The one constant that you can count on in SEO is change – new rules, new restrictions, new algorithms, new devices, new penalties, new best practices. . . These changes don’t go unnoticed by the SEO community – they result in blogs. Lots and lots of blogs. Maybe too many blogs?
Despite all of the available information, I talk to business owners everyday that don’t understand SEO. They are getting multiple calls and emails every week, but don’t act because they are confused by all of the information. “What does it all mean . . .
- . . . is SEO against the rules?
- . . . is SEO dead?
- . . . what is Organic SEO?
- . . . are Links good or bad?
- . . . is content marketing the new SEO?
- . . . is Social Media the new SEO?
- . . . do I need “local” SEO or regular (new) SEO?
- . . . what about mobile optimization?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of maximizing a web page’s chance of being found and highly ranked for specific keywords by the search engines (i.e. Google and Bing).
Is SEO Against the Rules?
Search Engine Optimization, in theory, is not against the rules of the search engines. In fact, the search engine engineers use blogs, social media, and forums to communicate some of the changes and best practices to the public.
However, there are practices designed to cheat the process and artificially inflate a website’s search engine ranking. These practices are commonly referred to as “Black Hat” SEO, and they can get a website penalized (with lower rankings) or banned from the search engines altogether.
Traditional SEO, also known as Organic SEO, Natural SEO, “White Hat” SEO
Traditional SEO strategies use keywords, title tags, URLs, and other factors to highlight to the search engines what each web page is about.
In addition, the websites “authority” or importance in that subject area is communicated through back links, the age of the website, the size of the website, and other metrics.
So, what about Links?
Back links, or links pointing to your website from other websites, are one of the most powerful signals to search engines about the significance of your web page. Links are looked upon as a vote of confidence, or a recommendation from the other websites.
You want to do what you can to encourage natural links back to your website. Produce lots of great content, spread it around the web, and introduce it to users that you think might appreciate it.
However, because links are so valuable, the search engines try to protect the integrity of the links that they consider. Links that are bought, exchanged, or in some other way are “un-natural”, are frowned upon. At a minimum, those links will be ignored, and at worst, they will result in your website being banned from the search engine results pages.
What is generally considered to be “local” SEO, or “local” Optimization, differs from what is typically referred to as “traditional SEO”, or sometimes just “SEO”. Although there is some crossover between the strategies, they are usually offered as separate packages by SEO companies.
Traditional SEO can optimize for specific geographic areas, but is often used for larger regions – state wide, country wide, or even international. It can incorporate optimization for a wider selection of keywords.
“Local” SEO is the process of optimizing for search within a geo-targeted area, typically a city. The search engineers realize that someone searching for pizza in Boise, probably doesn’t want “the most relevant and authoritative” pizza listing if it is in Chicago. They want information on a nearby restaurant; maybe a menu, contact information, directions, and reviews or recommendations.
To offer the most relevant search results for “local” searchers, the search engines offer local businesses owners the opportunity to register their business with the search engines – the listings can be customized and optimized – then promote those “local” listings for appropriate search queries.
In addition, Local SEO allows for, and is often highly influenced by recommendations and reviews that are left by visitors.
Mobile search is often connected to “local” search, only instead of the search being performed on a computer, it is being done on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. In addition to the regular “local” SEO, optimizing for mobile includes making sure that your pages are formatted to display properly on mobile devices, possibly setting up advertising on mobile platforms, and understanding and preparing for the fact that in some cases, like with the iPhone’s Siri, the search will not be performed through a normal search engine.
Content Marketing is often touted as the “new” SEO, when in fact it is just one factor in the old (traditional) SEO with a new shiny name.
The idea behind content marketing is that if you produce a lot of high quality content, including articles, white papers, videos, podcasts, etc., you will be found by those looking for your services or products.
Traditional SEO has long supported the idea that the more keywords that you are optimized for (more content equals more keywords), and the larger your site and offerings, the more likely it is that you’ll be found.
Many in the “content marketing is the new SEO” camp promote the idea that simply producing a lot of content from your subject area will help you be found. This can be true, however, that same content will perform better if it is optimized using Traditional SEO strategies.
Social Media is starting to impact search engine results, and is expected to have a greater influence in the future.
The search engines are experimenting with including social media generated content in search results, and personalizing results based on your social media connections – both are being met with mixed reviews. However, where social media is definitely impacting search, and where I think that it will continue to grow its influence is in social signals.
Social signals – Facebook “Likes” and “Shares”, Google +1s, and Twitter “re-tweets” – are acting similar to links – they are affecting the perceived authority of a website.
What SEO Strategy Should You Be Using?
Honestly, it really depends on your industry, market, and resources. Who are you targeting, what geographical area do you sell in, and how have your competitors adopted these internet marketing strategies?
If you rely on local web or foot traffic for at least some of your business, at minimum you should be optimized for local search.
Ideally, a business that relies on both local and non-local visitors and is in a competitive niche, would be optimized for “local” SEO and traditional SEO, would be blogging at least once a week to produce new quality content, and would be involved in Google+ and maybe Facebook. While we’re at it, I would also recommend using some video – it performs very well in both local and non-local SEO.
Still have questions? Please feel free to leave your questions or comments in the space below.
photo credit: Ian Sane
This article “SEO Demystified: SEO Doesn’t Confuse People – People Confuse People” first appeared EchelonSEO