SEO in a nutshell … in a nutshell

In search results Google™ displays links to pages it considers relevant and authoritative. Authority is mostly measured by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the name given to activity that attempts to improve search engine rankings.

In simple terms your web pages have the potential to rank in Google™ so long as other web pages link to them.

Well, as you might now, SEO stands for search engine optimization, or if referring to the person who does it, search engine optimizer. At least, it used to. Nowadays, partly thanks to the efforts of a community hyped up about the age-old, Bill Gatesian Content is King mantra, it’s also referred to lovingly as search experience optimization. It sounds nice, but they changed the wrong word. Optimization is too close to manipulation for my taste. I’d love it if someone could come up with a better alternative. Something to do with facilitation. Or assistance. Or community, comprehension, camraderie.

So SEO is search engine optimization, that’s how far I got. Great!

Traditionally, they way SEOs approach a website (note, traditionally), is via a three-pronged attack:

1) Technical optimization – where we make sure that the titles and metas are there, that robots.txt and XML sitemaps are in place, that all redirections are kosher etc. This is what we do to ensure that the search engines can index the site and its pages properly. Indexing means that the page can be searched for.

2) Semantic (or keyword) optimization – where we partake in an endless tug-of-war between the popularity of a keyword versus its competition. Keywords are search queries that your preferred customers use. If you own a webstore that sells skis, you want the site to be found by people who are looking for winter sports equipment and not hammocks. This is achieved by priming your content to make use of these keywords as inconspicuously as possible.

3) External (or link profile or inbound marketing) optimization – where we try to build the hype around the site, because we know that parts (1) and (2) are simply not enough to lure people in. You see, it matters where you appear in the search engine results page (or SERP). It’s crazy, but apparently if you’re not in the top 10, you’re screwed. And you get there by increasing your site’s popularity. And what is a better sign of popularity than people linking to your site?

So think of it like this:

Without technical optimization, the search engines won’t know your page exists.

Without semantic analysis, the right crowd won’t know your page exists.

Without link profiling, no one will know your page exists.

And this is traditional SEO at its best. Doing stuff with the page template, doing stuff with keywords, and doing stuff with links.

But that’s not enough, is it?

Hell no it isn’t! If you’re approached by SEOs who promise you the moon and stars by doing nothing but the above, you’re in for an unpleasant treat. The problem with the traditional approach is that somewhere along the way someone forgot that humans use search engines (and some very well educated apes).

That’s the beauty of search experience optimization as the new SEO. You’re not creating your website for search engines, you’re creating it for users! That’s what Google’s been telling you to do all along! Forget tactics, forget dirty schemes to undermine Google’s algorithms, forget buying links from the black market, just focus on content. That’s all there should be to it.

But that’s what SEOs have to do. They have to help the customer market their content. They have to know what’s cool and what isn’t. And they have to know the right channels to promote the content in.

So add step number (4) to the list as an all-encompassing feature of SEO work: content strategy. It’s the most important thing by a landslide, as none of the other aspects works in the long run without a decent content strategy to back it up.

And that’s all there is to it. In a nutshell, SEO is all about creating magical content to lure, charm, and convert your site visitors into loyal fans. It’s all about the buzz, the viral videos, and the annoying memes. It’s about being unique in a forum where being unique is almost impossible. It’s about finding the critical point between hype and saturation, and hanging in there for as long as you can.

Is All That Confusing? Let’s See Some Videos.

I heard there were going to be some tips?

1) Did you know that Google uses pixels to determine title length in SERPs? That’s right. The traditional approach in SEO has been to limit page title length to just under 70 (and over 50) characters in length. However, much longer titles are OK as long as they’re below a certain width in pixels. So what’s the length? Well, there’s some debate about that, but it appears it’s somewhere in the vicinity of 500 pixels.

2) You can extrapolate your keyword data in Analytics to uncover your (not provided) results. Some time ago, Google hid all search queries from Google Analytics that have been made by signed in (Google) users. This is a pain for reporting SEO success, as (not provided) results can dominate the rankings. Here’s a nice tip by AJ Kohn to use the distribution of other keywords to extrapolate the distribution of (not provided) keywords.

3) Create Clickbait. Great Content encourages people to link to your pages and shows Google™ your pages are interesting and authoritative. This leads to search engine success because Google™ wants to show interesting and authoritative pages in its search results. It’s that simple!

Google™ promotes authority pages to the top of its rankings so it’s your job to create pages that become authority pages. This involves writing content people find useful because useful content is shared in blogs, twitter feeds etc., and over time Google™ picks up on these authority signals. This virtuous circle creates strong and sustainable Google™ rankings.