SEO: The Who, What, Where...
SEO Matters: Not The Gadgetry, Just The Philosophy
Does search engine optimization (SEO) really matter? A better question might be, does it matter to design your site to help search engines help others find you? This is a question that’s been around forever.
'You need something, I have something. How do we find each other online and get together?'
An online presence has two goals: 1) introduce yourself 2) connect you to others who need what you offer. Despite what you’ve likely heard, SEO has little to do with gadgetry and gaming the web, more to do with a balancing act between you and others who need you.
Simple SEO History
The history of search engine optimization (SEO) is far more straightforward than jargon surrounding it. Search engines began by compiling links, then moved to scanning page content. Google was the first to look at interconnected linking to understand the reputation of websites (especially inward back linking). This concern with quality of relationships between one site and another is still with us today, even after paid advertising took off that push some websites upward in search rankings.
Still, the focus of any search engine is to deliver what people are looking for. If people feel scammed when searching - they'll go to some other search engine. Google can't afford such a hit to their reputation.
Big Fishes and Little Fishes In a pond AND an Ocean
There are over 1 trillion URLs on the web and easily a 1 million or so searches a day. Google is particularly focused on local websites so they can be a trusted 'online phone book'. You can't be trusted with the ocean if you only focus on whales.
Straight from Google - here's what they're looking for:
Page Titles: clear and descriptive page titles to make it easy for search engines to understand overall page subject. (no brainer)
Meta Descriptions - sometimes referred to as page descriptions. Every site has a general ‘site description’ - two or sentences that describe you. Every site can also have individual page descriptions (varies on website builders & templates) - two to four sentences that describe specific page content. These descriptions should incorporate keywords but written in concise sentence form, descriptive and informative as possible. Just using keywords in meta descriptions is what spammers do.
Page Copy Content - since search engine algorithms are scanning content on your pages, descriptive informative page content is essential. Some Squarespace templates don't provide page descriptions because of the use of a banner image. For these templates you must ensure you cover the meta description content on the page. Search engines are still looking for Heading 1's, and Heading 2's help search engines - and visitors - understand the text flow and structure on the page.
Keyword Integration - Keywords have not gone away, even though search engines now scan content as well as traditional site structure. The difference is they're crawling for sentence structure, not just stand alone keywords stuffed in your site. Keywords identify topics, terminology, industry, location... incorporating them into page copy and blogs is what search engine algorithms need to 'get you'.
Reputation - inward backlinks is the technical term for when a larger site links to our 'smaller' website. When such a site references you and traffic flows from their site to yours, Google senses your site is ‘reputable’ due to the ‘reference’ from the larger site. That’s why social media, blogging, news stories, are all important drivers of your ‘reputation’. When you post something on Facebook or Twitter that drives traffic from Facebook users back to your website - you’re creating a reputation for your website on a service where a billion people can log on in a day.
Content Matters to SEO - And Everyone - So SEO Matters
It all boils down to this. Search engines are trying to answer questions people are asking online. It’s not really rocket science. The analogy of a publisher and an author seems a good fit here. Every bestseller has great content, a title, organized into chapters, every sentence flows from the next to build paragraphs - readers can understand and enjoy. Every publisher adds to the work a binding, a cover, subtitles, reviews, press releases....you get the idea. We're in the business of 'online publishing'. Organized substantive content matters - like it always has.