What is SEO?

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What-is-SEOA new client confessed to me today that he called us because he knew he needed good SEO, but wasn’t sure what SEO was. I guess we’re so far down in the trenches that we take for granted that not everyone understands the importance of SEO or even what it is. So, here’s a quick rundown and a brief history of SEO:

Search Engine Optimization

SEO = Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell that means building a website, content, social media, linking partners and other factors that will convince Google and other search engines your site deserves to be at the top of the list for search terms related to your business. There are a several methods called “best practices of SEO” that will help promote your website and it’s important to incorporate as many as possible into your search engine marketing efforts. However, over time these best practices have changed drastically and are likely to continue evolving.

In the early days of SEO it was pretty easy: If you wanted to be ranked high for the phrase “Ice Cream Shop” you’d simply stuff the phrase “Ice Cream Shop” into your meta tags and content as much as possible. More and more the search engines are getting smarter. So much so that you can rank for terms that wren’t directly mentioned in your content. For example if you talk about your wide variety of flavors, that you make your own, talk about the ingredients, mention your hours of operation then Google will understand you’re an ice cream shop without you ever saying so. Pretty cool and yet kind of scary…

There used to be several other tactics you could employ to trick search engines. As mentioned previously “keyword stuffing” used to work great. Now it will get you penalized. Other tricks that used to work include adding hidden text that only the search engines could see, using link farms for inbound linking (you agree to link to a thousand sites and they all link back), writing a page for every possible variation of your keywords (ice cream shop, ice cream store, frozen yogurt shop, etc), intentionally misspelling terms related to your business that people often misspell and several other tricks – these tactics are called grey-hat or black- hat SEO. The point is you can no longer get away with anything that is intended to shortcut or trick the search engines. Anyone claiming to have the secret or guarantees will most likely take your money and leave you with not much to show for it. Some tricks work for a month or so, but will ultimately sink your site, maybe permanently. It is extremely important to be honest with your SEO efforts – white-hat SEO.

Content is King

If you write good, unique, interesting content your site is bound to be ranked well. It makes perfect sense: If Google’s job is to return the best content to their searchers then the sites with the best content will show up first. It really is that simple, at least to start…

Sharing is Caring

Since the boom of social media, many people turn to their wall or feed for information and recommendations so it’s important to have a good social media presence. That means sharing your content and taking part in relevant social communities. Simply having a good social media presence will help your site, and if your posts and comments, get +1, liked, shared, etc then your reach and your influence will spread that much further.

Inbound Links = Votes for Your Site

If another site mentions yours and links to it that must mean they like your site for some reason. As such the search engines see that as a vote essentially for your site. The more prominent the site linking to your, the more influential the vote. Remember – links farms and other linking shortcuts are bad! Good link building that will help your site takes time and effort.

Online Ratings = Votes Also

Along with many social media sites that let people rate your service, there are several services dedicated to rating and reviewing companies and their websites. Yelp, Angieslist, etc. It’s important to build a good presence there as well and encourage your (happy) customers to review your business. The search engines are able to relate the reviews on a third party site to your business and website. Again, the purpose of a search engine is to give their users relevant content and an overall good experience, so it’s important to Google to return sites that have been rated well.

Putting it all Together

The components of SEO listed above combine with several other smaller aspects to create your online brand. They all work both independently and together to get your website in front of the people who want your product or service. Sounds pretty hard? Well, it is. As with anything to do it right takes experience and knowledge. Similar to car repair there are non-mechanics who can do some of it themselves but there are definite advantages to having a trained mechanic work on your car, especially when it comes to things beyond changing oil or brakes.

Give us a call and we will show you what you can do to help your site and what we can do that you might not have the time for. Plus we have a bunch of really cool analysis and reporting tools that can pick your site apart and show us every area that’s doing great and those areas that are lacking in your SEO.