As the world of Search Engine Optimization evolves over time, the topic of SEO appears to becoming more complicated in the eyes of many of you who operate businesses or organizations that can benefit from what SEO provides. I am going to attempt to set the record straight.
We seem to have reached a point of frustration and in a few cases near-panic with respect to SEO, with an increasingly fanatical focus on SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) rankings. New terms like Authorship, Quality Content, and Semantics are causing some to want to throw their hands up in the air in futility, assuming that SEO is becoming too unapproachable for the masses.
Improper understanding of what SEO is about can cause serious potential damage to your business online or to your pocketbook. It is important to understand what SEO is for, what it is NOT for, and why like most things, it can do either harm or good to your business.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Pay attention, because if you do not understand or accept the following for your organization, you might be doomed to waste a great amount of time or money in pursuit of goals that you do not understand or need.
Search Engine Optimization is NOT ranking high in the SERPs, it is NOT the function of bringing more traffic to your website. It is NOT the function of gaining greater credibility and authority online. None of that is SEO. Those points I just mentioned are the natural and organic OUTCOMES of proper Search Engine Optimization, but they are NOT what you should focus on in the slightest, to achieve these results.
Now, before you think I’ve lost my mind, allow me to explain what SEO actually is?
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of helping YOUR potential customers find YOU-through the various online search engines, such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. That is it, period. Sure there are technical things involved in making it happen, but more and more, it appears that many are losing site of the goal, which is a stronger web presence for your business, and a more accurate and relevant set of Search Results for the person looking for what you have to offer.
Search Engine Optimization is NOT a numbers game, where you focus on bringing as many persons to your site as possible, in the hope that some of them will appreciate or need what you are offering. That is called “Shotgun Marketing”- Blasting pellets at the masses hoping to hit some of them. That is what they do over at Facebook, and frankly it is a sucky way of doing business, because you simply cannot measure your effectiveness, or tweak your efforts for more effective or efficient results.
In a world of billions of individuals, I guarantee you, that there is SOMEONE out there who wants what you are offering. Your marketing efforts are about finding them, and helping them find YOU. It is ridiculous and wasteful to put masses through a sieve hoping to strain out those few who happen to fall into your funnel. If you do not know who your target customer is, then there is no amount of SEO, and no formula that can or will improve your business.
You have probably heard that SEO is all about “OnPage” and “OffPage” considerations. To expand, that SEO is about the links, tags and keywords on your web page-(onpage) and about the backlinks and PageRank that your site achieves through being linked to by other web sites-(offpage)
That is about as descriptive of SEO as saying that Microsoft Windows is a bunch of C++ coded instantiated objects linked to a file allocation table through a both abstracted machine layer of hardware drivers and a graphical user interface. This may be true, but is THAT what you think of if I say “Windows”?
SEO suffers from the same misunderstanding as Social Media. It is an activity. It is a function. It is a tool to accomplish specific marketing goals through a systematic set of available options and choices for how you choose to communicate the value proposition of your business. Got that?
A few questions for you to consider about your SEO:
- Who is YOUR customer? (define based on your business goals and offerings, do not guess)
- What does YOUR customer want, with respect to what YOU have got?
- What do you want YOUR customer to know about your business or organization?
- Why should YOUR customer enlist YOUR services or buy YOUR product instead of those from YOUR competition?
- Do you know the difference between Assertions and Explanations?
- Do you have experience, and/or historical examples of successful customer interactions in your current occupation?
- Do you have others willing to vouch for your products or services based upon personal knowledge or experience of doing business with you?
- If all of the above can be answered “Yes”, then, can you write and spell well enough to make your points on a web page without damaging your credibility or those who would vouch for you?
- Can you (or can you pay someone else to) structure your writing to conform to specific rules and formatting for online publication?
- Can you, or those you hire, do all of the above without resorting to shortcuts, plagiarism, theft, tricks, and lies?
If or when you can say yes to all of the above about YOUR business, then you know all you need to know about Search Engine Optimization, because the above, is all that the Search Engines want to find on your web site when they visit to crawl (examine) your pages. How WELL you manage to convey the above is ORGANIC SEO, and this is what will achieve those positive outcomes mentioned earlier in this article.
“Okay J.C., now I understand what SEO is, so what should I do for my business?”
The first thing you need to decide, is whether you have the time to deviate from your professional focus to be futzing around trying to figure out meta-tags, backlinks, keywords, authorship, and all that other stuff that SEO pros worry about. Depending upon the size of your message or the complexity of your offerings, you may feel that you can figure it out yourself. Perhaps you can, but do build in the necessary amount of time required to do it very well all the time, and to keep up with the changes in this very dynamic field.
My opinion is that time is worth more than money, and it is kind of silly to focus on areas outside my expertise. If you are an SMB with a limited budget, then it can be a painful proposition to plunk down for professional SEO, or even Web Development for that matter, but so what? This is your business we are talking about, right? If its just a hobby, GoDaddy Site Builder will take good care of you, Bunkie.
Try to remember that every investment in your organization determines its ultimate value to others. Would you hire a substandard employee? Would you trust your business’s cross continent/international shipping needs to your cousin Jethro and his pickup truck? Every function of your business that communicates with others, needs to be the absolute best you can either do yourself, or afford to pay for, if you do not want to give YOUR customers the impression that you are less than a successful player in your field.
On Panda and Penguin
You may have been hearing from your SEO provider that changes made by Google are responsible for your website being less visible in the SERPs, or having less traffic historically. They’ve said that they cannot keep up with Google’s changes, and are doing all they can to keep your business ranked as high as they can.
Quick question? Have you considered asking your SEO Consultant exactly what Google has against YOUR business specifically, or what YOU did to cause Google to kick your business in the shins?
Fact: With respect to the rules of Search Engine Optimization, Google has changed practically NOTHING.
Fact: With respect to Google’s ability to detect websites that do not adhere strictly to its established rules for Search Engine Optimization, Google has changed BIG-TIME.
Panda and Penguin are NOT changes to SEO rules. They are changes, modifications and upgrades to Google’s ability to catch cheaters. PERIOD. This is a very important distinction, and one that many in the SEO field use to excuse their own behavior while blaming Google itself for a websites loss of ranking, PR (PageRank) or web traffic.
Search Engine rules are not arbitrary, or subjective. Your site follows them or it does not. Google could not care less if your website is awesome, or if it sucks. What they care about, is whether or not your web site accurately conveys your web site’s RELEVANCE to the person who is searching their engine for YOU. (See the 10 questions above)
If your site has been affected by Panda and Penguin, that very likely means your site has previously been subject to less than kosher practices and more importantly, you lost a lot of opportunities in potential clients finding you!
Google Authorship is currently the most talked about phenomenon in the SEO community. This is because it, when implemented fully, will represent a real change with respect to the criteria and rules for SEO. It is controversial for reasons that many do not want to discuss, but I will of course. J
Authorship is controversial, because it will help to define and reflect real differences in the scoring of one website against another. It will take true authority, trust and credibility into consideration, based not only on the content on a page, but the earned branding and value of the author writing it.
The words written by an established professional will mean more to the SERPs than those of a novice, or someone new to their field of endeavor, and it won’t be able to be overcome by a tweak in your HTML, or by going out and purchasing thousands of bogus backlinks.
In short, Authorship (if properly implemented) promises to put a real dent in the amount of cheating going on in the SEO world, and frankly, there are many who feel that Google Authorship threatens to put their livelihoods in jeopardy.
For you see, if less than able practitioners are unable to hide their suckage through purchased backlinks, article spinning, directory stuffing, content buying (ghost-writing), or worse. If you call yourself an expert at what you do, then write your own articles, and post your own content, Bunkie… Enough said.
I hope through this article, I have provided you with a basic understanding of SEO from the perspective of your business or organization. I hope you will keep the above in mind, and think first of SEO as a tool, not a destination or goal, because those are for YOU to define.
It is a true statement that the most important things about SEO, have nothing to do with the actual practice of SEO at all, but how well you first run your business, and how you go about describing it to the target audience you have identified for your offerings.