What User-Focused SEO IS, and What it is NOT

Many businesses think SEO is all about the small things; the title tags, the description tag, the rankings, or the XML sitemap. These are all parts of SEO, but by only focusing on these minor things, businesses are missing the big picture about what SEO is really all about.

Who Are SEO Professionals?
SEO professionals conduct in-depth research based on demographic and psychographic data to identify specific need states and personas, against which they create targeted, valuable, and useful content that best addresses user and business goals, all while adhering to accessible technical presentation.

SEO is not:

  • SEO is not about getting ranked for a keyword.
  • SEO is not getting a better page rank.
  • SEO is not about building “x” number of links each month.
  • SEO is not about submissions to social bookmarking sites or directories.
  • SEO is not about stuffing keywords onto a web page, or where on the page your keywords fall.
  • SEO is not about submitting an XML sitemap.
  • SEO is not about submitting your site to the search engines.
  • SEO is not about adjusting your meta data (tags).
  • SEO is not about brainstorming keywords.
  • SEO is not an afterthought.

SEO is:

  • SEO is tactical planning of a website’s architecture and overall structure to allow internal metrics to flow properly.
  • SEO is planning content that is valuable and satisfies the users and search engines intent.
  • SEO is creating a positive user experience through design and site flow.
  • SEO is a business strategy; a strategy that is about publishing, brand building, marketing, and traffic acquisition.
  • SEO is about creating an experience that fosters social sharing and link acquisition.

SEO in a Nutshell

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

Below is a great seo 101 video by Common Craft and Search Engine Land that talks about the basics of Search Engine Optimization.

This Video Covers The Topics Below

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.

Creating Great Content

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.

  1. SEO Pyramid
  2. Periodic Table of SEO Elements

Googlebot Persona Evolution

To think about it differently, Googlebot should be treated much like any othere 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 is relevant for and thus 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 Penguin 1.0
  • 2013 2.0 Penguin Update and Knowledge Graph

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. Some might think these future updates 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 [Google] 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.”

When To Include SEO

A big question we hear alot from clients is “when should I bring in SEO?”. This is a popular question since some companies are not well versed in what SEO actually can do or does on a day to day basis. Below you will find a short list that outlines when you need to bring a SEO team into the picture.

Top 10 Signs SEO Needs To Be Involved

  1. A new page is being planned.
  2. A page is being removed.
  3. Links are being added to a page.
  4. Links are being removed from a page.
  5. Content is being planned.
  6. Website code changes or redirects are added/removed.
  7. Website structure is changing.
  8. New images are being added.
  9. New products or services are being added or removed.
  10. The website is being redesigned.

SEO Resources From Around The Web

There are a number of blogs and forums that focus heavily on SEO topics, including:

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