Search Engine Optimization works

Search engine optimization being searched

I admit it. Search engine optimization works.

While I’ve never doubted the effectiveness of search engine optimization, better known as SEO, I have downplayed it. Not the concept since I’ve always known that SEO works but the intentional act of optimizing content for search engines.

Genuine. Organic. Change.

My “Genuine. Organic. Change.” approach believes in the power of being genuine. If you are true to yourself and write content conversationally and with your audience in mind, you’ll naturally attract the attention of your desired audience and search engines. Over time as you regularly add good, interesting content that folks find interesting, you’ll organically grow your audience. Slowly at first but also featuring dramatic changes like a plant erupting from the ground or the buds on a tree suddenly transforming into leaves. Change is the result of this concerted effort to be true to yourself and finding your audience organically.

In short, my approach to SEO has always been that if you write in a genuine authentic way that works for your audience, they’ll find you when they perform a search.

In addition, I’ve always believed in the power of social media and how it’s conversational nature assists attracting attention while staying consistent with a genuine, organic approach. In particular, I’ve seen blogging as a social media tool that can effectively be used to share content in this style, build up a library of content and continually share fresh content.

I still believe in this approach because it works. My post on “10 Best practices for annual reports” consistently attracts lots of interest and did so before I became more intentional about SEO.

But maybe that’s also because it was accidentally optimized for search engines?

My concerns about an intentional approach to SEO

My concern about SEO has been due to my unease that it was somehow gaming the system and driving more web traffic than deserved.

For example, I recently tried to find a local company to deal with our home’s wet basement. I found it difficult because of how so many relevant companies had optimized their websites. Now I get that they may have a wide service area but in general, they tried to present themselves as local even when they were not. They’d have pages with titles like “Have a wet basement in Kitchener?” with text that used the word Kitchener clearly designed to attract searches from Kitchener. On some I’d see long lists of cities that they served. This approach to optimization may drive traffic and even sales but I don’t believe it as being genuine by placing such a high importance on ranking high in searches that people can’t achieve the objective of their search.

I think that optimizing a static site to attract customers is a poor substitute for a genuine, organic approach.

(Note: I did end up choosing an out of town company because I liked the professionalism of their website which helped me have confidence in them. They were not one of the ones that was so obviously optimized to the point of being pretty close to misleading.)

I’ve added SEO to my approach

On the other hand, I felt views on my blog/website were growing too slowly to help me achieve my business objectives. I read a blog post by Gini Dietrich about how she and staff at her company used SEO to help them achieve their objectives. Lack of a SEO helper was listed as one of the eight mistakes commonly made by bloggers. Since Gini is so great at frequently blogging great content and effectively uses Twitter to build relationships, I paid attention.

I realized that I should take a more intentional approach to SEO and that doing so could be consistent with my approach and in fact in enhance it. I needed to set aside my concerns about sort of SEO approaches that are used by firms guaranteeing first page results.

What I learned was how she wrote her blog post using her natural style then used a tool to optimize it so that it would be more likely to get attention.

After my busy fall, I found time in January to research the tool that works best for me and settled upon the WordPress plugin SEO by Joast.

I’ve noticed a difference. My post on “What is your LinkedIn profile strength?” which became my most read post ever in less than a month is probably the best example–but it is not the only one as demonstrated by my blog’s record smashing stats in February.

An SEO helper tool essentially audits your blog post to let you know if it is optimized to attract attention through search engines. If it is not, it provides a checklist of changes that you can make to enhance your post’s searchability. You’re still in control of your post though and it’s optional what if any changes you make. It’s more of a checklist of best practices so that you know what you can do. But for example, my writing is usually more complicated than desired for optimization purposes but I have no intention of making any substantial changes to my writing style.

Where it has helped is to get me to think more consciously about my “focus keyword” and where and how I use it. It’s also prompted me to take control over my post’s meta description.

I’m seeing that paying even a modest attention to SEO has delivered stats that make me much happier and should make it more likely I’ll achieve my business objectives.

Is this an argument against my genuine, organic deliver change? Far from it.

I see an SEO helper tool the way a gardener sees compost or fertilizer. Both help feed the desired growth naturally.

Do you have any SEO tips?

Feel free to share your SEO tips–especially those that don’t require an SEO expert and plenty of dedicated time. I’d love to see them particularly if they enhance rather than detract from your genuine, organic feel of your website/blog.

photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via photopin cc

Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich)
Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich)

I love, love, love thinking about a keyword or phrase for our content and then watching it climb the search rankings. I did this last week for "keep content fresh." We started out with no rankings and, as of today, are the first on the list...even before Pro Blogger. Then what I do is go to my Webmaster Tools, click on labs, and then author stats and see how many people are finding us via that search term...and converting to readers. It's a totally geeky thing to do, but it works. And, like you said, I never write the content for the robots. I always write what I'm going to write about and then see if I can optimize it for a key phrase.

James Howe
James Howe

I agree! There's a real thrill seeing a well thought out search term working and attracting new readers--even better when you can see it turn into return visitors I'm sure. Thanks Gini for showing how to keep it real and find an audience!