What SEO Is – And What It Isn’t

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The three hottest letters in online content are undoubtedly “SEO.” Short for search engine optimization, it’s a strategy for making sure that Google, Bing and other search engines recognize a site and grant it more weight when listing results. It relies on a complex system of latent semantic indexing, intelligent back-linking and keyword use to propel a site higher on the search engine results pages.

If your business isn’t on the first Google results page for at least a few keywords, you’re missing customers because they can’t find you. More than half the people searching a given keyword click on the first link. Over 80 percent of search engine users never even see the second page of results. Why should they keep looking when they’ve already found what they needed on the first page?

Obviously, SEO still matters.

What SEO Isn’t

However, search engine optimization may not be what you think it is. Too many business owners and site managers still think that keyword-stuffing – taking a laundry list of unrelated terms and shoving them into an article whether they fit or not – is a good way to build traffic. They’re often the same companies that participate in low-quality link exchanges that promise a quick mention on an unrelated site in return for filling content with valueless back-links.

If you’ve ever read a hash of nonsense words with a few repeated phrases or seen an article that contained more links than plain text, you’ve seen bad SEO techniques in action. This fundamental misunderstanding of how search engines work can stunt business growth. It isn’t just last-year thinking on SEO; it’s last-millennium thinking.

What SEO Is

Search engine algorithm updates have made optimization far more sophisticated than stringing together a few keywords and pressing content around them in clumsy lumps. True search engine optimization works with search engines as they are today, not as they were in the 1990s. It uses LSI, or latent semantic indexing, to place keywords in context and understand their relevance to the content. It also weighs the value of links.

In other words, LSI mimics the same thought process a human reader goes through when scanning an article. When you read an article about androids, you instantly recognize whether the content is about “Star Wars” or smart phones because the words around the keywords provide semantic context. Search engines use LSI to draw similar relations between words in the content. If the keywords don’t make sense in context, Google relegates it to a back page.

Good SEO strategies also use links naturally. Links are like a vote of confidence to search engines; they assume a site with plenty of incoming links has a lot of great content. At least, that’s how it used to work. Today, link exchange systems that try to stuff the ballot box can render a site invisible to search engines – and to potential customers.

What SEO Will Be

Only the wizards in charge of search engine algorithms know what’s next, and they aren’t always forthcoming. They’re trying to stay ahead of the keyword stuffers and link exchangers, after all. However, there is one can’t-miss SEO strategy: Publish great content. Search engine algorithm changes are all aimed at making searches more useful for people, so think like a customer and offer the kind of content you’d like to see. Engaging writing, high-value content, useful tools and clean web design attract you, and they’ll also attract search engine approval.

© Business Content, Inc. 2012 All Rights Reserved.

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