Thursday, September 21, 2006

Search Engine Optimization - What does it mean?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly in regards to how it can be implemented and why it should be implemented. Partly because I will be teaching a class on search engine optimization in the Spring, but also because it's a very fascinating subject.

Ultimately, search engine optimization is the art of making your content more available to search engine spiders, which in turn will make it appear higher in a search. The concept is great, and appearing on the first page of a search means real exposure to your content. The problem is that there are so many rules to help keep things "fair" that almost everyone want's to look for that "Holy Grail" of guaranteed search results.

The reality is that most search engines (like Google and Yahoo) are looking for real, applicable, and targeted results. In doing so, they applaud those that make their content apply to what they want, but punish those that try to "abuse" potential problems within their system and promote a natural growth within the internet.

The problem is, as with any other process, rule, law, society, etc. ever conceived by humans, people try to manipulate the rules to benefit themselves at the expense of a natural growth system. And let's face it, we all want to see more traffic sooner than later, which is why we focus on optimizing websites for search engines.

I'm not about to comment one way or the other on the ethics of trying to work the system, but it's interesting to see the topic discussed on all levels with varying viewpoints. There are a few constants that are taken for granted that I would like to point out from all the discussions that I have read:

1. The internet is the only way to guarantee a huge market base for your content.
2. Only Google optimization, with maybe a consideration for Yahoo, is important in the world. All other search engines are just too small to be considered.
3. I need to focus on the optimization of the pages more than the content flow. That's just icing on the cake.

For the interest of conversation, I would like to question these assumptions.

1. The internet is the only way to guarantee a huge market base for your content. Does that sound right? Not all markets benefit from global accessibility. Many companies and websites are too small to handle the huge traffic that executives imagine will be coming down the pipe (irresponsible executives, at any rate). Also, many markets have seen a huge increase in local traffic as more internet fraud becomes common. The first question you would want to ask yourself, if you want to start marketing on the Internet, is whether or not that marketing can be better targeted locally.

2. Only Google optimization, with maybe a consideration for Yahoo, is important in the world. All other search engines are just too small to be considered. Now, this is just plain silly, and I had hoped that companies have learned from the mistakes of "Internet Explorer is it for Browsers" days. Yes, these two search engines represent 73% of all search engine traffic (courtesy SearchEngineWatch.com), but that does not mean that other search engines are not as important. Keep open to all search engine tools, so that you don't alienate that last 27% that use other search engines.

3. I need to focus on the optimization of the pages more than the content flow. That's just icing on the cake. After reading this article on SEOchat.com, I realize how easy it is to focus too much on the optimizing process, and not enough on the useful content. What good is it to have a website trying to sell your widget, if you don't have an option to actually buy it? Search engines don't care about checkout processes, but people do. Remember that your end goal is to sell something (time, talent, goods, services, etc.), and not to beat the search engines at their own game. This will help keep you on target.

Let me know what you think!

3 comments:

Robert said...

Jeremy, this rocks. I need an e-mail address from ya that I can contact you at. Robert Church.

We miss you on the team.

Jeremy Robb said...

Thanks Robert! I'll email you my addres on gmail.

Seo Link Master said...
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