SEO is Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is the science and art, the machinery and poetry, of driving qualified traffic to a blog or website, enabling marketing strategies to convert some of them to paying customers and loyal fans.
A website or blog is "optimized" (made as effective as technically possible) for search engines when a potential customer or fan is able to find you on a Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing, Ask or other internet search.
Sometimes web users search for a long time, dreaming up new keywords and catchphrases that might possibly be how a certain entity (product, celebrity, news item, company, political event, health warning, movie, or solution to a problem) has been tagged and indexed in the web.
"Will I find it by using this phrase?" we wonder, "or will it just dredge up a bunch of crazy offensive material?"
Have you ever wondered why certain really weird photos come up when you do an image search on Google? You type in your phrase, word, or name. Hit enter. Wait a second. In the midst of relevant pictures, you see some racey or inappropriate images that have nothing to do with your search term, the person or organization or product or idea.
It may be because the irrelevant graphic was tagged with the keywords you used in your search for your topic of interest.
The tags are called "Alt tags", though they're actually Alt attributes, and some people either enter the wrong information, or they intend to deceive and disrupt the web by using disingenuous labels on their JPEGs and GIFs. (They may also embed dangerous code, or malware, in their images and try to send them to you as email attachments.)
Your website or blog should strive to remain in compliance with best practices in web usability, content management, audience relevance, social media participation, user value escalation, online interaction, multimedia implementation, and search engine optimization.
The murky world of SEO, where, like everywhere else in life, good guys and bad guys hang out.
The bad guys are called "black hat SEO". They use hidden text and covert HTML to game the search engines in hopes of tricking them into ranking a website higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). The gimmicks backfire, and eventually these deceptive sites are banned from SERPs. Thus, disposable websites arise and vanish, often leaving link rot (deactivated URLs), and decreased trust in the web, in their wake.
You can buy keywords from search engine marketers, as a way to boost your SERP ranking. There are many other methods, diagnostics, tools, and strategies for SEO, but once you start playing SEO games, you have to keep reviewing, adjusting, and reinventing your efforts.
The rules keep changing in Pay Per Click SEO.
If you become reliant on Sponsored Links, Featured Content, Incentivized Ranking, Pay Per Inclusion, Pay Per Post, Pay Per Click and the like, instead of grinding out fantastic content, you'll find your budget is locked into an expensive addiction.
When a gimmick or legitimate feature is imitated and used by too many websites, users become immune to it, and it no longer pulls them in. Or people start using trendy new buzzwords to refer to something. Or something new becomes popular, so the content abruptly incorporates it into editorial offerings, resulting in more effective, but transient, keywords.
Many web surfers have trained their eyes to ignore Sponsored Links, Paid Listings, and Promoted Twitter Trending topics, just as they've developed the ability to disregard sales banners, interstitial pop-ups, and animated ads.
SEO methods also change constantly because the way people search, including the keywords they use, are changing constantly, moment by moment. Here's the real heavy lifting work that search engines do: monitoring, categorizing, analyzing, interpreting, responding to, and predicting behavioral trends in internet search activity.
Automated programs can spider your website, assess the usability, and index the contents. It takes mathematical geniuses to create algorhythms (formulas) that accurately guess what you want when you do an internet search, and show you only the relevant, authoritative, reliable web pages and files.
Your website should be designed and written with these user search trends in mind. Meet user needs and accommodate they way they search for relevant information and tools, and you'll have great SEO.
Then it's up to your content and marketing (and ultimately: the qualities of the product and the after-sale service) to convert those web visitors to paying customers, loyal fans, and positive buzz-spreaders.
(1) Organic SEO is no SEO.
Meaning: it's SEO that occurs naturally, in a healthy website, without SEO tricks or techniques, no gaming the system to make a website seem more relevant and timely than it really is.
Organic SEO is based on longevity (how long your site's been on the web), who cites, quotes, and links to it, and how much unique, relevant, well written content is added to it and at what frequency.
The SECRET of Organic SEO, difficult to compete with or circumvent, is this: you ride on the the wave of your exceptional content that you're constantly grinding out.
Poorly written, rarely updated, static, hard to use, rotten coded websites turn off human visitors as well as search engine spiders. If you don't put links to relevant web pages in your permanent content and your editorial articles, you violate web norms, standing outside the engrained culture of the internet.
Online newspapers and magazines are notorious for refusing to link to sources, yet they strut around as having "higher journalistic standards" than bloggers, and now their model is so bad, they're begging the federal government (taxpayers) to bail them out.
(2) Organic SEO uses super-charged content geysers.
Your content literally pours out of every orifice you maintain on the internet. It's coming out of your blog, your ecommerce site, your Facebook, your Twitter, your YouTube, all your various social networks and web presences.
You generously provide fans with answers to questions, solutions to problems, news about trends, announcements of events, video tutorials, filmed demonstrations, audio of interviews, whatever you think might be of value.
You research your market so you know pretty certainly what your audience is already pursuing on the internet. Is it coupons and deals? Insight and recommendations? Product usage reports? Book reviews? Humor? How To's? Model comparisons? Personal advice? Get good at it, and give it to them.
(3) Organic SEO is compliant with social media norms.
You don't just spew hype and sales messages and self-congratulatory PR.
You act like a normal guy or gal, a decent and valuable member of a digital tribe, an online community that expands to the most remote edges of the worldwide web. You participate like a person, not an organization, or a team of ghostwriters. Enrich. Advise. Share expertise.
Only occasionally try to promote a product or service. Let that be in the background. Nobody joins a social network to receive ads or news about income opportunities.
People join social networks to socialize. But if you're polite and intelligent, they may be inclined to listen to your advice, your recommendations, your product offerings. Establish your kind and wonderful essence, then prudently represent your commercial interests and customer solutinons.
"Let people know you're nice, before you try to get them to buy your rice." (Old Chinese proverb).
It's all original content, often controversial without being brutally adversarial and hostile, but you also add some material by others, crediting and linking back to them, to help drive traffic to their sites.
It's called internet altruism.
You're doing unto other bloggers as you wish them to do unto you.
This is a social media expectation endorsed by all participants. You care and share. A kind, encouraging remark on Twitter could result in the Twitter user linking to your blog in one of their blog posts, which cause their readers to blogroll and quote you...on and on it goes, leading to mass-viral or niche-viral effects.
(4) Organic SEO thrives on originality.
Just be you, but have a plan.
You must have a content management strategy, not just an administrative panel to your blogs and websites that you occasionally tweak or add a news item to. Your content must be idiosyncratic, hard to imitate, personalized, warts and all, perhaps typos, definitely a presence of a real, honest, sincere, amusing human being being the source of the content.
Even when quoting another blog, you must surround it with your own speculations, expertise, and opinion. Make it your own. Put your individual stamp upon it.
Take a brilliantly stated idea and ponder it, chew it up, until you can explain it, in your own words, to a friend or spouse or random stranger. It you communicated it well, then use those words in your web content.
(5) Organic SEO requires variety.
Content that relates your products and expertise to a wide spectrum of other things is content that remains unique, offers interest value, and is targeted to more people who could become friends, fans, and customers.
Tie your content in with celebrities, or global events, or news reports, or famous places, or hotly debated topics.
Don't just write a blog that contains only words.
Provide photos, audio, video, art, polls, widgets, games, and other tools and information. Think of new angles on the interests your audience has.
Your websites can't just sit there with unchanging material. Your websites, to survive, must be constantly evolving, growing, improving, gushing with interesting, helpful, astonishing, correct, satisfying, enlightening CONTENT.
(6) Organic SEO is user oriented.
Keep a website of value and interest to your customers, and the search engines will like it too.
You never design a website for a search engine. To please the search engine, it has to sense that you put the user first, because that's the kind of website that it wants to show to people who use a search engine.
You and the search engine have the same audience.
If you try to deceive the search engines, they'll catch on, and shun you. If you try to please users, your code and content and presentation will progressively, naturally, organically drive traffic to your site.