What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Ah, search engine optimization or SEO. Has any other recent buzzword or piece of online jargon so infiltrated the consciousness of people and entities with a website? Frankly, I think the term often terrifies the lay person because he or she knows it’s important, but doesn’t know what IT is.

Well, here’s what IT is: SEO, in aggregate, are the steps you take to make sure your site is found via “organic” (unpaid) search. That is, someone goes to google.com (as most web users do for search, but it could be Bing or Yahoo or Baidu or Yandex, too), types (or, increasingly, speaks) in a search, and voila! If you’ve done your SEO right, your website shows up on page 1 of the search results. The concept is not so challenging. Implementation is another matter.

Is it rocket science? No. Is it an art? Not really.  SEO does, however, involve both technical and more human-focused skills to do it right. Can it be done over night? No. It takes some time. Deploying effective SEO essentially requires the ability to step into someone else’s head and figure out how that person might look online for the goods or services you provide, and then deliver that information in an excellent, technically robust way. So I guess a little art and science, after all.

Recently a business approached us to inquire about GoatCloud’s affordable SEO services. The business was willing to spend only $200 a year on SEO. We’re not that affordable. Unfortunately for the business, $200 a year on SEO won’t get it very far (unless you depend exclusively on something like fiverr.com, which I wouldn’t recommend, and even then the time you spend will exceed a value of $200).  Why not? Because SEO just does not happen overnight. Successful SEO is a strategy that takes some time, months really, to deploy. It requires investment of time and/or money over the long haul. If you want to be successful at it, either you or someone you hire will be devoting time to the cause.

There are many, many things that you can do yourself (or your vendor should do for you) to enhance your online presence, and increase the likelihood that search engines shine more light on your website. Here are the basics:

Steps to Implement Effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  1. Keep the visitor or user experience in mind at all times.
  2. Make sure your site has abundant, rich, unique, well-written content. How do you create this content? Blog with some regularity. (blogging tips here).
  3. Make strategic use of pictures, audio and video.
  4. Your site must be well structured, load fast, and be easy to navigate. It must respond to screens of all sizes (i.e., is mobile ready).
  5. Make sure your local SEO efforts are in place. Claim and correct relevant business directory listings on Google+, Bing Local, Yahoo local, Yelp, Manta, yellowpages.com, and the like. Make sure your contact information (called “NAP” – name, address and phone) is consistent. See https://moz.com/local for ideas on relevant online directories. (Might also want to watch this online tutorial.)
  6. Ask for and respond to online comments. (see this online tutorial)
  7. Get social. Exploit social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
  8. Comment or post articles on others’ well-trafficked, relevant websites, always with a link back to your website.
  9. Monitor your efforts. Install Google Analytics on your site. Correct what doesn’t work and emphasize what does.
  10. If you need an immediate boost in traffic, consider an online advertising campaign through Google Adwords or Bing Ads. (here for more info on online PPC advertising) (Strictly speaking, we admit this is not an SEO step. Like SEO, paid search generates traffic to your website.)

Taken as a whole, it can sound a bit overwhelming. But remember, it’s a process. Let’s break it down. Tackle one step every three weeks. By the time you’re done, you’ll have an online presence that rewards your visitors and is search engine optimized.

Are we missing something? What other steps do you recommend? Please leave a comment below.

Image credit: Portraits of Giuliano and Francesco Giamberti da Sangallo by Piero di Cosimo (ca. 1445-1516), courtesy of Rijks Museum

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