What is SEO? (And Why Should You Care?)
SEO is a hot buzzword when it comes to online business and advertising. But what is SEO exactly? And why does it matter?
In short, SEO – or search engine optimization, as the term is properly named – is:
“the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”
This is still a fairly broad concept, with nearly endless interpretations. And indeed, many people do interpret SEO in very different ways.
The problem with open interpretation of SEO is that it’s simply not a factor that’s open to individual interpretation. Not yours. Not that of your web developer. Not that of your college web marketing professor. Sure, each of these people might have some right information regarding SEO. But most people haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about.
If you’re a blogger and are a little clueless about SEO, that’s alright. But if you’re a web developer who’s “proficient in the latest web technologies and SEO”, then you’d better darn well know the right way to interpret – and implement – SEO.
This post examines some of the specifics of SEO and how making slight tweaks to your website can drastically improve your site’s rankings and save you from making rookie mistakes that damage your search engine performance.
Reaching Customers Through SEO
While SEO may seem like a somewhat obscure topic – after all, who can really understand what a search engine “thinks”? – it’s critically important for the main thing your website exists for: reaching new customers.
Think about your last few Google searches. Were you looking for a recipe? The hours of your favorite local pizza place? A phone number for your kid’s orthodontist’s office? The reason why Marylanders say bizarre things like “warsher” (washer) and “warter” (water)?
Whatever your search, you almost definitely clicked on one of the first few links and ignored the rest, right?
And as it turns out, it wasn’t your search engine’s keen perception that brought the recipe, phone number or informational article to your fingertips. It was the content on those sites that brought the right information to your phone or computer when you needed it most.
So how do search engines know how to give you the information that you need when you enter a search query?
That’s the question that SEO seeks to answer.
Your Part in the SEO Puzzle
From the consumer side of things, the well-oiled SEO machine means that you get the information you want, when you want it.
From the business side of things, a discussion of SEO generally leads to the question: how do I get my business/blog/recipe to be the first one that shows up when someone else enters a search query?
Getting your information out into the vast online world is a good first step, but getting your information seen is the critical link that keeps your site from being one in a billion to one that makes connections – and sales.
Prevalent SEO Myths
There are a lot of myths regarding SEO. These hurt your rankings and help to keep your site at the bottom of the pack. Meaning? You lose visits, conversions and ultimately, sales. Ouch.
Here are some of the top myths we hear regarding SEO:
Myth 1 – Content is everything.
Part of this is true. Good content = site visits = conversions = sales. However, content is not the only thing that matters.
“Build it and they will come” mentality is the most dangerous thing that you could buy into.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a top notch professor in your discipline and think that well-crafted posts will blast your less qualified online competition out of the water. If people don’t know you’re there, the best, most well-researched posts and content in the world won’t bring them to your site.
Myth 2 – Keywords are all that matter.
Let me ask you: have you ever been to a website where really awkward phrases like “facial plastic surgery Beverly Hills, California qualified doctors” eke themselves into poor unsuspecting sentences?
If yes, then you’re already familiar with the concept of keywords and keyword stuffing. At the genesis of SEO implementation, web developers and copywriters figured out pretty quickly that tucking a page’s keyword into the text roughly 10 million times would get the page to pop up more quickly when people searched keyword phrases. And some years ago, this did make a difference.
Keywords are still important when it comes to identifying the purpose of a page and validating it when the site crawlers scan your site. If your keyword for a page is “alligator sight seeing tours” and you spend the entire page talking about the life cycle of crocodiles, site crawlers will automatically de-rank that page (and your site) as a result.
Keyword stuffing, on the other hand, is a sure sign that you’re still missing the point of SEO. Organic keywords and related phrases work well in verifying your information and passing the bot scans. You generally want a short keyword, and you want to make sure it shows up in places like your title, headers and once every 100-200 words or so. But don’t push it. Some keywords lend themselves to frequent use, while others might be lucky to get mentioned even twice.
Myth 3 – There are SEO Shortcuts.
SEO is based entirely on organic web traffic and an authentic web presence. I physically cringe every time someone tries to tell me that they’ve got “that SEO thing figured out” because they’ve entered their information into a form that distributes their credentials to some dozens of search engines.
Here’s the big secret: Google is the only search engine that matters, whether you like it or not. Google makes the SEO rules. And when Google is running the SEO show, there aren’t any shortcuts. Even paying for Google Adwords campaigns won’t benefit your SEO performance in the long run (but that’s a topic for another time).
You have to play the SEO game correctly (read: by Google’s rules) from the start and keep your head in the game in order to see long-term results. Generally, a solid SEO score takes a year or longer to truly build or sustain. The key is in playing the long game and having awesome, regularly updated content, as well as properly maintaining your site, as you’ll see below.
SEO in a Nutshell
Bottom line: Good SEO means that your site doesn’t look like it was developed by robots.
Things like repetitive text (commonly known as “boilerplate”), stock images, impersonal content, lack of local validation, missing or broken links and the like stack the cards against you.
A good site that organically builds its own SEO rankings is worth its weight in gold. Showing up on the first page of a Google search almost certainly means you’ll boost your pageviews, conversions and sales.
But again, this success doesn’t come overnight. Maintaining an SEO-friendly site is a full-time job – and frankly, it’s one that most business owners simply don’t have time for.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of SEO and the implications that it has on your website, you’re not alone. SEO is a terribly time-intensive commitment that may take up to a year or two with little to no return. And if you make a mistake somewhere along the way, you can set your progress back to zero.
This isn’t meant to be doom and gloom. We’re not trying to scare you out of trying to have the awesomest, best SEO ranked site in your industry. On the contrary, we’d love to see you succeed!
If you want to improve your SEO score, take some time to check the following aspects of your site:
- Your content – generally you want only relevant content to your site’s purpose. Each page should be aligned around a consistent theme, or keyword.
- Your pictures – don’t fall into the trap that professional stock photos will lure in new customers. Site crawlers know when they’ve seen a Shutterstock photo a thousand times before and your site will get deranked for a lack of originality and organic content.
- Your local information – do you have your address (or at least your city) posted? Both customers and bots want to know you’re actually located in a place before they trust you. No listed address = automatic deranking.
- Your general site maintenance – another massive red flag is a poorly maintained site. If you haven’t updated your site in a while, have broken links, missing photos and other obvious signs of neglect, you’ll get knocked down faster than Goliath at the end of a sling shot stone.
If you’re concerned about your site’s SEO and want to boost your rankings without investing your valuable time and energy, contact us to learn more about how our SEO strategy and copywriting services can be of assistance to your brand.
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About Rystedt Creative Services
At Rystedt Creative, we believe your web experience should be simple and straightforward. Whether your life’s calling is to make custom lawn gnomes or host conferences for pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, we can help you handle the details of maintaining your online influence.