Before I begin, it is important to note that SEO, as any other facet of web design, covers both technique and purpose. Technique in the sense that SEO comprises a number of de facto guidelines (and accompanying tools) which help improve the search engine friendliness of your website. With purpose I mean the elusive concept of setting goals, and how to pursue them. Both are incredibly important aspects of learning SEO, and it can be argued that one cannot exist without the other.
In this post, I take a stand on why it's important for all those working with web design to learn and understand the basics of search engine optimized web design. I sincerely believe that search (in one form or another) is and will be the reigning paradigm of the Internet, mainly due to the fact that the sheer amount of online content has surpassed any other means of gaining access to it. This means that as a whole, and for the good of information retrieval, tuning existing web content to be more search-accessible should be a benefit to all, especially in the near future.
Learning SEO techniques
Most of SEO, as it stands today, is based on guesswork. That's what it boils down to. Search engines want to promote the democratic nature of the web by keeping all parties equally misinformed about their machinations. Just imagine what would happen if search preference was afforded directly to the highest bidder? In the long run, search would be rendered useless, as money could be used to buy undeserved relevance in search results.
The fact that it's guesswork doesn't change the equally important fact that we actually know a lot about search engines. This is thanks to a vibrant community, vigorous testing, and some helpful engineers who treat us with factual knowledge, if we've been good.
That being said, there are a number of techniques, whose adoption into your everyday content management will definitely lead to good results. I've covered some of these techniques in an earlier post on combining accessibility and SEO requirements, and I also touched the subject in my SEO in a nutshell post.
If you grasp the basic ideas behind keywords, HTML templates, meta data, and web crawling, you should be well on your way to creating good, accessible, and healthy web content.
Understanding the purpose of SEO
But technique is not, and should not be, enough. Doing SEO for the sake of SEO will probably result in you making progress with keyword rankings, but are you also able to increase the number of conversions? Is your brand achieving more popularity? Do you have adequate presence in social media? After you create your content, do you have any idea how to market it? What is there on your website that should be found? Is your online presence justified?
I can't stand the idea of just selling organic search improvement. A savvy client will understand that it's not enough, and if they don't, it takes a scrupulous consultant to capitalize on this lack of understanding. What about the quality of visits? Does SEO maximize the potential of landing pages? Is keyword research taken beyond volume, to relevance and beyond?
I pose all these questions because I know how this business works. SEO is an incredibly easy thing to sell, and, I'm sorry to say, most buyers are incredibly easy to fool.
And this is why I'm calling for increased understanding of the purpose of SEO. Developing content strategy, for example, is actually really easy if the clients themselves see the benefit of creating good and optimized content that goes beyond “traditional SEO” deep into the realm of audience design and creativity.
What to demand from SEO
As a client, you should ask the difficult questions right from the get-go. Remember to go beyond the concepts and marketing jargon. Make sure you are not spoon-fed with age-old SEO tactics, which might increase visitor levels, but do nothing for the quality of these visits.
In the first meetings, ask at least the following questions:
- Have you understood what our business is about?
- How do you determine the relevance of your keyword research?
- How will you make sure our site's link profile is kept clean and relevant?
- How will you assist us in truly making quality content and marketing it?
- Will you train me to use all necessary tools so that I don't have to buy consultancy every time I want to update our site?
The last is the most important. I really REALLY believe in knowledge transfer, and I see SEO professionals as obligated to educate the masses. Doing things the right way is and should be a common undertaking, not restricted to just a few professionals.
Learning SEO is good for you, trust me. It's a question of doing web design and content management in a certain, unobtrusive manner.
This manner maximizes search engine friendliness and usability of your site content.
And it makes the Internet just a little less chaotic.