What is SEO?
In practice, SEO is a business strategy; inclusive of publishing, brand building, marketing, and traffic acquisition. It is about optimizing your website for high value keywords that drive both traffic and conversions by creating in-depth content that satisfies the users and the search engines.
SEO in Plain English
There is a great video by Common Craft and Search Engine Land that addresses this topic.
Information Covered in The SEO Video
Imagine for a minute that you are a librarian, but not a normal one, you’re a librarian for every book in the world. People depend on you every day to find the exact book that they need. How do you do it? You need a system. You need to know what is inside every book and how books relate to each other. Your system needs to take in a lot of information and spit out the best answer for your patrons questions, it’s not an easy job.
Search engines like Google and Bing are the librarians of the internet. Their systems help collect information on the web so they can help people find exactly what they are looking for, and every search engine has a secret recipe that helps them turn all the information into useful results. Now if you own a website, search results matter. When your pages have higher rankings they help more people find you. The key to SEO is making sure your web pages have the ingredients the search engines need for their recipes. This is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization, and most of the big ingredients that the search engines algorithm consists of are known.
1. Words Matter
Search engines account for every word on a web page and website and across the web. this way when someone searches for “shoe repair” they can search through their index and find the best page that matches the searcher’s query.
2. Titles Matter
Search engines pay a lot of attention the title of a webpage as it usually summarizes the content of the page, much like a books title.
3. Links Between Websites Matter
When one web page links to another it’s usually a recommendation, telling readers this website has good information. A website that has a lot of links coming to it helps the search engine determine what that webpage or website is about. People try to fool the search engines by creating or buying bogus links all over the web that point to their website. Usually search engines can detect when this happens. They will usually devalue these links and give more weight to editorially given links to a website.
4. The Words Used In Links Matter
If your web page says “Amazon has lots of Books” and “Books” is linked, search engines can establish that Amazon.com is related to “books”. This way when someone searches for “Books” the search engines can determine which sites to rank.
5. Reputation Matters
Sites with a consistent reputation of adding additional content and a growing number of quality links maybe rising stars and do well in the search rankings.
These are just the basics and the recipes are refined and Googlebot is constantly evolving. Good SEO is about making sure your website has great content that is supported by the ingredients that the search engines need for their recipes.
If you are searching for a simple graphic that you can use to help explain SEO the two graphics below work well.
Googlebot Persona Evolution
To think about it differently, Googlebot should be treated much like any there user of your website. The Googlebot Persona has specific needs and wants as it crawls through your website, indexes the pages, and determines what keywords or key-phrases each page should be ranked for.
The high level evolution of Googlebot and what factors it gave weight to, goes something like…
- 1999-2002 On-Page SEO
- 2003-2005 Anchor Text
- 2006-2009 Authority & Link Diversity
- 2010 MAYDAY & Social Integration
- Early 2011 Panda Update
- Late 2011 Freshness Update
- 2012 Search Plus Your World
Google’s Over Optimization Penalty
There have been many updates over the last 15 or so years (close to 500/year) that helped the Googlebot persona go through its evolution. One of the more recent updates that will be coming down the line will be what Google is calling an “over optimization penalty”. Some might think this will be the downfall of SEO, but in reality it comes down to a simple statement made by Google themselves about what could be considered “over optimization”.
Speaking about SEO they say, “We also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area.”
Some items that might be flagged as over-optimized would be:
- High keyword densities
- Anchor texts that are too similar
- Less or near duplicated content
- Inorganic, unnatural and or paid inbound links
- Keyword/phrase over usage
- Too many redirects
- Same/similar anchor in back links
- Same niche on the same server
- Doorway or thin affiliate pages
- Link schemes/cheap backlink packages
SEO Resources From Around The Web
There are a number of blogs and forums that focus heavily on SEO topics, including: