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SEO is, quite simply, an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, and that is all it is. It is not a game of subterfuge with users or search crawlers; rather, it is a process of taking known rules of how search engines work and building it into a plan to improve upon the visibility you might have if you did nothing at all. There are about 1.5 billion websites in the world today, with most of them completely unaware of their SEO missteps. Yet, search engines still have to figure out how to understand these websites without SEO, so they may get a small amount of search traffic. If that small traffic is not acceptable to you, SEO is your only answer. Make sure that your freelance SEO knows what search engine recommendations are.

To execute an SEO strategy of any type, it is important to at least have a basic understanding of how search engines work. Someday, a search engine will be as intelligent and personal as a helpful librarian, finding the exact piece of knowledge the user is seeking instantly, but that day may be far in the future. In the meantime, search algorithms are forced to rely on hundreds of factors to determine the relevance of a piece of content. Search engines also have algorithms to understand exactly what a user wants. It is the marriage of these two algorithms that results in a search page that hopefully has an answer satisfying to the user. Increasingly, the result is not even a search-results page of websites but just single answers called "knowledge boxes" or "featured snippets." A professional SEO Consultant will keep themselves updated with the latest trends and techniques which are working well in the market.

Breaking down the hundreds of factors that search engines use to understand the user’s query and a webpage’s relevance is what leads to the tactics and best practices commonly adopted by all SEO practitioners. Many of these factors aren’t even secrets! Google, Bing, and other search engines are quite open about what constitutes a best practice. When I am asked for the best resource to learn SEO, I happily share the guides provided by the search engines themselves.

While the specifics of how to implement a tactic might be disputed, everyone—search engines and SEO practitioners alike—is in agreement that pages must contain content (not just images) that uses words closely aligned with what a user might search in a query.

SEO is simply the idea of optimizing for this reality in whatever form is necessary to improve the visibility prospects of a website. The granular details of how and where content needs to be used will vary across industry, country, and even search engine, but the question of what to put in that content is best answered by a strategic approach rather than one-off content decisions driven by narrow SEO goals. A recommended SEO services organisation will be on top of all the changes and can take the burden of ensuring your content ranks well off your hands.

When search engines were first unleashed on the world, they were essentially online yellow pages. At the same time, early web users were infinitely more curious than yellow-page-book readers and apt to click on lots of results. Technology early-adopters quickly realized the tremendous economic windfall that could be realized from search engines sending traffic to their websites. The range of services of a SEO expert includes both off-page and on-page SEO optimization.

Today’s search landscape is dominated by Google (the actual percentages are debatable, but Google has at least 65 percent of the market share, if not more), and Google has used its vast artificial-intelligence resources to neuter illegitimate tactics that win search visibility. Initially, Google and other search engines may have been closer to software-powered phone books, but a lot has changed in the last decades. Search engines use optical character recognition to read text within images or even recognize what objects are within images. (To see the immense power of this technology, check out the Google Lens app, take a picture of something, and then search for it on Google.) Google can transcribe text within video and audio—just not at scale yet. It is already doing this for the billions of hours of video on YouTube. Most importantly, it has two decades of experience in how users respond to information and search results. Potential clients have to trust the judgment of the freelance SEO consultant as to how strong the competition is, what site optimization is required, and what opportunities exist.

SEO today is incredibly different than it was in the early days; it is more legitimate and vastly more valuable. While many in the SEO industry perceive Google to be their nemesis, Google’s aggressive efforts at fighting spam and improving its algorithms have made search a place users can trust for valuable information, which, in turn, justifies all the effort in trying to achieve success in this channel. The best SEO consultancy is someone who has a thorough knowledge of such SEO techniques that bring your content to the forefront of the search results page.

To really underscore this point, try to recall the last time you used a search engine other than Google or Bing and what made you only use Google or Bing to begin with. (Note: On Bing, its algorithm is similar at a high level to Google in the way it ranks websites and demotes spam.) If Google had allowed marketers to dictate what appears in search results, it might have gone the way of AltaVista, Excite, Yahoo, and all the other search engines that exist in name only while their search results are powered by Google. It is Google’s quality results that make it the place users turn to whenever they have a question or need information.