What’s SEO anyway?

image New clients often start by asking me, “So, you do websites, right? Do you do SEO?”

“Sure”, I say, “Would you like fries with that?”

OK, not really. What I do say is, “What do you mean by ‘SEO’?”

The conversation then goes as many ways as there are clients.

Now, personally, I think that if you’re going to ask for professional help, it’s better if you stick to what you want to get for yourself and don’t try to use jargon, because that will get you both in trouble.  Leads? Great. Sales? Even better. Profits? Awesome. But SEO? Is that a business word?

But I shouldn’t argue with reality and the reality is that most people use jargon, so if you’re about to look for someone to “do SEO” for your website, at least you’ll know what to expect.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Oddly enough, it involves no changes to search engines at all.  Google, Microsoft and the other search providers can do that just fine without me and are continually improving their search engines.

The optimization actually aims to bring your website the biggest flood of visitors from the search engines.  A good optimization aims to bring your business the biggest flood of paying customers by making your site feature prominently in searches that are relevant for your business and starting to engage with them on the search results page.

Good SEO, like many other things, involves the 3 steps: keyword research, on-site optimization and off-site optimization.

Keyword Research

In short, this step is aimed at discovering the best online identity for your website.

In the same way you can’t see your own face without the help of a mirror, your Internet marketing consultant can show you hidden gems in your business by looking at things differently and by using specialized tools to discover good keywords.

Even in systems like Facebook, which seem unrelated to search, keywords reign supreme. Even when search results are not provided by Google or one of its large competitors, you’re sure to find a search function on nearly every site. Keywords are used to find and filter information online and so they are at the foundation of all Internet marketing work.

Once you know your keywords, you must put them in order of value for your business by asking “Which keyword represents the largest number of potential customers for my business?” or “Which is the keyword phrase my ideal customers are most likely to use when looking for my products and services?”

On-site SEO

In short, this step is aimed at making your website relevant for the best and most appropriate keywords out there.

Your topmost keyword phrase should be used as your domain name. It should be used as often as possible in your headings, page titles, descriptions and links. Your Internet marketer will make sure this keyword appears in all the right places.

But your secondary keyword phrases will tell you how to structure your site, each one of them becoming the topic of a page linked from your home page and linking back to it. Again, each page’s title, headings and various other elements must contain that page’s keyword phrase enough times for search engine crawlers to be convinced it is indeed the topic of that page.

Although this seems like straightforward work, it is complicated by the need to appeal to people and by the search engines’ increasing ability to detect unnatural content that is solely aimed at attracting traffic. As a business website, what you are really after isn’t traffic, it’s leads, sales and ultimately profit. If people find your site and read weird heaps of keywords, they won’t buy, so what’s the point in such traffic?

An experienced Internet marketer can weave keyword phrases into page content in just the right amount and make the text and images appealing to human beings who will take the desired action and make you, the site owner, successful and happy.

Off-site SEO

In short, this step is aimed at making your website even more relevant for your top keywords, but also popular.

Search engines keep track of references to your site from other places on the Internet – directories, articles, news feeds, social profiles and more. Those links imply that other people are telling people about your site because they have found it valuable and authoritative, so the more “inbound” links, the more valuable your site must be. This is how Google determines the famous Google Page Rank.

When searching for sites matching a keyword phrase, Google displays relevant sites in descending order of popularity, so the more links, the higher your site appears within search results. Get enough inbound links and you can be first!

Well, almost. See, links also have “link text”, which is very important in determining what your site is about. In fact, when you start building enough links to your site, that link text can become more important than your site’s contents. Here are two links:

  1. Click here
  2. Gal Baras – Internet marketing consultant

If you hover over link #1, your will see the words “What now?”. If you click it, you will be taken to Google’s home page. When a crawler finds this link, it will associate Google’s home page with the expressions “Click here” and “What now?”, neither of which are very useful for a search engine’s home page.

If you hover over link #2, however, you will see the words “Internet marketing consultant”. If you click it, you will be taken to my home page. Crawlers will then associate my website with two instances of “Internet marketing consultant” and with “Gal Baras”, both of which are very good for getting this site the kind of traffic I want.

Of course, it can be difficult to insert your ideal link text and link title into some paragraphs, but wording the text around the inbound link cleverly can yield a natural referral.

Did I hear anyone say, “No problem, I’ll just do some link exchanges”? Do you honestly believe Google hasn’t figured that out already? Getting a link is quite a bit easier than getting a valuable link, one that appears natural and can stand the tests of time and contact improvement of search engines.

Remember, search engines are doing their best to deliver the most similar results to what a human would, but of course, experienced Internet marketers already know this, which is why online competition is getting fiercer by the minute.

I hope this clarifies what SEO is. If you still have any questions about it, please post them below and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability (kindly refrain from self-promotion and stick to things other may want to know too).

Happy online business,
Gal

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