the gory details and focus only on the HIGH LEVEL aspects of SEO and what it means to you as a business owner.

Let’s start by way of an example. You live in Belleville and your daughter is getting married this year. You want to go shopping for a bridal dress but you don’t know any of the stores in Belleville that sell bridal dresses. What do you do?  Of course you hop on your phone or your computer and you type in a search term related to this endeavour.

Now here’s an important point: Not everybody searches for something using the same search terms.

You may decide to do this search using the words “wedding dress belleville”.


Those words you use to do this search, by the way, is called a ‘keyword”.   That’s a bit confusing since it’s more than one word. A more accurate term would be “key phrase”. Nonetheless, it’s referred to as a keyword even though the search term may have multiple words in it.

So back to our search. You decided to search for “wedding dress belleville”.  Someone else may search for: “wedding store” or ” bridal dress” or “bridal shop belleville” or “belleville wedding dress shop”. As you can see there are many possible search terms one might use. Some, of course, are more popular than others and part of SEO is figuring that out. That, by the way, is part of what is called “Keyword Research“.

Let’s take a quick look at the search results that came back for you when you typed in “wedding dress belleville”. Below is an image of what this search result might look like. Yours may well be different depending upon where you are located.  In any event, there are 5 areas of interest on this image labeled 1 through 5. 

image of a search result

 Google’s Search Result Stats

The area marked “1” shows you how many websites Google indexed (or to put it another way ‘searched through”) in order to list out the best matches for your search. So in this case Google felt 1.3 MILLION websites were relevant and it lists the results from best to worst match below. For some reason Google also feels compelled to tell you how long it took to produce those search results (0.93 seconds). In reality, it is something to be proud of because in that time of less than one second Google ranked 1.3 million websites in the order it thinks are most relevant to you …

…and it accomplished that based on the three simple words you typed into the search bar!

It really is pretty impressive when you think about it. And I think you will agree with me in that most of the time Google gets it right! That is to say, most of the time you probably click on the first result you see in the organic listings (marked “5” in our image) or the local listings (marked “3” in the image).

The Local Map

The area marked “2” in the image is the ‘local map’.  Not every search will necessarily have a local map show up in the search results. However, if you are a local business, you want to show up on this map for keywords that are relevant to you. The map has pins for relevant local business and then the area marked “3” on our image lists out those local businesses with some details about the businesses including, importantly, reviews and hours of operation and a link to the business websites (which is accessed by clicking the business title).

If you look below the last result in the local results (which in this case is “Janine”) you will see button ‘More places”. When clicked this takes you to another page of local results. But, of course,  if you are a local business you want to show up in those first three because people don’t click on ‘More places” unles they don’t find what they are looking for either above that (in the top three results) or further down in what is called the organic listings (labeled “5” on our image).

It’s worth repeating, if you are a local business you want to show up in the top three results of the local map.

Google’s FAQs

The area marked “4” is one of Google’s relatively newer search features. This is the FAQ (frequently asked questions) section. This is Google’s attempt to answer any relevant questions it can think of that relate to your search term. Smart local businesse will attempt to have content on their websites that answers these questions.

Organic Listings

The last area, marked “5” is the start of the organic listings. These can of course, go on for pages and pages. But how many people search beyond page 1? It’s rare and averages about 3% for all searches. Most people (about 97% of the time) find what they are looking for on page 1 of the search results.

This does beg the question of “how good is it to rank on page 1 of Google Search” (and we’ll save that for another post), because this one is supposed to be about “What is SEO” and we are close to getting off topic!

So back to “What is SEO?”  At a very high level, SEO is a set of activities that are done to have a website rank as high as possible for specific search terms. It’s the effort done that results in a business showing up in the local map (marked “2”) and the local listing results (marked “3”) and the even the FAQs (marked “4”) and the organic listings (marked “5”).

These results don’t typically happen by accident. It’s the result of hard work done usually over a reasonably long period of time.

Undoubtedly, your next question is “HOW do you get these rankings?”.  The short answer to that is that you have to be what Google believes is the most relevant to the words that were used in the search. The longer answer is much more complicated and we will attempt to cover that in other posts.

Runway Bridal, by the way, listed in the top three of the local map and number one organically for this particular search term, is one of our customers. We host and maintain her website and do SEO work that helps to get the results you see here. Try some other ‘bridal shop’ related searches and we’re pretty confident you will see Runway Bridal popping up fairly regularly.


If you think having your business rank higher in Google search (and other search engine search results) would be of benefit to your business, feel free to drop us a line to initiate a conversation. If we can help you out, great! If not, the worst that will happen is you spend a little bit of your time and learned some more things about SEO.