Search Engine Optimization

SEO - Stand Out & Be The Best
Like a flamingo amongst all the other birds.

Google's main concern when it comes to search is: providing a search user the best and fastest experience, giving them the best resource for what they're looking for. All its vast algorithms and SEO rankings come down to determining a site's relevance against a search entry. 

But what is SEO?

SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. (Moz)

The goal of a search engine is to most fully deliver on Search = Best Search Return.

So when someone asks for search engine optimization work, it's not just a big panel of magic buttons to push and tada, kick-ass SEO. It's a long list of questions and research to understand how a site is functioning in terms of its technical accessibility, content relevance and authority. Below, I've listed the basic high-level questions I need to answer to assess a site's SEO.

Accessibility:
Can a search engine access the site at the technical level?
Can it read the content?
Can it understand how the pages are related?
Can it rank how important the various parts of the site are?

Content relevance:
Can a search engine understand what a given page is about?
Does the page provide information specific to what it's about??
Who would find it useful?
What topics and subtopics it's relevant to?
What questions does it answer?

Authority:
Do other reputable sites link to it?
How popular is your site?
Do others find it useful?

SEO has evolved.

In the not too distant past, SEO assessment was somewhat simpler but had produced somewhat counterproductive trends. And they worked, for a while. But the search engines got wise and realized that they were promoting content that wasn't actually that helpful. They were giving users pages that said the keywords dozens of times instead of pages that offered the best information. 

Some of these trends included:
- Keyword stuffing: jamming as many terms as possible onto pages with the idea that more is more. 
- Useless Pages: having dozens of dozens of posts and pages that cover the same topics, inflating site sizes. Again, more is more. 
- Burying terms in code: adding keywords to long meta tags and near the top of page code as a way of artificially using terms. 

SEO's golden rules.

What's emerged from the rubble of SEO practices 101 is a more dynamic, full circle approach to how sites are ranked for their content and relevancy.

First, is better content - not a lot of it, just the best, most concentrated and most user-friendly stuff you've got. Better one page that really dives into a topic and provides all the up-to-date details then four pages of varying use. Think about Wikipedia. Notice how it's always one of the top search returns? 

Second, make it easy. This is where UX, site design and site development come it. Once a user has found your site via search, do you then provide a great experience? This is where I see a lot of the SEO ball dropping - without proper site flow, information architecture and a design that helps the user all you've provided is text. Tell them where to buy it, offer other similar topics, offer them more levels of detail. 

And lastly, keep it alive. Websites and content should never be a 'set it and forget it' piece of marketing. Pages need to be kept up to date, information needs to change and sites need to adapt to new elements. As we begin to see more voice controlled devices, like Siri, Google Home and Alexa, the way people search for information is still evolving. But that's a whole different topic. 

The best SEO is the experience that's best for the user.