In the popular classic Wizard of Oz, the residents of Oz tell Dorothy that to get back home to Kansas, she must speak with the great and powerful Wizard. When Dorothy finally finds the Wizard, he is not really that great, powerful, or mysterious. He's just a man behind a curtain.
Search engine optimization can seem a lot like the man behind the curtain. It seems enigmatic, and in many ways, it is. After all, we don't know exactly what Google's algorithm is made of. However, we do have a set of guidelines and best practices to follow. If you want to optimize your website for search, keep in mind what SEO is and what it is not.
SEO Is Not a Set of Tricks and Tactics
Search engines have gotten pretty smart over the past 20 years. Tricks and tactics no longer work – at least they don't for very long. Things like buying links that pass PageRank, churning out generic keyword-stuffed content, and sneaky redirects don't work and they're against Google's quality guidelines. SEO can be a long, uphill battle if you're doing it right, but it's worth it in the end.
SEO Is Research and Analysis
SEO is just as much about writing and finding creative ways to market your brand as it is about research and analysis. Type any query into Google, and the results you get are ranked by an algorithm – a highly complex, technical calculation. Granted, search algorithms are modeled to be as human-like as possible to deliver relevant results to searchers, but it is still highly technical at its core. Conducting research and analysis of your site as well as your competitors' websites can yield helpful information as well as show areas for improvement.
SEO Is For Humans
Part of "doing SEO" for your website is writing content that is relevant to your target audience. According to the SEO company Moz, "SEO isn't just about getting the technical details of search-engine friendly web development correct. It's also about marketing. [Search technology] relies on the metrics of relevance and importance to display results."
Instead of trying to fit a keyword on a page X amount of times, focus on providing content that is actually relevant to visitors. Instead of posting a blog every day, update your site with new blogs only if they add valuable information. Instead of writing for search engines, write for visitors.
SEO Is Always Changing
Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms to produce better results for searchers. As frustrating as this can be for SEOs, we need to adapt. To insist on doing things one way when Google suggests another is foolish and won't get your site the results you're looking for.
We may not know the specifics of search engine algorithms, but what we do know about SEO can help us do a little more than take shots in the dark. When we pull back the curtain, SEO is no longer a mysterious, indiscernible force that drives the internet. It's marketing, it's following Google's quality guidelines, it's hard work!