Search Engine Optimization De-Mystified

I am kind of known, locally (in small-town Rochester, NY, anyway), as the go-to SEO-guy. I‘ve been wanting to pay more attention to my blog, so I thought I would start a series of posts (or continue a series of previous posts, actually) on Search Engine Optimization. What SEO is, what it isn’t, and what you can do to improve your search engine rankings (in addition to debunking a few SEO myths along the way).

SEO is simple. Just give people the information they are looking for (when they are looking for it), and the search engines will richly reward you with a top-ten listing that includes your site (preferably above-the-fold, and before your competitors’ listing).

Okay, it’s not that simple.

But it is important to understand that good SEO is not about “tricking” the search engines into listing your site without proper merit. There’s no black magic or secret voodoo involved here. Search engines are all about “relevancy”. That’s how they make money and that’s how they keep people coming back again and again to use their services (so that they can make more money, so more people will continue to use their services, so they can make more money, so…). Okay, you get the picture. Besides, search engine are changing their algorithms all the time. Algos (as they are called) are heavily guarded secrets. “Tricks” today, won’t work tomorrow (and worse, they could damage your current rankings and reputation). Don’t rely on short-term gains by trying to cheat the system. You will lose in the end. Google and their search engineers are smarter than you, way smarter. The easiest way to win, is to play by their rules…you  just have to know the rules in order to win, that’s all!

It’s not in the best interest of a search engine to be easily manipulated. If they deliver crappy results, a user will go somewhere else. Google, for example, has billions and billions of dollars at stake here. That’s why they are such a hard nut to crack (as far as being manipulated goes), and that is exactly why they are the world’s most popular search engine. There is a very good reason why Google stock is trading at $529.06 (as of 04/27/10). They simply deliver the best results (in both natural organic and paid PPC), so people keep coming back for more and more. Other search engines (and I won’t name any names), are more easily manipulated, and so people trust them less (and their stock is trading at $16-$30/share, for perspective).

It’s the search engine’s job to get “into the head” of the searcher in order to deliver the best and most relevant results, based on their query. And that’s your job, too. Start thinking about how your customers think. What kinds of questions can you answer for them? Which of their problems can you solve? Provide your real life customers with this information and the search engines spiders and BOTS will discover it. And once the BOTS discover that relevant content, the algorithm will start delivering those answers (e.g. your website pages) to them. Simple, right?

This article is #1 in a series about Search Engine Optimization. The next article will teach you about how search engines work. Special thanks to Katharine at Marketing by Kat for kicking my ass into blogging again.

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