This is perhaps a revolutionary version of what you really need to know about these guys. It's based on Section V of The Online Sunshine Plan.
And might be quite shorter than what you may be expecting. (That section is your pre-assignment, BTW.)
I. What search engines make their money from: Advertising.
And Google admitted, finally, that buying ads "helps" your organic PPC. Ostensibly, they make their money by helping people convert to buyers. Or so they think. (Advertising is an addiction businesses have, which I've covered elsewhere. That's why they got the government to write it in as an exemption in the Tax Codes.)
II. What search engines are good for: New customers.
Once you have a person buying from you, you want to turn them into clients so they will continually and regularly buy your products or services. At that point, they already know your site address (or will find it by searching for your brand, not your keywords) and so no longer need to use search engines.
III. What search engines think in: Words.
All their algorithms are based in whole or in part on what associated words are used. Videos are "read" by the descriptions (and links) left below or near them, as well as their actual file title. Pictures - the same (so next time you see an image with a number or code, realize an opportunity was missed.) PDF's are turned into text and then read (so make your PDF's out of text, not scanned images.) Podcasts are slightly different as they can transliterate text out of voices (so be sure to have high-quality enunciation used, not slang or technical words so much.)
IV. What search engines hate: the same stuff we do - spammy, low-quality content which is designed to "game" the system instead of producing real value. Search engine algorithms are based on people-usage. If people click off a page, then it's not very good quality. (And why you want to include catchy phrases, video's and images - all good "infotainment" value - as long as they contribute to the actual content of the page.
And that's about all the new data I have to share. Not because this particular section was well written, more that Google really hasn't changed much over the years. Basically, anyhow (we'll leave Android and Google+ out of the picture for now.)
Your freebie today (and assignment) is to simply get and study Google's SEO Starter Guide. The reason people don't have top ranking pages are due to not making a checklist out of this guide and comparing their own site against it. Period.
I've been working freelance for a guy who built his backend to simply do just that. Because he couldn't find anything out there which did. And years later, I did a study of some 58 different Content Management Systems and found only one which would do it (nearly) right out of the box. (And the other drawback was that these CMS's were very clunky and poorly built. Design by committee or something.) His just gets right to the point and is simple to use. I've helped improve it a bit, but just in terms of tweaks (and he's been talking about ripping it all down and starting from scratch to really do it right.)
Now, I didn't get into social media, which is another animal. And we'll also tackle "backlinking" at that point. Both of these have been buzz-words for some time. And both are poorly understood. In the upcoming section I've labeled "Secret Sauce", I'm going to let fly some strategies - while painfully honest - are highly effective, but are simple for search engines to thwart if they ever become mis-used. (And I also have the solution to make your use of them proof against any "Google-slap".)
OK? Tomorrow we dig into the many types of content you can (and should) be producing from your original piece and the 3 styles you can (and should) be using to write their variations...