This post is something I feel SEO (Search Engine Optimization) desperately needs: A plea for its legitimacy. The following short list is comprised of three simple truths which I hope will aid in establishing the legitimacy of SEO for you beyond the shadow of a doubt -- even if you do not yet understand exactly how or why. SEO has an incredibly tarnished image throughout many industries and schools of thought thanks to spammers and the black hat tactics often associated with the industry. Likewise, it doesn't help that SEO is often thought to be unquantifiable, unqualifiable, and ultimately unjustifiable by many. So, without any further adieu, here are 3 simple truths to defend the integrity of white hat SEO.
Truth 1: SEO is an Acronym; not a Word
I can't tell you how often I hear and see "SEO" spoken as a word in some cynical context. "SEO is just a bunch of hocus pocus used to pad search engine results." It's almost as if "SEO" has become a word synonymous with everything negative on the Web. Just so we're clear, it stands for "Search Engine Optimization." It is also used to reference a person as a "Search Engine Optimizer;" as in, "Jon Payne is one of the best SEOs in the industry."
Anyway, just what exactly does "Search Engine Optimization" mean? In its most basic form, it simply means optimizing your Web site for search engines. It ranges from optimizing content and code on your Web site to optimizing content on other Web sites that are relevant to your Web site (more on this later). Yes, there are black hat SEO tactics (high-risk and excessively spammy tactics that can be leveraged to cheat your way to higher rankings) and white hat SEO tactics (the tactics I will focus on teaching and that many people build legitimate, long-standing businesses off of), but just realize that SEO is not a word defined as cheating search engines and spamming searchers.
Truth 2: Eating, Drinking, Breathing and Sleeping SEO
It's important for you to realize that while there are plenty of "black hat SEOs" out there who lie, steal, and cheat their way to higher rankings, there are equally as many -- if not more -- who eat, drink, breathe, and sleep white hat SEO practices. Those people make this stuff their life because they're interested in it and they're interested in genuinely helping their clients to succeed! Some people run legitimate agencies, others take the role of consulting, and then you have the individuals who REALLY dig in and tread not-yet-trodden paths.
People do this for their livelihood and they earn an honest living doing as such. The problem becomes trying to flesh out just who is legitimate and who is not. Luckily, there are some quick signs to look for which will aid you in spotting the difference should you be in the market for hiring an SEO agency or consultant. For instance, anyone who guarantees top-rank results before ever speaking with you most likely isn't worth hiring. I will dive much deeper into the topic of spotting shady SEO agencies/consultants soon in another post.
Truth 3: Good Enough for Microsoft and Google; Good Enough for You
If Google and Microsoft speak in terms of SEO, why shouldn't you? My final and undoubtedly most compelling point; here are two of the most successful companies in the world with tremendous presence on the Internet who discuss and implement SEO -- and not just in some minuscule capacity, either! Please reference the following links which help support this 3rd and final truth:
1 - Google's Dedicated Site and Guide to SEO: Google has a page dedicated to what you need to know when it comes to hiring an SEO. The page also includes a beginner's guide to SEO. 'nough said! Click here to view the page and click here to download the guide (it's a PDF).
2 - Google's Face of SEO, Matt Cutts: Although addressing SEO is not his primary role, he spends a lot of time addressing it. In a lot of ways, he is our lifeline to a small fraction of Google's views and mechanisms with search and SEO. Click Here to visit his blog.
3 - Microsoft's SEO Toolkit: Yes, Microsoft has created a tool which will essentially crawl your site and provide a detailed report of areas needing some SEO lovin'. If you will, recall the context in which I defined SEO in truth 1. Optimized content and code are what Microsoft has based its tool on. Click Here to read all about it and download it. It's FREE!
4 - Microsoft's Face of SEO, Chris Moore: Less known in the SEO realm is Microsoft Program manager Chris Moore. He diligently posts about SEO in relation to Microsoft; the ways they implement it, places they discuss it, et al. Even if for nothing else, this just goes to show how a company like Microsoft chooses to invest in SEO. Click hereto check out his blog on Microsoft's MSDN blog network!
3 Simple Truths: Conclusion
I hope this post goes to show you just how legitimate SEO really is. As with many things in life, you have to take the good with the bad and SEO is not exempt from that. The points to take away from this post are clarification of exactly what you should mean from now on when you say "SEO," the fact that plenty of positive forces out there live and breathe honest SEO practices, and the fact that companies as big as Google and Microsoft clearly invest in SEO (which means you should, too).
As this blog begins to flourish, I will delve deeper into the specifics of SEO to show you how you can begin to implement changes that will help your site rank better! Likewise, I will help you spot the difference between real SEO talent and the people/agencies who are out there to make a quick buck off of you. Thanks for your time and please feel free to leave your questions or comments below -- especially if you have a "simple truth" of your own!