If you are a "geek" like me, you have encountered many posts regarding how to explain search engine optimization (SEO) to your clients or workplace. I have come across many (good and bad) analogies to SEO using physical fitness, fishing, even sex. The truth is that many web marketers, myself included, are routinely challenged how to explain the purpose of SEO to the uninformed.
Personally, I identify with numbers. The bottom-line resonates with me; perhaps it's my experience working with (and for) small-businesses. I have seen estimates ranging anywhere from 240,000,000 to over 1,000,000,000,000 total websites available on the WWW. Regardless of the total number, it should be clear that your web presence is going to be hard to come by for the average web user.
It's imperative that you do everything in your power to ensure that your particular site becomes viewed by your audience. Otherwise, your site will not be noticed and you are throwing away your money - period.
About this time in the conversation, I usually receive a half-sarcastic (though perfectly reasonable) question. "Shouldn't you program all of your websites to allow for search engines to find your site?" The simple answer is - Yes! I firmly believe that EVERY web developer should have basic knowledge of internal (website specific) search engine optimization tactics and Best Practices. This includes programming website elements with the following considerations:
properly formatted CSS/HTML
META description tag
proper internal cross links
avoiding duplicate pages/content
creation and submittal of an XML sitemaps file
Tagging non-HTML content (such as PDFs, DOCs, Flash and AJAX)
-- But this is where search engine optimization ends in terms of programming.
Beyond these above-mentioned tactics, I feel that SEO is an extremely complicated task. For you see, the above best practice tactics only allow search engines with the ability to properly query (search) your content. They do not ensure that search engines WILL in fact come to your site. -- HUH?!
Just to be clear, search engine optimization includes many more tactics than simply programming a site effectively. SEO also involves the following skillsets, which I believe are better suited for a marketer as opposed to a programmer:
Can you identify keywords that are going to more likely get you listed within SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)? It should not be a guessing game. Nor should it involve spoofing or cloaking results to "trick" search engines into querying your page.
It's always a wise idea to at least become familar with your competition. With regards to SEO, how does your site compare with the competition? What are they doing to ensure that their page appears within SERPs? How can you do a better job than them?
Organic linking strategies:
Is your site listed within third party business directories, local business listings, affiliate websites and networks?
Utilization of social media and other forms of emerging media:
Social media sites, blogs, forums, video sharing, and general WOM (word of mouth) sites all help in gaining your exposure.
Geo-targeting data when necessary:
Is your data more relevant in a particular country, state, region or zip code? There are tactics that you can employ to help users locate your site.
Great! A user/visitor has arrived at your site for the first time. How do you ensure that your information resonates with them and draws them into coming back? Does this involve refreshing content regularly or do you need to perform A/B and/or multivariate testing? How do you know when to apply a particular tactic to ensure this occurs?
There is quite a bit of "smoke and mirrors" with SEO. Unfortunately this field get's a bad rap for containing a good deal of "Snakeoil Salesman." The reputable ones routinely struggle to differentiate from the non-reputable. As a result, I feel a little education goes a long way in this field.
This differentiates me from others within my field. I strongly believe in teaching my clients and colleagues how to implement basic SEO strategies. I believe there are simple tactics that others can do that will aid in achieving a desired result.
After all, wouldn't education help alleviate the need to explain the importance of SEO to your clients and colleagues in the first place?