SEO is easy to understand but impossible to master…

You may have heard the term SEO and wondered what it was all about. You may already be doing some ‘SEO’ and not realized it.

Let’s clear up some myths about SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Now let’s break that down a bit.

“Search Engine” – is actually rather straightforward – these days the number 1 search engine is, of course, Google. Google is everywhere and it’s the most visited web site in the world.

“Optimization” – no secret there either – to optimize is simply to enhance in a way that suits the goal.

So we’re modifying or enhancing our web site to meet with Google’s approval. Google reward us for doing this by making sure when people search for something that’s relevant to the content we produce, that content places higher than other sites which are less optimized.

Now, if it was clear-cut what Google really likes, everyone would do it and, unfortunately, some sites would find ways to game-the-system to their advantage. So Google plays it cards pretty close to it’s chest here. It tells you the kind of things it likes – make the page load fast, make sure images don’t hold up the rest of the page, don’t overuse keywords, etc. But how many keywords is too many? They won’t say.

To add to our misery, Google continually shift the goalposts. To be far, it’s like an arms race. Certain sites try to figure out ways to rank higher than others, if if the content on their site doesn’t match the search criteria. This leads to a poor experience for the person doing the search. This angers the Google Gods and they try and break it. And so it goes on.

There are also legitimate reasons for modifying the ranking criteria. 10 years ago, searches on mobile devices may have been quite low, so a web site that didn’t work great on a mobile device was no biggie. Nowadays mobile is a major platform and web sites should operate fluidly on those platforms, as well as tablets, PCs, Chromebooks, TVs and so on. Voice-search is gaining ground and is another consideration for web developers. If you let your guard down and your competitors raise their game, expect your traffic to slow down and your ranking to drop as other sites surpass you in offering a better experience.

SEO has also been expanded to incorporate Social Media. Now Google says social media doesn’t matter in direct ranking, but that still means indirectly it can have a positive influence. For example, it may drive more traffic to your site and those people may stay longer because they’re already ‘engaged’ with you elsewhere.

So SEO covers a multitude of sins, your web site, your social media accounts, your presence on other web sites, your outbound links (links from your site to other sites) and inbound links (other sites that link to your site). Bring it all together and you’ll make Google very happy and a happy Google is what we’re after.