When I meet new people outside of the Internet Marketing Industry and they ask me what I do for work I never come out and say, “I’m an SEO.” Most regular folk have never heard of search engine optimization or SEO, and those who have mainly know of it because they get email spam purporting to do SEO by “submitting your website to 10 billion search engines.”
The elevator pitch I give to people who want to know what I do is that “I help companies get their websites to show up in Google when people are looking for what they offer, so that they can get more targeted visitors and ultimately make more sales.”
High Rankings is Not the Goal of SEO
While it’s as simple as that, very often the true goal of getting more targeted visitors and sales is lost in the quest for high search engine rankings at all costs. When many SEO companies themselves define SEO as exploiting search engine loopholes to manipulate the search results, it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion and even outright hatred for the SEO industry.
SEO is Not Manipulation and Exploitation
Talking about manipulation and exploitation do a huge disservice to businesses trying to figure out what SEO is and whether or not they need it for their website. For one thing, it doesn’t address core issues regarding the website itself. If a website isn’t bringing in targeted search engine traffic, it’s broken. And if a company believes that manipulation of Google is SEO, then why would they bother to fix their website?
Chasing Search Engine Algorithms Doesn’t Work
In the early days of SEO it’s true that one could easily manipulate the search results to provide a more favorable position to just about any website. However, the better that Google and the other search engines get, the less easy they are to manipulate. Each and every new rule or algorithm change they make is to fight this manipulation and exploitation. This means that old-fashioned manipulative and tricky SEO is not sustainable over time.
SEO is About Fixing Your Broken Website
If the correct definition (and methods) of SEO were being used consistently by all, more people would understand what it is and why it’s necessary. They would understand that while it may take quite a bit of work to fix their broken website to be the best it can be for users and search engines now, they will see long term gains without the fear of losing traffic and sales during a future search engine update.
The key to understanding what SEO truly is: think about the reason why anyone wants or needs it in the first place. Never forget that at the end of the day, you want more visitors to your website who are interested in what’s offered there. While high rankings in the search engines can be the vehicle for driving that traffic, it’s not the goal in and of itself. Always keep your eye on the long term by thinking about how you can make your website better than your competitors’ and more relevant to your target audience.
As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.