What exactly is SEO?
23rd April 2013
SEO & Marketing

What exactly is SEO?

Ah SEO. It’s the bane of anyone trying to delve into the cesspool of the internet for the first time. There’s an encyclopaedia of information that can be written about it, in fact we’ve written a few articles on it ourselves: here, here and here. Often times people will simply hire an expert to “get your website onto the first page of Google.” It’s a simple guarantee that causes thousands of businesses, small and large, to throw money at these ambiguous methods for an ambiguous promise. While some businesses are successful in their methods, others aren’t, and its almost impossible to tell between the two.

The Definition

Here’s the problem: as I wrote before, no longer can you spam keywords or back-links or use devious ways to trick Google. Obviously there are ways to optimise a website to make it more relevant for Google, or any other search engine to pick up, but that’s simply technical expertise and understanding your business. 

Think of it like this: A web page is like an online salesman. SEO is his training; what will give him the tools to do what he needs to get sales, but the meat of it is how that salesman goes out and actually gets the sales. It takes charisma, personality and the ability to sell, and the training (SEO) that enabled this was only a small percentage of his success. I’m going to maintain this analogy, because it is best to think of your website as a salesman, only the qualities that makes it successful are different to the right personality.

It’s about reputation.

Therefore, SEO can be defined simply as the tools your website uses to enable it’s potential. The real bulk of getting new business, generating visitors is much more organic, and much more robust.

But how?

My favourite way of thinking about it is to imagine that Google, or any other search engine, doesn’t exist. Or rather, think of it the same way you think of a visitor to your website; how will they react? How much necessary information is there? Can they find what they want? What extra stuff do you offer? Is the content fluid (ie: is it updated enough that they might want to come back for more)? Often it’s more marketing than tricks, but still requires some technical knowledge.

The Content

Content wise, a website is a hybrid between a book and a brochure. It should be concise and simple to understand, and it’s purpose should be to sell your product, but it can also be a place for detailed information, and understanding about your product and business so that the user doesn’t have to research elsewhere to find the information they need.

Take our website for example. While we strictly are not an IT company, and we don’t do call outs to set up people’s email accounts, our support centre has articles that can guide you through the process. What this achieves is that user’s will be more likely to come to us for support with their computers and web services, but that it prevents the need for them to go elsewhere to find the information they need.

Another example is a car website. While it is used to showcase how the car looks, how it drives, its features and the big SELL, there’s also a place for the technical specs, the prices, the in-depth details that means someone serious about buying a car, and making that big investment, has all the information presented right in front of them.

Part of this conundrum (in balancing volume of information) needs to be addressed at the design stage of the website; using the design to direct the flow of beneficial material. This is easy, we can handle that when designing the website. Mostly, however, it’s about wording. Don’t mistake this for keyword spamming, often you’ll see bloated paragraphs dripping with, say, “Web Design South East Melbourne” every time “Digital Developments” is mentioned. Google doesn’t like it, and neither does someone trying to read it.

All someone wants is what do I get, and how do I find stuff about it? Word it organically, like a sales pitch; use that charisma and personality to convince. Google understands it, don’t worry about that – it’s more human than us sometimes.

The Audience

Focus. That’s the big killer here; lack of focus. The whole of the Internet is essentially a giant world-wide paste board. Advertisements, flyers, rosters, everything is pasted all over it. From afar it would likely look like this:

What I find people often do is take their website, their service, and just smack it right in the middle of this big paste board of the internet. Then they step back and wait for business to flow in, oblivious that their target audience only reads anything in the bottom right corner. The internet is a very large place (about the size of a strawberry) and if you wan’t to get business in your suburb, make that your target audience.

This is easy – especially with our websites – with the solution lying in on-page SEO. Keywords, titles descriptions, keep it localised to your target market. For example, Web Design South East Melbourne is our current market. It also happens to be a keyword we can use in the title of our web pages to tell Google, ‘this is where we are, we want people in this area to find us’.

Often people will search locally, and by this I mean if they want to find a mechanic, they won’t type “mechanic” into Google – it will probably return national results – they’ll write “mechanic Dandenong” and usually judge on the quality of website from there. 

The Service

Getting customers off your website is one thing, but for the purpose of SEO, you want not only volume in your website traffic, but repeat visitors. Websites that simply say “contact us” for everything serve only to dole out information. In time, those visitors will either take their custom elsewhere, or need only occasionally re-visit your website to get directions to you off Google Maps.

Your website needs to offer something for nothing; free information or services that keep attracting visitors on a regular basis. Now while a few businesses can offer some useful things that are specifically available on the internet, most can’t, and the best way to do this is a blog.

Most of the time, life – especially business life – is a series of ups and downs in random sequence. What a blog allows is you to share these ups and downs on your website in such a way it appears like an ongoing drama – allow your users to engage themselves personally and feel like they are part of the growth of the business. Offer out tips, give advice, show and tell how you are going. Drama and freebies entice almost anyone, like being given an ice-cream and the chance to watch a Law and Order: SVU marathon for free.

I keep linking this article, but I can’t stress these points enough: the Internet is now a social place. It’s a hub of communication and a repository of information; kind of like a library you are allowed to yell in. People, as I said above, are attracted to drama, and the opportunity to delve into someone else’s personal life is all to enticing for some. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Give people an insight into the going-ons, on a smaller scale than a blog and it will simply generate interest into your business. 


Work. Work is the answer to any of this. You could employ any SEO expert to do that work for you, or you could do it yourself, but for any of these – or other – techniques to get the desired result the work has to be put in. The website can’t sit static and attract customers by being how it always it. If there is a blank of brick wall on the way to work, you may notice it once and drive on; but if it is painted with a different design every week then it’s bound to more often catch the eye.