The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

This phrase, “Search Engine Optimization,” means so many things to so many people. Some think of it as the evil doings of money grubbing bad people. Others see it as a simple trick that, once they figure it out, will get them #1 positions in Google for any term they want.

Others, and this is the camp I’m in, see Search Engine Optimization as something you just want to do on the Web as so much of your traffic can come from these search engines.

This isn’t issue of saving money in “organic search optimization” versus pay per click search marketing. This is an issue of … “If my audience is looking for what I have to offer in the search engines, will they find me?

Now, I can tell already, this is going to be a long post but … this is going to be the most important point I’m going to make so catch it … are you ready …

If you actually offer what your audience is looking for in the search engines, the search engines actually want to direct people to you.

Yes, it really is that simple.

So, here is the secret to search engine optimization – A) have what your audience is looking for and B) make sure the search engines know that you have what your audience is looking for.

Part A isn’t hard to understand – it’s just hard to do.

Part B isn’t hard to do – it’s just often hard to understand.

Part A we’re going to hit in one simple paragraph (and this is it). Give your audience what they want. Don’t give them what you think they need (until of course, what they want is actually your advice on what they need). Giving them what they want means you have to A) know your audience and B) think a little. If I’m looking up a local dry cleaner online, I want hours of operation, information about turnaround time and maybe a phone number. If you give me a flash movie about your ironing talents, I don’t care and will leave.

O.k., this is going to be two paragraphs on the subject. Of course the real irony is a lot of people spend a lot of time making sure people get to their sites without actually giving them what they want after they actually arrive. That’s akin to spending time and money advertising a huge sale on Saturday and then only having the store open on Saturday for 15 minutes ’cause you were so tired with all the advertising.

Part B is the complicated but simple (once you get it) stuff.

Rule #1 – What people search for and what people want are two different things. Last month, 57 people who search on the term “Podcast Statistics” ended up at my site. 29 for the term “Podcasting Statistics.” 20 for “Podcast Stats” and the list goes on.

Go ahead, search those 3 terms in Google. Check out who comes up as #1.

Did 100+ people get up on December morning and say “I wonder what Podcast Statistics are available online?” Of course not – they were journalists doing articles on Podcasting, entrepreneurs trying to determine of Podcasting is worth it and venture capitalists trying to figure out where to invest their money. They, as a result, typed “Podcast Statistics” into Google and ended up at my site.

If you notice my Podcast Statistics page, it’s really just links to other articles that contain some fascinating Podcast Statistics so that those people mentioned above can do their homework and, the back of their minds, thank me for doing the hard work for them.

Rule #2 – The search engines don’t always know what you’re talking about..

Go back to my Podcast Statistics page. You’ll notice the domain is PaulColligan.com. The title of the blog is “The Business and Politics of New Media | Paul Colligan’s Profitable Podcasting.”

But if you go to my page, you’ll notice the title is “Podcast Statistics.” The url is “http://www.paulcolligan.com/podcast-statistics/” and the very first sentence reads “The Best Podcast Statistics and New Media Numbers That We Could Find Online.”

See, now if Google had no idea what I was talking about … they now know.

Rule #3 – You’re expected to link to yourself. What’s really important is when somebody else links to you.

This is how the search engines determine what is important. When other people with your subject link to you (notice how this great page of Podcasting resources from Oregon State links to our Podcast Statistics page), you are now, obviously, important to someone other than yourself and the the search engines take you that much more seriously.

How do you get others to link to you? Have great content worth linking to. Sorry, but it really is that simple.

So, honestly, these 3 rules are about 90% of the process. Realize that you’re writing and designing for what your audience is looking for (not what they need), make sure you use those terms in such a way that the search engines know what your talking about and do what you can to get others to link to you.

By the way, THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION BUSINESS (not the I spam the search engines type but the I have killer stores that sell real product that people want so I want to make sure the search engines send me the traffic I want types) have launched a 3-part video series on search engine optimization. It’s the way way way advanced stuff (and not for all of you) – but certainly worth a look if you are interested in more on this topic. They are incredible. They’re called StomperNet because of the way they stomp the search engine results.

Attached below is a simple flowchart of what I was talking about if it helps.

SEO Flow Chart

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.pixelmatrixdesign.com Josh Pyles

    Hey Paul,

    While I agree that it’s important to make sure that you’re setting up your site for success from Google or other search engines, I find SEO to be a pretty dirty practice. The more you SEO your site past a certain point the worse the website becomes. I won’t name any specific examples, but i’ve looked at the top results for certain searches that apply to my business and the top results are indeed very SEO’d but the problem is, I can’t find anything on their site because it’s so full of links and junk that I can’t figure out what’s happening. And besides that, their content isn’t even very good, it just happens that they have the most SEO garbage on their site, and that’s why they rank #1.

    If you really want to impress your users, I definitely recommend thinking about SEO the way that you’re supposed to, and not to go too far with it. Users pick up on SEO links and it really devalues the site. Almost looks like a zombie.

    If you have enough traffic, and the right info is in order on your pages you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.

  • http://www.paulcolligan.com Paul Colligan

    Josh,

    Thanks for proving my “SEO means different things to different people” angle ;-)

    Took a look at your site – the work on Mogulus is excellent. Love the interface on that site.

    Paul

  • http://georgekedourie.com George Kedourie

    Total Good Sense Paul!

    Just in case you have a moment,
    I’m doing an interview on the web today at http://tinyurl.com/2rwt2y

    Happy New Year

  • http://www.pixelmatrixdesign.com Josh Pyles

    Hey Paul,

    Yea you’re right, it really is a loose term.

    Glad you liked the site, I just launched it yesterday, so i’m pretty excited about that.

  • http://www.wireworldmedia.co.uk Andy White

    This, surely, is the 20% that gets 80% of the results. I particularly like your comment on great content – do this plus implement these techniques and I suspect most people will see a marked increase in traffic.
    Nice one Paul!

    Andy White

  • Pingback: SEO Daily Reading - Issue 7 « Internet Marketing Blog

  • http://firstpagegoogleresults.com/ website seo optimization

    I just finished reading The Truth About Search Engine Optimization. In short, it rocks. I only have one bone to pick with……

  • http://www.estudiosfdesign.net/seo/thematic-optimization%E2%84%A2-by-seop-com.html SEOP.com

    Good points. Thanks for sharing. It is true that after all the SEO techniques, it all falls back to your content and what you want to say with your website or blog.

  • paulcolligan

    Exactly.