20 April 2020

What is "SEO" Anyway?

Here's my current definition of SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

"That ongoing set of tasks performed to position your company, products or services so search engines can confirm your company, products or services are: (a) legitimate and of good quality, and; (b) relevant to keyword(s) or key phrase(s) being searched for by customers. This SEO work should also help Google or Bing determine: where your products or services are available - a certain geographical radius, online, or both. This will to ensure what you provide is accessible and relevant to users performing the specific search query."

You'll notice there are no specific practices or tricks in this definition. SEO is, at it's highest level, a set of ways you work WITH search engines as they work to provide the best possible search resultss for THEIR customers - people searching for results.

For SEO to be effective efforts should be designed around the specific keywords, phrases or key concepts tied to the products or services your company provides. Before kicking off any SEO effort we first need to answer a basic question about your business.

Let's let started!

What does your business do?

"We sell women's fashion boots from two storefronts, one in X-Town, Fairfield County CT and one in Y-Town in Westchester County NY."

Start with one of two things. You can do "keyword research" using tools like Google Insights to see what people are searching for around your products. Or to go really simple, ask someone outside of your business to demonstrate what they'd Google if they were in the market for your boots. Sit together and do some real world searches. Narrow down your primary target keyword (or phrase), start specific, choose phrases real people are searching for like "buy women's boots in CT" (or add X-Town, that’s even more specific or "long-tail"). Then you’d want to do the same thing with “buy women’s boots” in Y-Town NY. Does your company's website come up in the first page of results in this test? If so, great! It not, you need to optimize for search to help your customers find you.

How do you optimize for your chosen keywords? Start with your website copy. Make sure the words are clear to both search engines and to humans - that "women's boots" is what you're selling, and you have two specific store locations. You may think your website shows clearly that you sell women’s boots, you have stunning photos of women's boots all over your pages. But Google's algorithm doesn't know much (yet) from photos. It knows words. And it needs the correct number of words and phrases in the right places to get who you are.

Most business owners and marketers have heard at least some things they can do to improve their SEO score. Some of these practices are "White Hat" and some are "Black Hat" practices. My recommendation has always been to stick to legitmate, White Hat, Google-recommended SEO practices. In my travels I've come across SEO companies leveraging uncertainty around SEO and offering Black Hat services. In one instance there appeared to be someone sitting in an office clicking on a client website to increase their website visitor count on Google Analytics. I'm sure this company was hoping the client didn’t come across the stats for unique vs returning visitors for the month. Another Black Hat SEO Company ran traffic solely through their own “search portal”. There was no real-world usage of Black Hat SEO Company 2's Custom Search Portal, it was set up only to use inside their own organization. Their staff opened their portal, then searched for and clicked on client websites, which resulted in Google Analytics showing this vendor portal as a top search referrer of traffic to the client website. ("See, we brought you 749 visits last month! Quantified by Google!”) Ok, but were these visits productive, qualified leads that are likely to result in conversions?

I encourage our clients to know as much as they can about solid SEO practices. Knowledge is good. Do as much White Hat SEO as you can afford or manage yourself on a monthly basis. This will help you get real, targeted search engine traction, and that's tightly tied to more leads and sales for your business.

You can see Part 2 in my article series on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) here. Or check out my other articles on Medium: Social Media for Non-Profits and Using Google My Business for your Business

SEO BLOG POST AUTHOR: Doreen Fleming is Founder and Digital Marketing Strategist at One Web Source. She been a digital marketing consultant for 20 years, following marketing technologies, marketing communications tools and trends in user behavior to help businesses reach and engage with their customers.