What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a magical art, created in the center of an active volcano by a colony of friendly yet mischievous gnomes.
SEO can’t be seen, it’s hard to quantify, it’s not altogether tangible, and it’s constantly shifting and moving around like the smoky essence of the universal ether.
SEO has had a tainted history. In the past few years, snake oil salespeople have been pulling their wagons into town and offloading their wares on the unassuming villagers. SEO was packaged and sold as the way to get to number one on Google. In the past, there were some questionable ways of making this happen. Evil SEOs of old employed backlinking magic, keyword stuffing, and various other wayward tactics to fool the poor Google. And it worked. But then the Google woke up, and it was angry.
With the release of several major upgrades to its algorithm, Google changed the rules for SEOs everywhere. Instead of ranking well for using dark tactics, sites were penalized. Some companies woke up one morning to find their websites had completely fallen off the radar. Since these major shifts in the industry, the world of SEO has become a completely different place.
The Google Effect
You may be aware of the fact that Google changes its algorithm over 500 times a year. Let me put that in perspective. Think of doing something 499 times this year. Google changes its algorithm more than that. That’s more often than some people shower. Every time this happens, the SEO industry feels it. Sometimes the changes are subtle. Sometimes they are major. Either way, a big part of SEO is ensuring your website makes the grade—that is, stays in line with Google’s ranking criteria. There are forums on the Internet where SEO engineers do nothing but debate what Google is going to do next, and what it means. Deciphering Google is a full time job.
Also, let me clarify. I use the term “Google”, but what I really mean is “search engine”. Everyone knows there are other search engines out there. I think. There’s also Bing, and there’s… Bing. Fact: Google gets over 60% of the search engine traffic on the web, so for the purpose of expedience, I’ll probably just keep saying Google when referring to search engines.
As for the explanation of SEO, I have come to think of it in five distinct sections.
Technical SEO deals with applying attributes to web pages which happen on the back end, where most mild-mannered content creators choose not to venture. Technical SEO changes can include improving page load times, applying microformatting, validating the W3C markup, and various other techniques.
Search engines acknowledge the effectiveness of a website from a technical perspective, so it’s an important aspect to improved SEO. But once those technical changes are applied, they don’t keep awarding your site points with Google. Even though these updates are important, the SEO work is really only just beginning.
This is the most important part of SEO. Content should be at the core of your SEO strategy. Whether it’s articles, images, videos, infographs or a collection of all of these, the more relevant and helpful your content is, the better your chances of it being found on the web.
Tactical SEO refers to optimizing websites on a page-by-page basis, in order to ensure they make the grade for popular search engines.
Tactical SEO involves the effective insertion of keywords into on-page content throughout a website. This may sound simple enough, but keywords are different for every industry, every company, and every individual.
The wrong keywords will draw the wrong kind of traffic to a website. If the keyword is too broad, you’ll get tire-kickers. If it’s too specific and exclusionary, you may be cutting out part of your audience. Keyword use a balance, and it’s ongoing. Basically, tactical SEO involves strategic content insertion on a continual basis.
Social is a great way to pull traffic to your website organically. It stems from having great content and staying engaged with your audience. Ideally your audience will share your content, comment about it, and give you feedback. All of this activity drives traffic and calls attention to your web presence.
This is the science of SEO. Through custom reporting, SEO managers can determine whether a strategy is working. Because one client’s goals are different from the next, SEO strategies should be tailored to fit specific needs. It isn’t all about getting to number one on Google (something we’ll cover more in depth soon), it’s about identifying a client’s key performance indicators and doing everything you can to meet expectations.
As SEO Manager at Treefrog, this will not be the only article I write about SEO. It’s such an involved topic, there are hundreds of angles to cover. In fact, many of the topics brought in this article are grounds for more explanation, which I plan to provide as we go forward. In the meantime, please feel free to email your questions or flag me down on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to help however I can.
I hope that you will enjoy following along this incredible journey as we learn and experience together. In the meantime, I’ll be hangin’ with the gnomes.