What is SEO?

Author: Kurt Steinbrueck  //  Category: CMO University, search engines

What is SEO?
(Updated on 3/8/2011)

Perhaps as you’ve searched around the Internet and Church Marketing Online you’ve seen the term SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is simply setting up your website to best allow search engines to read your website and understand what your website is about. Search engines aren’t very good guessers, so SEO is done to tell the search engines specifically what they need to know or what you want them to know.

The goal of SEO is to increase your website’s rankings in the search engines and bring more visitors to your website. An optimized website can bring 2 times, 3 times, or even 10 times the visitors than an un-optimized website. So, understanding SEO and its importance can make or break a website.

Keywords:
Search engine optimization is primarily done by targeting keywords or keyword phrases (a keyword/keyword phrase is a word or phrase people search for in the search engines). By performing search engine optimization targeting a specific keyword, you are telling the search engines that you want them to list your website when someone searches for a particular word or phrase. For example, if you have a church in Hoboken, NJ, you would want your church’s website to be listed when someone searches for churches in Hoboken, NJ. So, you would perform SEO on your website targeting “Churches in Hoboken, NJ”.

More About Keywords:
Because SEO is about targeting keywords, choosing the right keywords is the most important part of Search Engine Optimization. There are two key properties of a keyword to take into account, popularity (how much are people actually searching for the keyword) and competition (how difficult will it be to rank well for the keyword. The goal is to optimize your website for the most popular keywords which you can compete for and it’s not always easy to pick keywords. Just because you think a keyword should be popular, doesn’t mean it is. In fact, I’ve found that most people’s gut feeling about keywords is wrong. So, it’s essential to do keyword research before you start optimizing your website.

Some SEO Techniques:
Find a ChurchBasically, most SEO techniques are using the targeted keyword(s) in various places on your website, both visible and invisible to your visitors or what I refer to as “visible” and “behind-the-scenes”

Some Visible SEO Techniques:

  • Use the keyword(s) in the text on the page multiple times
  • Use the keyword(s) in paragraph headers
  • Use the keyword(s) in link text

Some Behind-the-Scenes SEO Techniques:

  • Use the keyword(s) in the Title tag
  • Use the keyword(s) in the META tags
  • Use the keyword(s) in alt tags for pictures
  • Use the keyword(s) in the page’s file name
  • Use clean, valid HTML code
  • Make sure there isn’t too much code in the page before the actual visible content of the page (search engines will only read so much. If there is a bunch of code before the content, the search engines may not read far enough to see the content.

There are a few other things to note about SEO.

  • Search engines can’t read Flash. So, if you have a Flash site, there’s only so much optimization you will be able to do.
  • Search engines don’t read pictures. So, if you have text on your site, but it’s in a picture instead of regular text, the search engines won’t be able to read it.

Every little bit helps:
SEO isn’t just a single technique, but rather a combination of several techniques, each contributing their part towards the final goal It’s kind of like running a race, every step you take gets you a little closer to the finish line; leave out a few steps and you’re closer to the finish line, but you won’t cross it. So it is with SEO, each thing you do when optimizing your website will get you closer to that #1 ranking. If you leave some elements out, you may move from not being listed to #20, but you want #1, so it’s best to do as much optimization as you can.

SEO Takes Time:
SEOMany people create their website and imagine that just creating their site will cause thousands of people to visit. This, unfortunately, isn’t so, which is why we do search engine optimization, to show up in the search engines and bring more visitors to a site. However, SEO itself isn’t fast either. It takes time to do the research and implement the changes. It takes even more time for the search engines to read the optimized pages and adjust their search results. Even with all of that done, it takes even more time and work for your site to be able to compete for the more popular keywords.

SEO is a bit like the tortoise in “The Tortoise and the Hare”. The tortoise keep moving a slowly down the path until he reaches the finish line. There are other methods of bringing visitors to a website, like pay-per-click search listings, online adverting, etc.. Search engine optimization, while slow, does have one huge advantage. After you have optimized your site, made your site more competitive, and have your website ranking well for the most popular keywords, the traffic keeps coming and you don’t have to pay for any of it. It can be a lot of work up front, but the rewards can be enormous.

Black Hat vs White Hat:
Black Hat SEOKind of like the old Westerns, search engine optimization has “black hat” (bad) techniques and “white hat” (good) techniques. The black hat techniques refer to techniques that are frowned upon by the search engines because the techniques try to trick or manipulate the search engines. The white hat techniques are techniques that are approved of by the search engines. Done properly, all of the techniques I listed above are “white hat”, but some generally white hat techniques can be made black hat by doing them improperly.

For example, using your keyword(s) on your web page is a white hat technique as long as the keywords are used in a natural way. Simply putting a list of keywords at the top and bottom of the page is a black hat technique. So, why does it matter? Search engines have been known to punish or completely ban websites that use black hat techniques. That’s a pretty good reason. I always recommend using white hat techniques. Just like in the Westerns, sometimes the guys in black hats seemed to get what they wanted for a while, but in the end, the guys in white hats always won. You may get away with black hat techniques for a while and may see great benefits, but in the end you’ll probably end up getting punished or even banned from the search engines, so stay on the right side of “the law”.

Final Thoughts:
Search engine optimization is both a simple and complex job. Most of the techniques for optimization are pretty simple in concept and SEO is something that most people can do. At the same time, professional SEOs have been doing these techniques for years and know the best ways to implement the techniques. It can also be very easy to miss some steps. Professionals also have access to tools and software that is used for keyword research, which, as mentioned above, is very important for the search engine optimization. The other benefit of hiring a professional SEO is that they should know the various techniques which the search engine consider “black hat” and be able to avoid them. A simple trap many amateurs make with SEO is having what seems to be a great idea about how they can optimize their site, but not realize that it’s a technique that is actually putting their site in jeopardy of being punished or banned.

Whether you do the SEO yourself or hire a professional, it’s good to optimize your website. Not optimizing your website is a bit like writing a book and not publishing it. For churches especially, this is important as utilizing your website to the fullest can have eternal consequences as more people hear about what Christ has done. So, don’t let your website waste away in obscurity. Optimize your site.

This article has just scratched the surface of what SEO is. We’ll be adding more articles about the specific aspects of search engine optimization, like keyword research, black hat techniques to avoid, and more info about SEO techniques. So, keep checking back or, better yet, get the RSS feed for the Church Marketing Online blog.

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14 Responses to “What is SEO?”

  1. Gary McKenzie Says:

    We need help with SEO. Our first website is a simple Intuit template based site. Can you help us? If so what can you do and how much is it?

    Gary McKenzie

    Trinity Christian Fellowship

    910-255-0336

  2. Kurt Steinbrueck Says:

    Hi Gary. Thank you for your interest. We would love to help. We'll get in touch with you.

    God bless!

  3. Webtuu SEO Says:

    Thanks Kurt for another wonderful post. It is another excellent attempt of you in explaining a very broad topic like SEO in a small article. This is quite easily understandable and I bet not a single newbie will have a problem in understanding it.

  4. xp operating system Says:

    The explanation that you have given for SEO work is really informative to have a good understanding of it. You should posses a good experience to write about this subject in such a detailed manner. I hope this article should make the path easy for all SEO beginners.

  5. arabellaanwen Says:

    Totally agree with cloaking s comment, there are two many fear mongers in seo and I doubt google is the all knowing monster people believe it to be. Most of what you read about seo turns out to be regurgitated nonsense.
    webtech

  6. Fanpage List Builder Says:

    Really clever guidelines here buddy! Thanks for sharing it!
    Regards!
    Nigel
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  7. Black Hat SEO Says:

    Great Article

    I dont know where to start, but I personally believe that things are getting too complicated in SEO with each passing day. If you do not keep a track of what is happening around you, you would lose it completely. For a newbie, he would require a month or so to understand the deal with the current logic and how to deal with Hummingbird and all.

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    There are alternative routines of bringing guests to a website, love foot-by-succeed drag listings, online adverting, etc.. Seek motor optimization, whereas laggard, does contain single colossal start.

  9. Rd - Tech Consultant Says:

    One thing I'd have to say to those who are new to SEO is that keywords are the most important aspect of it. Although it's possible to do SEO ignoring it, you'll garner very little benefit, if you do.

  10. Titu Says:

    That's good, that's really very good allocation about all the details of SEO an hopefully here provide allocation will surely be handy for everyone. Thanks dude :)

  11. Matt Says:

    SEO is changing everyday. It's sometimes hard to keep up with all the changes, but staying on top of it will help you use it to get the best possible placement for your website. I highly recommend checking out SEOroundtable.com as well as moz.com.

  12. aadam Says:

    Whether you do the SEO yourself or hire a professional, it’s good to optimize your website. Not optimizing your website is a bit like writing a book and not publishing it. white label reporting

  13. Houston SEO Says:

    SEO packages include a Basic SEO package in which you spend less and get your website on the first page of Google results. It also provides you an Executive SEO package which includes more efficient results and key phrases.

  14. Best seo company Says:

    Black hat SEO and white hat SEO both are the SEO techniques are used for improving the website visibility in search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. for the batter rank in search engine and highly traffic the content of website is must be unique and interesting. Kurt Steinbrueck you shares the wonderful article about SEO in detail that is very helpful material in there.