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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a necessity for any organization with a digital presence to remain accessible, competitive, and authoritative. Effective SEO will place you at the top of the list for relevant search engine results and lead to a direct increase in traffic, sales, and goals. Poor SEO will perish you to obscurity: the second or further pages of a search result.  

Any organization—public, private, not-for-profit—may successfully leverage SEO to reach the number one position on a search engine results page (SERP). SEO is the great leveler of the internet, establishing an online arena where strategy and content are the keys to success and dollars are much less influential. This means that a startup with a bootstrapped budget but an effective SEO strategy may rank higher in a search engine than a multinational corporation.

However, before putting together a strategy, it is imperative to understand what SEO is and the factors influencing it.

What is Effective SEO?

Think of SEO like a spider web. A wide web composed of a number of threads (i.e., pages, social media accounts, inbound links from other websites) is better equipped to attract and capture more visitors. If these threads are made of strong, relevant, and regularly published material (e.g., blogs, social media), visitors are more likely to frequent your website and stay longer. However, if a single thread is underperforming or broken, it may compromise the integrity of the entire web.

A strong web is not spun overnight and requires regular maintenance; the same is true for SEO.

Navigating SEO

There is no magic bullet to achieving and maintaining a successful SEO position. Leading search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask are constantly updating their algorithms and criteria, making SEO a never-ending race to the top. This means a website in the top 100-Alexa ranking may plummet to a 1,000-rank within a day when an entity like Google changes its criteria.

There is no resting on laurels in SEO, as the game and the rules may change without notice.

Google Search

Google is the most popular search engine in the world. It processes over 40,000 search queries every second, 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches each year. While it is not the only search engine to be considered in SEO, it is one of the most influential.

In the early 2010s, Google shifted the online environment when it shifted from using technical SEO to semantic search. This means that instead of focusing on the number of times a specific term appears on a website when calculating its page rank, Google now prioritizes a user’s intent and the context of their search when providing relevant results.

Google divides semantic search into two types of queries: objective and subjective.

Objective Queries: “What country is Ontario in?”

These questions seek a definitive answer. There is little subjectivity to these responses, so Google will parse through authoritative indexes to provide a response.

Subjective Queries: “Where is the best place to get pizza nearby?”

The most effective SEO strategies must anticipate and provide concise responses to user queries. As there is no definitive response to these questions Google will show you nearby pizza restaurants by leveraging both your location and the SERP scores of relevant eateries which may be influenced by their website, Yelp reviews, and database listings.

Effective SEO is attainable for any individual or organization. It requires strategy, planning, regular maintenance and—perhaps most importantly—a strong understanding of your audience. However, with discipline and by providing value, the number one spot is within reach.