No matter how long you’ve been in business, at some point you’ve probably found yourself wondering: “WTF is SEO? And how can it help my business?” Mostly because people who talk about SEO seem like they’re TRYING to be confusing, don’t they? It even confuses some of the smartest people I know:
So I’ll break it down for you now, in language that doesn’t require a glossary.
WTF is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s the way that people find answers to their questions on traditional search engines (like Google, Bing, and Yahoo) and also on sites you may not think of as search engines (YouTube, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon).
(FYI – Throughout this post, I’ll be lumping all of these search engines rules into “Google,” because it’s the largest search engine & others tend to follow their principles. Making your website find-able by Google also helps it show up on Yahoo, Bing, etc.)
The Google Algorithm, which decides what information to share in response to your search query, includes over 200 factors (here’s a full list if you’re curious, but don’t get hung up on it!)
Optimizing for search means that you’re trying to get Google to see your website as both knowledgeable and trustworthy. Here’s how you can do that:
The 3 components of SEO
WTF is SEO Part 1 :: CONTENT
Search engines are constantly reviewing new content on the internet, using a program called a Web Crawler, or Spider, or Bot, to scan any text, follow links, and collect information from the site. Once that Crawler has review your site, all the text will be accessible through the search engine’s index.
Then, when somebody types a query, Google searches through that ginormous index of text and tries to find content that provides the information they’re looking for.
When it comes to content, the biggest part of SEO is keyword research: finding the intersection of:
- What you want to be found for
- What people are searching for
- What doesn’t already have a gazillion results
Then, once you find the Ann Perkins of keywords (your “unstoppable glamorous freight train,” if you will), you can write your content to support that.
WTF is SEO Part 2 :: EASE OF USE
When search engines deliver results, they want people to feel really good about getting the answers they want, quickly and easily.
So if your site takes forever to load, or it’s hard to read on their phone, or it has tons of links to nowhere? Google doesn’t want to share those results with people.
This is not the face your reader should make:
Google doesn’t want to be that friend who sets you up on a date with a loser. They want to recommend sites that not only answer your question, but look good doing it. Here are some quick examples:
- Mobile responsive (aka adjusts to different screen sizes, like smartphones & tablets)
Loads quickly (the faster the better — the most common culprits of slow speed are large photos & insufficient hosting plans)
Broken links (an easy way to figure out if your site has them? Dead Link Checker)
WTF is SEO Part 3 :: REPUTATION
I’ve written before about how Google is playing matchmaker between your website & other sites around the internet, but I’m gonna use the metaphor again because I’ll take any excuse to use this Birdcage gif:
Google relies on other sites to tell it how credible & trustworthy you are. How do other sites give you the digital equivalent of upvotes? By linking to your site. (And for once, the SEO gods have given us an easy-to-understand term for this: backlinks.)
So you can write the best content in the world and have the smoothest user experience … but if nobody knows about your site? Womp womp, sad trombones.
Brian Clark from Copyblogger calls this “Kevin Costner Syndrome,” referring to Field of Dreams mantra: “If you build it, they will come.”
But while it may be true for a baseball field in Dubuque? It’s not true for your website.
You need an SEO plan not only to share content that answers questions, but also to get your message out into the world. And the easiest way to do this is through relationships.
So go on: pitch yourself for podcasts, or submit guest posts to bigger sites. Share your content like crazy with your friends & network. Ask for people to backlink to your website.
Because the more people “upvote” your website with their links, the more Google sees you an as authority.
Feeling overwhelmed by all these interlocking parts? I can walk you through the process of improving your keywords and optimizing your website: Find out about GenerouSEO!