SEO 101 Part 1: Popularity, Relevance, & Quality

Note: This is Part 1 of our ongoing SEO 101 series. Part 2, Part 3

The world of search engine optimization (SEO) is broad and ever-changing. Keeping up with the latest algorithm changes, strategies, and professional techniques is a full-time job – for which most business owners don’t have the time. However, the basics of SEO remain relatively static and the concepts are easy to grasp. This series will take you through the basic principles and strategies of quality SEO work and hopefully provide a good baseline for business to think about their SEO and SEM (search engine marketing needs).

When it comes to search engine optimization the primary thing to remember is that search engines are businesses too. They have customers (searchers) and a product to provide (search results). And so it is in the search engine business’ best interest to provide the best results – or else their customers will move on to a competitor.

With that in mind, the basic questions of SEO can be answered by asking what the search engines are looking for in order to provide the best results to their customers. While the ins and outs of each search engine’s algorithms and ranking methods are not public, three basic principles apply across the board: popularity, relevance, and quality.


While it may not seem fair, websites that are already popular have a huge advantage in search results. The search engines are more willing to trust an established popular site over an obscure one that popped up last night. Remember that the search engines want to provide the best possible results to their customers and many people have already voted with their clicks in the past.

But popularity also extends beyond just bare clicks. The search engines also track metrics such as bounce rate (when a user immediately leaves a website) and time on page. A page that is accessed often for long periods of time is most likely providing quality content that is answering user’s questions. Such a website will be rewarded with a higher ranking. Of course, popularity isn’t the only metric used by the search engines, or else it would be impossible for new sites to ever climb the rankings – that’s where relevance and quality factor in.


Search engines don’t just want to offer popular websites – they also want to provide results that are relevant to the user’s inquiries. The techniques used to determine relevance are becoming more sophisticated by the day, as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and web crawler technologies expand and grow. Producing top-quality content that is relevant to your target audience has never been more important for successful ranking and SEO work.

The perceived value of your page is vital to the search engine rewarding you with a top spot in the rankings. According to a recent study by Moz, the impact of a site’s perceived value (as determined by search engine algorithm) is likely to increase by a whopping 81%. This means that if your website isn’t providing content that is relevant to user’s searches you will shortly be left in the dust. Content marketing has been all the rage recently and for good reason – it is vital to a long-term SEO strategy.


Third, search engines are seeking to provide results that provide not just relevant but quality content. An article may be completely relevant to a search query, but if the quality is lacking then it will not satisfy the searcher. Too many cheap SEO firms promise results through a content marketing strategy that ignores this final piece of the puzzle. Producing content that is not quality isn’t an effective long-term SEO plan. The search engines will not reward the website with good rankings despite the relevance, and the popularity (as evidenced by time-on-page and backlinks) will never develop as it should.

One common mistake is to sacrifice quality for the sake on quantity – and while it’s true that regularly producing content is a good SEO strategy, it must be part of a larger whole that seeks quality and popular content. As with relevance, the tools that search engines are using to determine quality content are growing more sophisticated. Trying to game the system just doesn’t work anymore, and there is little alternative to the hard work of regularly producing quality content.

The quality metric also applies beyond just the content of a website – with search engines now considering issues like readability, responsiveness, and design. Poorly designed or cumbersome websites, even with top quality, relevant content can be penalized by the search engines for their bad user experience.

Understanding SEO

Your goal is to grow your business; the search engine’s goal is to provide excellent search results to its customers – getting these two goals to align is the key to a good SEO strategy. Seeing your relationship with the search engines as symbiotic – beneficial to both parties – is the best way to understand search engine optimization. Helping them provide quality results will drive traffic to your website – a win/win.

Fusion Group USA can help develop an effective, long-term SEO strategy – from initial website design to content creation and marketing; contact us today to see how we can harness the power of search engines for your business.

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