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SEO for Dummies

One of the great things about picking up a writing habit is it gives you an excuse to research things that you're already interested in. One of my goals is to learn more about what it takes to run a business, and nowadays that almost involves marketing something online.

When you're trying to sell something or get people's attention on the internet, the main issue you'll face is how to cut through the noise. Just about any reasonable search on google is going to return millions of results spread across hundreds of pages, yet we almost never stray from the first page. How stark is the difference you ask? Here's a handy graph from a study of over 5 million google searches by backlinko:

There are ten results per page of google:

And that first page captures about 99% of all clicks.

"You'll also notice that while there's small dips between results 2-9, there's a huge drop off in clicks from result 1 to result 2, which can be explained by just showing where our eyes are most likely to look when we open the page:

Google results are designed to work in the exact same way you'd read a book; left to right, top to bottom, so naturally there's a huge advantage in being first, and a serious disadvantage to not being in the first 10. So how does Google's cruel algorithm decide what results to show where anyway?

Well, primarily by what it thinks you'll find most useful. Even if your 'Nicholas Cage Duck' print is the perfect solution to your customer's boring walls, they need to be able to find your strange art to buy it, the same way they'd need to be able to drive to a physical art gallery. Robert Kiyosaki wrote about this when he talked about how selling is almost as important as the product itself. a young author scoffed at him for implying this and he simply picked up a nearby book and said,

“There’s a reason successful books say ‘best-selling author,’ not ‘best-writing author.’”

Don't get me wrong, your content or product is at the core of what will make you successful. But if you never get found, then you'll never get the results you're looking for (and neither will your customers). Getting found on Google takes Search Engine Optimization.


SEO is all about making your site as search-engine friendly as possible. Google's algorithm is effective, yet simple minded. It operates off of keywords that people use when they type into Google's search bar. If you're an electrician in Cleveland, then writing New Orleans in your keywords isn't going to do you a lot of good when trying to get found by local customers.

Additionally, if people are looking for a plumber, and you refer to yourself on your site exclusively as a pipe wizard, that is decidedly not search engine friendly. Finding the right keywords takes understanding what words your customers are using to search for what you're offering.

The other main way you can get better SEO is through backlinks. The more sites that link to your site, the more important your site appears to the internet, and the more 'votes' Google will have for raising your site in the search results.

There's entire businesses devoted to SEO and trying to discern what makes Google tick, but these are the basics about how things get found on the internet. If you want proof, just pay attention to where you look next time you open up a search result, and more importantly where you end up clicking.

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