Before we start this mini-series on SEO, it might be good to answer the question, what is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation for search engine optimization.
This means you are trying to get your site to rank as high as possible in search engines like Google or Bing (as well as other search engines).
Why do businesses want to rank number one in Google? The end goal is usually to make more sales. As we go through this course, keep that end goal in mind.
We are not just optimizing for Google, though that is the biggest player in search. We also want to be found in Bing, Yahoo, or any other directories that people would be searching in.
What are people searching for? People use search engines to find a solution to a problem they are having.
There is a lot of confusion about SEO, and how it works, and why results are ranked the way that they are ranked.
This course will try to explain in as much detail as possible what SEO is, and how you can make both your customers and the search engines happy.
There Is A Lot Of Misunderstanding About SEO
When I talk to business owners here in Sacramento, or anywhere else, many of them have a misguided understanding of how SEO works, and what they’ve paid SEO consultants to do in the past.
I’d like to outline what SEO is, and what SEO is not.
Many people think that SEO is about someone to run AdWords to make them rank on page one. I’ve had several people tell me verbatim that “you pay someone to make you rank, and as soon as you stop paying them, you stop ranking”.
What they are describing is not organic SEO. It is a form of advertising where the marketing consultant gets a fee to manage your advertising campaign. Paying for AdWords or other forms of pay-per-click does drive traffic, but as soon as you stop paying, you will lose all the web traffic you were receiving.
Imagine if instead of putting all that time and money into an AdWords campaign, you put that effort into your website to improve organic search rankings. It takes more work to get a website to rank higher in Google organically (the non=advertising results), but the benefits are much more long-lasting.
Pay Per Click Is Not The Same Thing As SEO
It infuriates me that many SEO consultants don’t work with clients to improve their organic rankings, but instead only run pay-per-click campaigns. These would include the random phone calls you get from “Google specialists” from various parts of the country. If a marketing agency is so great at SEO, why would they cold call potential customers?
Organic SEO is a long-term process. It takes a lot of work. It is unlikely that you’ll be number one within a week, which is what everybody wants of course.
Many people don’t want to hear that. Google is exponentially more sophisticated than it was even five years ago. Today, if you want to rank number one in Google, you should aim to deliver the very best result for the searcher’s intention.
No amount of keyword-stuffing or sleight-of-hand tricks are you going to make you rank number one in the long term. In fact, these shortcuts can cost you very dearly in the long run.
There Are No Shortcuts To Organic SEO
Organic SEO, when done correctly, will ensure that you have the best possible chance of being ranking high in the search results for a long time. Organic SEO focuses on delivering the best answers for the questions that your customers are trying to ask.
Real world SEO takes a long time, because it focuses on creating quality site content that people want to share, and that answers their questions. It is much more complicated then repeating the same keywords for search phrases over and over. Those pages may rank well for a little while, but they don’t solve the main goal of wanting to rank high in Google: increasing sales.
If you came to a web page that sounded unnatural, and repeated phrases over and over, would you buy from that page? Neither will your customers.
A good rule for what to put on your web pages: consider what would you say to the customer if they were asking you a question face-to-face, instead of typing it into Google. Then it becomes much easier to separate good SEO practices from bad SEO practices.
The problem is, most business owners have no way to discern a good SEO consultant from a bad one. Technology is like voodoo or a black magic to those who stand outside of it. It is strange and intimidating.
What Is SEO? A Moving Target With Many Variables
Answering your customer’s questions is only one piece of the puzzle though. There are many other factors such as user experience (how people interact with your website and how easy it is to use), customer reviews, local signals, how well known your brand is, and the technical parts of your website. All these things can affect your search ranking.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to keep exploring real world SEO, and look at each factor one by one. We will break down the most critical factors, and get into the more esoteric ones. By the end of this mini-course, you should have a better understanding of SEO in general, and how Google looks at your website overall.
So what is SEO? SEO is not just paying for Google ads. Search engine optimization is about how Google ranks your site organically (without paying for ads). Google tries to match the best possible answer to the intent of the person typing a question. If you understand your customers, and you work hard to provide answers for their questions before they ask them, you are well on your way to improving your search ranking.
The Rest of the Posts in this Mini-Series
- What Is SEO? Real World SEO, Part 1
- Know Your End Goal: Real World SEO, Part 2
- Know Your Customers: Real World SEO, Part 3
- Keyword Research: Real World SEO, Part 4
- Google Analytics & Google Search Console: Real World SEO, Part 5
- Content Planning for Your Website: Real World SEO, Part 6
- Website Content Audits: Real World SEO, Part 7
- 301 Redirects: Real World SEO, Part 8
- Back Links: Real World SEO, Part 9
- The Title Tag: Real World SEO, Part 10
- The Meta Description and Its Role In SEO: Real World SEO, Part 11
- SEO Friendly URLs: Real World SEO, Part 12