What is SEO and how it can define or rank for 2012
What is SEO? The acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization. But the definition of SEO is a more difficult question.
not what it once was, that’s for sure. The problem is, I see references
to outdated definitions of SEO on a fairly regular basis.
you have arrived here thinking SEO is a sham, snake oil and/or dead
then a) you are grossly mistaken and b) let me disabuse you of that
Here’s my definition of SEO in 2012.
Search Engine Optimization is a multidisciplinary activity that seeks to generateproductive organic traffic from search engines via technically soundand connected sites by matching query intent with relevance and value.
a bit of a mouthful, I know. I’ve emphasized the areas that I feel are
particularly important and deserve a more in-depth explanation.
The goal of SEO is not to increase traffic willy-nilly. You increase traffic by 30% but it makes no difference to the bottom line. Who cares!
mean different things to different companies. Productive may mean leads
or subscribers or revenue or page views. Whatever it is, it’s important
to define and track productive traffic rather than simply focusing on
increasing traffic overall.
I might be able to generate more traffic by adding ‘Nude’ and ‘Free’ as keyword modifiers but is that really going to bring productive traffic to a site?
goes (way) beyond brand versus non-brand traffic, which I find to be
the most rudimentary of divisions. This is having a fundamental
understanding of the traffic that makes a difference to that business.
That may mean moving away from high volume terms and generating less traffic
overall. Don’t get saucer eyes when it comes to keyword volume. It’s
about the right keywords, not the biggest keywords. (That’s what she
Yet, even if you’re driving the right traffic there are other factors
that contribute to a productive visit. If the focus is leads, you might
realize that the call-to-action is weak, doesn’t match the query intent
or competes with other elements on the page. Perhaps the lead form
itself isn’t very good either.
the goal is page views, you may realize that the design is confusing,
the text hard to read and the content without a structure that allows
for easy navigation.
Because productive traffic is the goal an SEO needs to understand design, user experience, information architecture and conversion rate optimization. Otherwise
it’s like a chef who creates a menu but then has no input on how the
food is cooked, the quality of ingredients, decor of the establishment
or the presentation of the meal.
okay if you’re in the business of driving any old traffic at a website
and then shrugging your shoulders when it doesn’t really do anything for
the business. But that’s not SEO. You’re just a burger flipper at some
fast food joint.
As an SEO you need to have very strong
technical skills. What does this really mean though? At a minimum, it
means you need to know how the Internet works and how search engines
crawl and index the web.
You should also be comfortable analyzing HTTP headers and know your status codes cold. Get good using Firebug or Chrome’s Developer Tools. Mine those weblogs, because there’s gold in them there data. (Sorry, I just watched True Grit.) Bonus points if you can code something up yourself to extract it.
Understanding how to diagnose and solve accessibility and crawl efficiency problems is critical.
is about knowing enough about … everything. HTML, CSS, JQuery, AJAX,
understand these technologies.
But you’re not done yet because you still have
to understand the technical side of specific search engine directives
including (but certainly not limited to) noindex, nofollow,
rel=canonical, rel=author, rel=publisher, rel=standout, hreflang and various competing schemas of microdata.
is about knowing all of this to ensure technical issues aren’t
obstacles and to create positive relationships with engineers. You must
speak their language. You don’t have to understand everything and you should never bluff, but you damn well better be able to carry on a coherent conversation.
should know the difference between a GET and a POST; between server
side and client side scripts. An SEO should be able to convey when and
why to use a cookieless domain. You shouldn’t get a
deer-in-the-headlights look when engineers talk about CDNs or minifying
haven’t even touched on diving into the details of information
retrieval, natural language processing, machine learning and other
methods that inform modern search engine algorithms.
The more technical you are the more effective you become. And there’s always something more to learn.
do I mean by connected? Today it means links to and from other sites
and connecting with and through others on social platforms. In plain
language it’s about links and social.
I’m not a huge fan of link building and prefer a link gardening approach.
Mind you, I understand the value of links but too often link building
is done for the wrong reasons and weighted far to0 heavily in the scheme
works a fair amount of the time. I can’t deny that. But I’m never sure
at what expense. Too often I see those companies on a treadmill of link
building efforts. Frankly, you should reach a point where link building
isn’t something you’re workingat.
Oddly, linking out is an overlooked and underrated tactic. Tadeusz Szewczyk was
an early and strong proponent of this practice. Linking out is a form
of built-in reciprocity. You wind up getting back links from those to
whom you link out. It’s a way of connecting to and engaging with people
in your niche.
sounds a lot like social doesn’t it? Social takes on a number of
dimensions. First is producing content that is worthy of sharing and
then doing everything you can to make it portable. That includes an
interaction design that promotes sharing andensuring that the shared content is optimized.
Of course there’s also really being
social and getting out on these platforms and connecting with your
users and customers. I don’t mean public, glorified customer service but
actually socializing with some of your users and customers. This is
both extremely tough to do at scale but also valuable for a variety of
Today it also means understanding how social is being integrated into search (it’s not the other way around) and learning Facebook SEO and Google+ SEO.
Now we finally get to the real heart of SEO and the initial reason I started this blog post. Query intent is perhaps the most critical part of SEO.
should understand the syntax of your user and the motivations behind
their search and queries. At the bare minimum you should understand
differences between navigational, informational and transactional
No, this is not about
personas. All too often time and money are spent creating personas that
create artificial divisions in the long-term, a type of stereotype that
others glom onto to as a way to promote their own views. “Remember, that’s not what Sally Searcher is about.” (Ugh, kill me now.)
this is about doing the hard work of understanding how and why people
are searching for your content and products. It’s about syntax,
psychology and consumer behavior among other things.
is also informed by context. Geography, time of year and platform (i.e.
– mobile) can all play an important part of understanding intent. It’s
never something you can just copy and paste from one site to another.
For instance, here’s a real search that wound up coming to this blog.
how to change the blue link title of your website
find these types of queries fascinating. It forces me to think
different. SEO is about knowing how people are thinking and searching,
not how that business thinks their users should be searching. SEO is an advocate for the user.
too long ago SEO was about matching keywords with relevant content.
This is why content farms became so popular and profitable. All you
needed to do was take a long-tail keyword and match it with relevant
content. It also meant you could shard a keyword concept into a large
number of pages.
So you might find a different page for ‘how to squeeze orange juice’ and ‘how to squeeze fresh orange juice’.
Was the content relevant on these pages? For the most part, yes. But it was the content equivalent to empty calories.
That doesn’t mean that relevance isn’t important. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s still incredibly important. A fair amount of on-page SEO is about making relevance obvious. Because it doesn’t just need to be relevant, it has to be perceivedas relevant at a glance.
Relevance must be seen through the lens of intent instead of a simple keyword match. Relevance is the beginning, not the end of SEO.
is always coupled with value. Is value subjective? Sure. But it gets
easier when you trace it back to intent. Does that page truly satisfy
the query intent? Notthat it’s relevant. Not that it matches the keyword. Did the page provide enoughvalue to satisfy intent.
You’ll notice that I’ve used satisfy twice and that’s not by accident. Search engines (and SEOs) are increasingly concerned with user satisfaction. An
SEO might not talk about ‘delighting the user’ (eye roll) but we’re
measuring satisfaction through both qualitative and quantitative
it readable? Was the user experience positive? Were they able to find
the information? Did it lead them to other related content? Was it easy
for them to subscribe or buy? Were they able to print or share the page?
How many pages did they view? Did they convert? What is the bounce
also there to call your baby ugly and identify gaps in a site’s
content. That might mean the content produced isn’t valuable enough or
that there is unsatisfied query intent (i.e – you don’t have the right
SEO is about producing positive and satisfying interactions that support the brand and flow into other marketing channels.
What About Rank?
note that I didn’t talk at all about rank. Rank can be important but
only in the context of driving productive traffic. In many ways rank
should take care of itself if you’re doing everything else right.
addition, rank becomes less important when you’re working on large
sites with more than, say, 100,000 pages. There are ways to measure rank
in these situations but I don’t often find that of great value except
in communicating with clients obsessed with rank.
is also losing it’s fidelity with the continuing personalization of
search results. If Search+ is here to stay then rank will become
SEO vs Inbound Marketing
are many who probably look at my definition and explanation and believe
it better matches ‘inbound marketing’. This new umbrella term created
by Hubspot works for a lot of people. They find it easier to describe
and convey to clients. It’s more palatable and allows them to distance
themselves from the poor reputation SEO has acquired. I get it. But I
don’t like it.
I’m an SEO and I’m proud of it.
use SEO as a client filter. I can skip those who think it’s snake oil,
find the ones who ‘get it’ and help educate those who might be on the
fence. In many ways these are the clients who are most thoughtful and can contribute and collaborate on SEO efforts. Those are my kind of clients.
I were trying to sell into the Fortune 100 or have thousands of clients
under contract at a time I might decide inbound marketing was a better
term. I wouldn’t have the time to explain and educate.
That’s not Blind Five Year Old. While the company is expanding, I still have the ability to create personal relationships with clients.
the end, I’m not sure I want to work with a client who would accept my
help under the guise of inbound marketing but not as an SEO. Perhaps
that’s my own type of elitism.
SEO 2012 Example
lets take my SEO definition and apply it to an example. Suppose you
have the query ‘eureka lightforce 300 manual’. What do you suppose the
intent is behind that query?
they really looking for that vacuum’s manual? Or are they instead
having a problem with their vacuum? If you were able to look at query
reformulations you’d see users cycle through modifiers like
troubleshooting, repair, problems, information, solutions, manual and
parts. In fact, you can use Google’s related queries to see how these are linked.
years ago you might have been able to get away with creating a page
with a highly optimized Title, dynamic boilerplate text, a generic
product description and a link to a PDF download of that manual. It
would have been relevant but you wouldn’t have truly satisfied intent or
delivered real value. More to the point, the value that you delivered
was a commodity.
What would a SEO page for this term look like?
still have a solid Title, product description (and specs), and a link
to the manual. But you’d add a list of common problems with that vacuum
along with potential solutions. These might include step-by-step DIY
provide links for replacement parts. You might dynamically serve them
local vacuum repair shops. You may even have a section dedicated to
buying a new vacuum. Maybe you even have a calculator that tells you
whether it’s worth fixing the old vacuum or buying a new one. Heck you
could even provide links to house cleaning services.
A well designed page with these elements would provide relevance and value, thereby satisfying query intent.
SEO is about generating productive organic
search traffic by matching query intent with relevance and value. The
implication of this definition is that SEO must draw upon an increasing
number of disciplines including design, user experience, information
architecture and conversation rate optimization.
Source : http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/what-is-seo