Beginner's Guide to SEO

In addition to being the name of my heavy-metal band (the Silk Eggplant Odors), SEO can be the difference between your website’s success and having it slowly decompose in a lonely corner of the internet. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, and essentially refers to getting your website to show up when people make relevant searches on Google.

People often overlook the importance of SEO – sure, having a cool and interesting website can be a big plus. However, unless you’re lucky enough to be maintaining a telepathic connection with your potential clients (a rare yet useful skill) then helping people to find your site in the first place should be a priority. That’s where SEO comes in handy.

“Fine,” you’re probably saying, as you slowly sip your latte. (Mocha? Nice choice.) “If this SEO thing is so important, how does it work?” Luckily enough for you and your beverage, it’s pretty simple to put into practice – SEO is all about making yourself look your best in Google’s eyes. (Your website, that is – you already look stunning. Do you work out?) Think of Google like the middle-school diva that controls the social scene. She’s got a rep to keep up, so she’ll be choosing the “popular crowd” based on two main factors: good looks and social connections. (Shallow, I know – Google never was the sensitive type. Don’t worry, by high school she’s gained 30 pounds and eats lunch in the corner.) Seeing as you desperately want to start having a presence in the middle school halls (and in internet search results, if you’ve been following this metaphor), making yourself “desirable” for Miss Google is going to be your best bet.

First, let’s talk about the obvious – Google is looking for a website that looks good. Or, more precisely, Google is trying to find a website that looks like it matches up with the search that it’s conducting. The more “relevant” your site appears, the more attention Google will pay to you, and the higher up you’ll see your site appearing in the search results. Clearly, it’s time for a makeover. Editing the content and layout of your site itself is called “On-Page SEO”, and is one of the most effective ways to make it more attractive to Google. In our middle school metaphor this would involve getting rid of your bowl-cut and telling your mom it’s time she stopped dressing you. In website terms this means filling your site with effective keywords/keyphrases, having relevant titles, and streamlining the layout of your site. Of course, even a preteen supermodel will still be a nobody if they don’t have friends – social connections are the next step.

Google, being the all-knowing entity that it is, will rate the value of your site partially based on how much it thinks other sites like you. This is called “Off-Page SEO” and is determined by whether or not your site was invited to the annual Labor Day “Website Pool Party”. (Didn’t know there was one? There’s your problem.) Actually, Google mainly rates your site’s relevance and popularity by the amount of links to your site from other websites. If another site links to yours, it generally means they’re giving you their stamp of approval, much like how one of the football jocks giving you a high-five might mean you’ll only receive a normal wedgie today (as opposed to the customary “Ultimate Wedgie”). Google sees these links and adjusts how you rank in the search results accordingly.

Of course, optimizing your webpage for both On-Page and Off-Page SEO can be a fairly in-depth process. However, with a little bit of time, creativity, and improved content you’ll be well on your way to a date with Miss Google herself.