Crash Course in SEO

“Congratulations!  That sounds so interesting!  So…what is it, exactly?”

When I hit the family calling tree to tell them about my new job doing Search Engine Optimization here at First Scribe, that was pretty much the stock response.

My family is a fairly web savvy group.  We correspond via email on a daily basis.  We talk on Skype.  When my dad dropped Tom Brady the week before he threw six TD passes in one game, there was no shortage of activity on our fantasy football league’s message board.  The basics, really.

But despite a strong showing in general Internet knowledge, Search Engine Optimization wasn’t really on anyone’s radar.  They had all heard of it, but nobody could really define it, not even me.   I had the general idea of course, but I pretty much stuck with, “I’ll be optimizing web sites for search engines.”

A couple weeks into my SEO crash course, one thing has become very clear: it can’t really be defined, because the steps you can take to optimize a web site are infinite.

In a nutshell, there are two key concepts in SEO.

It’s more than keywords in a meta tag.

A lot more.  When the Internet really started to take off in the late ‘90s, there were a few search engines that sort of gave you results.  For a lot of web sites, optimization essentially meant plugging a few key phrases into your header and waiting (forever) for Yahoo to approve your directory submission.

These days, those tasks are at the very bottom of the SEO checklist.  It’s not just relevant content, it’s how that content is set up.  It’s not just incoming links, it’s how those links are set up and where they’re coming from.  It’s endless, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the rules change and you need to figure it out all over again.

The job is never done.

You can put all the pieces in place and have a web site that ranks at the top of the search engines, but it’s not going to stay there without a little work.  The Internet is not a static world.  It’s constantly changing and the only way to keep up with the game is to follow suit and change with it.

There’s a lot to it all, but there should be.  There isn’t a magic piece of code you can hide in your web site to make it jump to the top, and there shouldn’t be.  Search engines give us useful results because you can’t just wish your way to the top.

But with a little work, you can be your own fairy godmother and grant that wish yourself.

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