SEO is a practice
Search engine optimization is a practice. It’s not a service, an audit, a product, a series of tweaks, or a special kind of programming–but it often gets portrayed as such because it’s easier to sell that way. And SEO is certainly not just about keywords.
SEO is the practice of connecting with people through search engines. The goal of practicing SEO is to solve human problems by optimizing and promoting relevant and useful content (web pages, images, documents, videos, etc). Because of this, it should be a very gratifying experience for both the searcher and the content owner when SEO efforts succeed. It’s a mistake to think about SEO only in terms of rankings or traffic, because these things (on their own) may not bring any value to your business. Ranking #1 for “peanut butter sandwich” isn’t going to do you much good if you sell vacation packages. And visitors who want peanut butter sandwiches will only get frustrated when they land on your vacation website. They’ll bounce quicker than you can say . . . um . . . jelly.
It’s easy to think of SEO as a technical “polishing” that you need done to your website now and again so it will rank better. Once it’s done, you’re all set. In reality, SEO is something that happens over the life of your business. Almost everything you do to improve your business will have some affect on your search rankings. Even things in the “real world” like events, conferences, and meetings can result in tweets, links, blog posts, and other online indicators that can boost your rankings. A url at the bottom of a flyer can bring traffic to your website and increase social shares and likes. A positive customer service experience can turn into a a thank-you email that gets shared on sites around the web. An impromptu dance party filmed at the office–can go viral. Your search rankings are irrevocably tied to the real world successes and failures of your business.
In order to integrate SEO as a practice, it’s important to begin thinking of your business, your campaigns, and your strategies in terms of their impact on search results. Not every campaign will reveal SEO opportunities, but it helps to be able to spot them when they arise. Understanding a bit about search engines is key to seeing these opportunities.
How to Think like Google
To truly practice SEO, you need to think about rankings in the same ways that Google does. Google wants to rank content according to its usefulness. Quality, trustworthiness, timelines, authority, location, and reputation are all important qualities that Google uses to rank content. And it’s pretty darn good at finding content that meets these criteria.
In an ideal world, there would be no technical aspect to SEO at all. Google doesn’t want people trying to manipulate search results. Google wants people to help them answer search queries. An SEO’s job would be simply be to interpret the needs of searchers and curate the content that they are looking for. But we’re not there yet, and so there are still plenty important technical aspects of SEO as well.
This doesn’t mean you need to become a SEO expert yourself or even learn how to code. A little bit of info goes a long way. Simply understanding how to write titles and meta descriptions can put you way ahead of the pack.
The last thing that Google wants, is to make it impossible for websites to rank well without an SEO expert at the helm. This would destroy the quality of search results. That’s why knowing even just a little bit about SEO can put you at a big advantage over your competitors. Even if you do hire an SEO firm or freelancer to work with your business, having a basic understanding of SEO will give you much better insight into the quality and effectiveness of their work.
Ultimately, SEO does not exist in a silo. It cannot be accomplished without interaction and collaboration between various departments and employees. SEO is not a service like getting your gutters cleaned or calling pest control. It’s a frame of mind and a practice that can produce great results when properly integrated into your workflow.
What are your thoughts on making SEO a priority in your small business? Do you agree with my assertion that SEO should be a practice? Or do you think I’m full of it? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments below!