What is SEO?

In a world where we are so often identified by what we do as who we are, being in SEO doesn’t always help people draw the most accurate picture of what I do or who I am. So in an effort to provide a frame of reference for our own clients, as well as potential clients, I wanted to take a minute and lay out the basic framework of SEO.

SEO is Search Engine Optimization, or literally the efforts made in helping your web site to appear more prominently in Search Engine results, ie Google. The reality of our world is when people have a need, of any type, they immediately use search to begin to solve their problem. Search, and more poignantly, Google, has changed the way in which the world accesses and judges information, in so much that whatever results are returned for a particular search, are generally viewed as the best or most appropriate results. The bottom line is regardless of the product you sell, the service you offer, whether you are a business-to-business industry or a consumer facing industry, people, your potential clients and customers, are searching for your product, for information about your product, for reviews, for specifications, searching for answers. SEO helps connect your business with those customers searching for you.

SEO is not a fixed concept, nor is it an agreed upon set of rules or best practices. SEO is a dynamic and evolving industry that has seen tumultuous change and redirection nearly every year. What does not change is the fundamentals of where SEO takes place and what Google looks to in order to help “rank” your site. These ranking factors may change in weight, or how google values each factor, as well as entirely new factors arising. When we talk about SEO and ranking factors we talk about 2 main things: On-Site & Off-Site.

When we talk about On-Site we’re referring to the actual coding and elements of your website: How your content is structured and organized, the particular elemental tags used to differentiate content on your site, from the way you tag your images to the url structure and page types you employ. Quality SEO is diving into each page, having a clear goal in mind and a coordinated effort for all elements of the page towards the particular page goal.

The other main factor is what is happening in reference to your site, out in the web. So in addition to how you structure your content and label it, Google also wants to see some authority on the web with regard to your content. The best way of weighting the value of a site’s content is by evaluating the number of other sites that link to that particular page and/or domain. This is the essence of backlinks, or other sites that link back to your website. The type of link and value of each type vary widely, but what remains consistent is the need for quality backlinks in order to move the needle. In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of social media as a factor, with Google going as far as creating their own Social Media Network in order to try and leverage the power of search with the power of social.

Bottom line, SEO is an evolving industry, which is here to stay. There were nearly 20 billion searches in the US alone last month, and this number is rising, not decreasing. If you’re currently engaging on SEO, kudos. If you’re not, then do a couple of quick Google searches for a keyword in your industry. Take note of whom appears at the top of those results. While you’re not making the effort, your competitor is.

Look for our next article, “What to look for in an SEO firm”, due later this week and when results matter, GlobeRunner SEO.