SEO Demystified (Part 1)

For SEO to be effective it has to be centered around specifically selected keywords and phrases. Before kicking off any SEO effort we first need to answer a basic question about your business. The answer to that question will guide you toward what kind of SEO service you need and how to best perform that service.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization). My work-in-progress definition:

“Those set of tasks performed over time to position one’s company, products or services in the ‘eyes’ of Google, Bing or other search engine first as legitimate, quality products or services; then as relevant to a keyword or key phrase, and finally; to establish geographical and/or online availability to ensure products or services are available to the user performing the search query.”

You’ll notice there’s no SEO trick in my definition. There’s no keyword stuffing, padding, paying for tens or hundreds or thousands of sites to link to you.

Here’s the question I talked about in the first paragraph. What does your business do?

“We sell women’s fashion boots in two storefronts, one in Fairfield County CT and one in Westchester County NY.”

Start with one of two things. You can do “keyword research” using tools like Google Insights to see what people are searching for around your products. Or to go a really simple route, ask someone outside of your business to demonstrate what they’d Google when they were in the market for your boots. Sit together and do some real world searches. Narrow down your primary target keyword (or phrase), start as specifically as you can by choosing phrases real people are searching for like “buy women’s boots in CT” (or start instead with your city or town, that’s even more specific or “long-tail”). You’d want to do the same thing with “buy women’s boots” in a specific town or city in Westchester County NY.

How do you then optimize for your chosen keywords? Start with your copy. Make sure it’s clear to both search engines and to humans that “women’s boots” is what you’re selling and that you have two specific locations. You may think your website shows clearly that you sell women’s boots, you have a plethora of beautiful photos of women’s boots on your pages. But Google’s algorithm doesn’t know very much (yet) from photos. It knows words. And it needs the correct number of words and phrases in the right places to get it.

Many people I meet have some idea about what they can do themselves to improve their SEO. Some practices are known as “White Hat” and some are Black Hat practices. In my travels over the past dozen years I’ve come across two SEO companies leveraging the uncertainty about SEO. From what I could unearth, the first one was someone sitting in an office somewhere clicking on a client website to increase their visitor stats on Google Analytics, hoping the client didn’t come across the stats for unique vs returning visitors for the month. (Unique visits are identified by IP address, so if the client looked they would see that there was one person sitting in an office somewhere clicking on their website.) I’ve also seen a vendor (let’s call them “Black Hat SEO Company 2”) increase traffic to a client website where the traffic was running solely through the vendor’s own “search portal”. There is no real world usage of Black Hat SEO Company 2's custom search portal, it was set up only to use inside of their own organization. What happened as a result of their employees or contractors using their own portal to click on client websites is Google Analytics (which displays website visitor stats) lists the vendor’s portal as a top search referrer of traffic to the client website — “See, we brought you 749 visits last month! Quantified by Google!” Ok, but were these visits productive, qualified leads? No. Because they came from someone sitting in an office somewhere using his or her company’s portal to search for, then click on, your company’s website over and over again, increasing unproductive clicks to your site.

I’m not sharing the above anecdotes to scare you. I’m doing it for the sake of transparency. The Black Hat approach has lead to some very real business problems for White Hat SEOs working to improve our clients’ bottom lines.

Knowledge is good. Wherever I go I look for opportunities to break down doors and demystify SEO. If I do a good job you’ll be able to see exactly what your SEO specialist is doing, how it’s helping you get real, actual search engine traction, and how that’s linked to more leads and sales for you.

Now let’s move to Part 2 basic search signals for SEO.

Doreen Fleming is a Digital Marketing Strategist and founder of One Web Source, LLC in Newtown, Connecticut. She’s been working the web for solutions for clients for 17 years.