The simple answer is that it’s an acronym that stands for “Search Engine Optimization” – but what is search engine optimization? Search Engine Land says it’s the process of driving natural, organic search traffic from the three major search engines – Google, Bing or Yahoo. Google of course being the most used, with Bing and Yahoo sharing the remaining bulk of users. According to a recent report by Search Engine Land – Google controls about 64% of the market, Bing around 20% and Yahoo around 13%. (we’re just getting started and I’ve already cited Search Engine Land twice – you know this is serious)
Back in the day SEO was a lot of different things. SEO was getting back links – regardless of the quality of those backlinks. SEO was spider links, little hyperlinks of a period hidden in the footer of your of your page that users couldn’t see but crawlers could. SEO was doing all kinds of fake and shady things to just to bolster your visibility in the search engines and gain a larger share of traffic. Today these types of practices have largely been discredited and abandoned.
Around Feb. 23rd 2o11 Google released the first of what was dubbed the “Panda” algorithm updates (according to Moz). Panda was a major algorithm shift that “hit sites hard” affecting up to 12% of search results. Panda seemed to crack down on things that made for a poor user experience – slim content, content farms, sites with a high ad to content ratio and a number of other quality issues. Before this algorithm update hit there were there was a cottage industry built around SEO that was built on finding ways to “trick” Google. If you’ve followed Google at all you know that their mission is to produce the best quality search result against a query. Anyone trying to game that system, spam or do things that that pose a threat to the quality of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is going to be penalized for it. This was a big turning point for the SEO industry on the whole.
Until Panda, SEO was backlinks and spamming. What SEO has evolved into is creating a web presence that aligns with best practices and then churning out content that speaks to your brand. Creating great content consistently, making sure that it speaks to the type of search terms or keywords that you’re targeting and provides value to the person on the other end of the search. Additionally things like social signals and frequency are important. If you are frequently publishing content about a certain subject you’re going to rank higher than someone who only posts once every couple months on the same subject.
Social signals are another big factor in organic search ranking. If people are sharing your content and talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or on Instagram, any social network you get a huge boost from that. Getting the right audience is to talk about your brand and just making content that is useful enough to spark that seems like a no brainer but it’s an aspect many overlook.
To sum, simply making sure that you’re aligned with best practices, not doing anything misleading and continually putting out fresh, original content that people enjoy and feel compelled to share you will rank well in organic search. If you don’t have the time or manpower to do these types of things yourself, we recommend giving us a call – but we’re a bit biased. If you are going to research hiring an agency to assist with Search Engine Optimization, we recommend you start here.