What is SEO?
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t expect to rank for the phrase “What is SEO?” I’m not even going to try because it’s really not worth it. Other people have worked years at it and they wouldn’t stop just because I started working on ranking for it. I’m writing this post for the benefit of my readers.
I started doing what was later called SEO, short for “search engine optimization” in 1996. There was no Google, Yahoo or Bing. I ranked websites on search engines such as Altavista, Dogpile, Hotbot and what was at that time called, “Ask Jeeves” (it’s now just Ask). I started ranking websites related to video games and others related to some things I learned in school that fascinated me.
At the time I just called it, “ranking websites.” I remember at some point hearing it called “search engine optimization,” and soon after the initials SEO were used nearly mainstream. Heck, I still remember working for a company where one of their officers told me that a website was a “luxury item,” that they didn’t really need. It was the year 2000, so let’s give him a break. Very quickly that luxury item, under my management, became the top marketing tool by far. It represented millions of dollars a year and that’s when I knew I was on to something as a career.
Some people define SEO as a way to manipulate search engines for profit. While I agree in part, the way I see the word “manipulation” in this case is not the kind that would be seen as bad or fake. My goal is to give search engines, particularly Google, what they want. And in doing so, I’m not only going to get more search traffic, I’m going to get more traffic from other online and offline sources and have happier visitors to my website (or the website of my client). I see search engines as a blueprint for a successful Internet presence. Since the search engine’s job is to find the most credible and most high-quality website or other object to return to searchers, and since the search engine has seen millions of websites, it would make sense for me to listen and take note.
The search engine has seen what it takes to be successful and has built a system to grade a website’s success, effectiveness, and qualifications. So in large part I see SEO as reverse engineering Internet success.
SEO takes research. Both on competition and on the search engines themselves. A good SEO (in this case it means search engine optimizer, but I prefer the term “search-rank specialist”) does a lot of research and forms techniques that benefit the website and show search engines that the website is improving and has something worthwhile to provide. That’s what true SEO is. I avoid anything that’s truly fake. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and I want to show Google a lot of smoke (without the mirrors).
So while I’m aggressive and focused on improving my website’s outreach (or that of my clients’), I’m not interested in doing something that could have a website thrown out of Google altogether at some time in the future. I’d rather build quality, which most likely won’t let me down, than build a house of cards and hope the wind doesn’t blow.
So that’s how I define SEO – as improving your website under the guidance of Google. A great SEO is an expert at deciphering and reverse engineering what Google has learned over the years about successful websites. If that’s your strategy, you will benefit from what Google, and other search engines, have learned from the largest analysis of websites currently available by far.