What is Search Engine Optimization and How Does it Work?

By John Eberhard

There are a couple elements to proper and effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and I think it is important to understand what they are and how they work.

First of all, the reason you do SEO is to increase the traffic you are getting to a site from organic search engine results. Organic search engine results are the regular result that you see when you search for something. It is not the paid results, and it is not the map results (on Google the map results are called “Google My Business” now).

So the goal is to increase traffic from organic search results. What type of results can you expect from doing SEO? If you follow an SEO program over a period of time, you can expect to as much as double, triple, or quadruple your site traffic. So what is an SEO program?

The Elements of SEO

Proper Search Engine Optimization consists of “on-page optimization” and “off-page optimization.”

On-page optimization consists of:

  • Doing keyword research to select keywords that have a good number of searches being done for them, and that have fewer number of sites competing for them
  • Writing titles and descriptions for each page of the site
  • Putting those titles and descriptions into a hidden area of each page which your site visitor doesn’t see, but which search engines see, called the meta-tags area.

On-page optimization should be redone every 2-3 years, as the traffic to various keywords and the competition for them can change dramatically in that amount of time.

Off-page optimization is the process of building up the number of links to your site. The number of links to your site from other sites is a primary factor in how well your site will rank on search engines for the various keywords you are targeting.

Over the years search engine optimization consultants have developed various methods of creating links to a web site. Then over the past four years, Google, the largest search engine with over 60% market share, has been actively attacking these various link building methods. They have made changes to their search algorithm to make various links building methods less effective. Why?

Google has insisted over and over that you should just write good content and put it on your site, and if it is really good, people will link to it. And that would create what they call a natural link pattern. But there are a few flaws in this logic:

  • First of all, realize that what Google tells people to do, is good for Google, not necessarily for you.
  • I have written before about how if you have a local business, such as a dentist, who exactly is going to link to your content? Your patients? They would link to you because they like you so much? How many of a dentist’s patients have a web site or blog? If the dentist writes a lot about dentistry and his material is really good and he becomes sort of an “opinion leader” about dentistry, then people might start to link to him. But most small business owners don’t necessarily have a goal to become an opinion leader on their topic. Which basically means they will get at most a few hundred links.
  • You will find if you check, that most businesses that are at the top of the Google rankings for any given competitive keyword, tend to have thousands of links. So if you want to compete, you will need to have thousands of links. If you just write great content and wait for people to link to it, you will not get thousands of links.
  • I have seen announcements from Google that certain link building actions are now being penalized, or will not work anymore, and I have seen from actual statistics that those methods were still working. So sometimes they will announce something just to scare people off.

So I think that establishes that you need to do link building, and basically Google doesn’t want you to. The fact that they don’t want you to is unfortunately enough for some people to decide not to do it. I have even seen some experts say that link building is now dangerous. As someone who has been involved in SEO and link building continually for the past 10 years, I think that’s a mistake. It is not dangerous, it is still necessary, and it is effective. And I say effective, based not on opinion but on statistics.

So what do you need to do? I use a service for the first two months that does a broad link building action. Then after that I write press releases every month and submit these to a variety of free and paid online PR sites, as well as posting them to several blogs. I have been very successful with this program, but only with clients that understand it is a program that you have to do continually over a period of a year or more.

I have several clients that have been on this program for several years, where we have doubled, tripled, or quadrupled their site traffic. And that’s worth doing.

Categories: SEO