Psst, SEO is not just Google, pass it on

When questions about SEO come up in meetings, I often find that my answers are somewhat abridged. Someone will ask what SEO is, and I’ll say something like, “SEO is search engine optimization; it’s essentially the art and science of making sure that when someone searches Google for the services or products you offer, your company comes up in the top search results.”

All of that is true, but it’s an oversimplification. This description does a great job helping people understand SEO based on something they are painfully familiar with: the Google search. So it’s a relatable example but it misses a couple of important things—namely, SEO is not ONLY about Google.  

OK, yes, SEO is MOSTLY about Google 

If you are like most people when you search for something on the internet, you go straight to Google. After all, it is the most popular search engine in the world. So big, in fact, that “googling” has become a legit verb that you can find in a dictionary. 

I know this because I googled “Googling” on Google to get a Google result. 

In all seriousness, how and where you and your brand show up in Google search is very important, regardless of what product or service you sell. The general rule of thumb is that you want your website to show up on page one—the first ten results—of Google’s organic (unpaid) search results. 

For most brands, this is not too terribly hard to achieve for branded search terms like a company’s name. However, SEO gets much more complicated when you start thinking about search terms, beyond your brand or company name, that your customers will use to find your products or services. 

The good news is that SEO optimization (working on your website to rank better for those search terms) is possible, and will make a difference. The bad news is that it’s part science and part art, there isn’t a surefire way to succeed in SEO and it can take some time. 

For most brands that already have a website up and running, we recommend an SEO audit, which reviews your website, analytics and the search terms you want to rank for, and then delivers a report on what improvements you can make to the site itself, content you might consider creating, link building strategies and other ideas to improve SEO. 

But it’s also about other search engines

Sure, Google is the biggest and has a verb, but let’s not forget the other search engines. Yes, a lot of people use Bing and Yahoo (they are generally listed in the top five). While it is common to focus SEO solely on Google, make sure you also think about your customers and where they are most likely to search. 

For example, if 90% of your search traffic comes from Google, it may make sense to focus most of your SEO efforts on Google search. On the other, it may also help you understand where you have opportunities to fine-tune your SEO for Yahoo and Bing. 

Or perhaps your analytics confirm that your customers use Yahoo more than Google, or the traffic gap between the two is close. Or perhaps you have a broad international presence, making SEO focus on platforms like Baidu (the biggest search engine in China) imperative. 

And, SEO is also about other websites we might overlook

It’s easy to forget that search engines go well beyond the top three that spring to mind. For example, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. So, if your brand creates video content, it makes sense that you should be posting it on YouTube. But even more, you should be optimizing the videos that you post as carefully as you would a website so people can find them on YouTube. This means paying close attention to written titles, descriptions, tags, categories and more. 

And, the list doesn’t stop there While you may not think of it this way, other popular sites are also search engines. For example, Vimeo, Glassdoor, and Amazon are all, in one sense, search engines. 

So, where should I start?

All of this is to say that, yes, SEO is essential, and Google is important. But Google is not the only search engine to consider when thinking about SEO. In the end, the search engines that are most important for you and your brand will vary. You may find that such a large percentage of your customers use Google that the others don’t matter. Or you may find that you should be focusing on both Google and YouTube, or Yahoo and Amazon.

So, where do you start? 

Like most marketing, start with goals, your customer’s behavior and data. Do some analysis, or a full SEO audit, to learn what platform(s) you should focus your efforts on, how you can optimize what you already have on your website and what types of content you might add to improve your SEO results.