Gone are the days when most people typed in the name of the website they wanted to view, except for the few very well-known and frequently visited sites. While it is still important branding to have a good web site name (or Domain Name to be technically correct), today the vast majority of people reach your website being referred from the results of a search. This is particularly true as many people today use mobile devices and voice assistants; it is much easier to voice search than type a website name. While there are several search engines and voice assistants competing for users, I’ll focus on just the top-ones, since these techniques will apply to most systems.
So how does a search engine decide to recommend your site? The search engines compete on producing results that answer the question you posed. To know what questions your site can answer, the engines “crawl” your site. That is, they visit a site as a user would and record what content you have published. They analyze that content to see what information you provide. In the past, you would provide “keywords” that describe your content. While keywords are still important, the engines do a better job of extracting the gist of your content so keywords alone is insufficient. In fact, Google will penalize your site in its results if it detects keyword-stuffing; that is, listing keywords that in fact are not supported by your content. For example, if your keywords include “top 10 pie recipes” your site must in fact have rated pie recipes. There are also technical considerations to help make your site accessible to search engines.
Google has gone further in recent years to consider the user’s browsing experience as well as your content. Your site should have an acceptable level of performance, should offer secure access, and should offer a good mobile experience.