SEO is GoogleWhat does SEO stand for? Search Engine Optimization. What does SEO mean? Do what Google says. SEO is not magic. Nor is it something you should have to hire someone to do as a separate function. If your web developer designs a site without SEO in mind, they are a hack. I realize I’m insulting people I’ve worked with here, but the reality is a website exists to provide relevant, current information. That’s what Google wants to find. That’s what Google wants to show people looking for said relevant, current information.

Your launch point for understanding SEO is Google Webmaster Tools — all the “tricks” are revealed. Sure, there will be areas where you may need technical help but if you follow these basic rules you’ll be well on your way to visibility and communicating with your audience.

*Note: Google is not the only search engine but Google dominates. You’re a slave to Google. Just accept it and move on.

Content is King

Your most targeted traffic will always come from people searching for the words on your website. Pictures do not speak 1000 words (they speak in alt tags and you better not have 1000 word alt tags.) The words on your site matter more than the pretty pictures or whiz bang functionality. “Hero” images, the massive photos covering the prime real estate on way too many web pages, are perpetuated by designers who don’t think about marketing.

KEYWORDS, the words are the key. Know which keywords are central to your business, place them top and center. Use keywords in headers. Get specific about those keywords in paragraphs. Search Google for those keywords to understand your competition and neighborhood.

Blog fresh, timely content, each post about a single topic aka keyword phrase. The new SEO practice of changing the publication date on a blog post to make it recent without updating the actual content is lame, and will be punished! Google doesn’t let fakery thrive for very long. Refreshing older posts is great, just don’t fake it.

Keeping it fresh means don’t have items on your menu that are outdated (eg an Events Calendar without events.) Don’t list services you no longer offer. If you can’t update your website then you should probably stick to social media and ignore this whole SEO thing.

Keep It Simple Stupid

KISS is one acronym I like. Cheap and easy, what’s not to like? Keep your designs simple. Keep your words simple. This is straight from writing bible Strunk and White: The Elements of Style (ok maybe not explicitly, but the premise remains the same.)

If it pops up, floats, hovers, slides in, or squawks, get rid of it. Annoying people into submission is not cool. Follow the KISS principle and you’ll ease right into…

Speed Matters

Google wants to send people to fast websites, not because those of us in rural Maine have slow internet connections, but because more people access the web on phones than they do computers. No one wants to wait for your silly Flash animation to load, or the giant video at the top of your homepage to buffer. Just stop these practices. You’re clogging up the data pipes.

While there are some highly technical aspects to building a fast website (Mark’s department,) there are plenty of things you can do, or rather not do. If you’re using WordPress choose a simple theme. It took maybe an hour to throw together this site with U-Design (I did not include unnecessary plug-ins like Revolution Slider.) Learn some html basics so you don’t get stuck in visual editors that create bloated code. Don’t use massive images. Make sure whatever platform you’re using serves small images for small screens (we’ll save responsive design for another post.)

If you’re hiring someone to build you a site make sure to emphasize fast over pretty ’cause no one’s going to see that pretty face hiding in the crowd of slow sites Google buries on page 10.

Update: Google has a new “Search for Beginners” video series. Google is a benevolent ruler who will tell you exactly how to serve (up quality content in a readable fashion.)

SEO for Beginners Straight from the Google’s Mouth

Have some SEO tips or questions?

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