Tell Me What is SEO?

I had an interesting question during a discussion with a customer yesterday.  As we were discussing marketing strategy and marketing plan implementation, we got into the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  He asked me a very simple and direct question, "What is SEO, and please tell me in words that I will understand."  So in other words, throw away the terminology, throw away the jargon, explain it in words the rest of the world uses.  Now realize that this is customer is a very smart guy, so it's not a question from someone who just doesn't it, it's from someone who isn't immersed in this stuff so wants a real world explanation. So I attempted to throw away the buzz words, the acronyms, and the text book definitions to get at "What is SEO?".  I'm paraphrasing a bit here but this was the essence of my answer, a 3 part answer.

  1. 1. SEO is helping people find you, for what you want to be found for.
  2. 2. SEO answers the question, does anybody care?
  3. 3. Lastly, SEO is making it blindingly obvious to Google what your website is about.
  1. His eyes lit up, at least as much as they can light up over a Zoom call.  He said, "Okay, that I understand.  Tell me more about each part, and keep it straight forward like you just did."
  1. 1. The first criteria, or requirement, is knowing what value your business has to offer and therefore what it is you want your customer to find you for.  for example do you want to be found for the "cheapest widget", or the "highest quality widget"?  Similarly, is your business value offering is "budget priced engineering services" or "fail safe structural engineering".  It's not enough to just say we are widget makers, or we are engineers.  You need to be able to define the value in what you offer, what makes your customers want your products and services.  We arrive at this through a series of qualifying questions, like an interview, to help you talk through the thinking process.
  2. 2. Once we know what you have to offer of value, we then take a direct research approach to find out if anybody cares, does anybody want what you sell?  To simplify, if the world-wide number of people looking for "cheapest widgets" is 10, then you might not have a very big market for what you sell.  But we can identify 200 people a month in your geography looking for "fail safe engineering services", then we think you have an opportunity.
  3. 3. If you know what you do well, what you offer of value, then next we need to help Google understand why your website content deserves to be showing up in their search results.  There is both a technical and a creative side to helping get Google show you some search results preference.  We understand the process, the mechanics, the testing, and the idea generation that produces results.

So without using terminology such as "meta data" or "no-follow backlinks" my customer said with confidence, "Now I get it.  Now let's get started!".

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