SEO, or search engine optimization, is the art and science of communicating well with search engines and providing an excellent experience for your web visitors. It’s primarily about content, but there are also technical features, strategic issues, and more. What do you get when you put all these things to work? FVP: findability, visibility, and popularity.
Findability means that people who are looking for you can find you. First, there’s Stage 1 findability. If I know the name of your organization or some specific information about you, I will be able to find your website without much trouble. If your organization doesn’t have this part down, your website is probably not yet indexed by Google. You aren’t getting much search traffic, or indeed much traffic at all. You may have a brand-new website — because everyone starts from zero — or you may have a website that just isn’t doing its job. We’ve seen websites that get one to five visitors a day with this level of findability.
Stage 2 means that someone looking for the goods and services that you offer will find your website easily without knowing the name of your organization. This is really the minimum for good website performance. However, depending on the number of competitors in your field, you may have to work hard to get to this level of findability. Read a case study on local Stage 2 findability.
Findability is generally about the quality of your website. Is your website’s code current? Are you mobile friendly? Do your pages load quickly? Most important of all: do you have optimized content that provides value for your visitors at every stage along the path to purchase? If so, your website should be findable.
Visibility means that your website shows up when people are looking for information about your goods and services. Google tells us that people check an average of 10 different pieces of information when they’re looking for local services — and that’s before they go out into the world and visit any places. Your website needs to show up all along the path to purchase so the searcher knows about you before they’re ready to take action.
The most efficient way to accomplish this is to have a blog — whether you call it a blog or not on your website — that provides fresh, original, high quality content on a regular basis. If you have great answers to the questions your target market is asking, you’ll have that visibility. Searchers will see your website in the SERPs, click through to get their questions answered, and feel confident about your ability to help them.
Social media and links from other websites are good tactics to increase the visibility of your website, too.
Popularity is what your website has when you rank high on the search engine results page for many relevant keywords and show up at the top of the page when people type in relevant questions. You get plenty of traffic and lots of shares. You own the page in local search and other websites link to you without being asked. This is often what website owners want.
How do you get popularity?
I’m reminded of Idries Shah’s story about the time Nasrudin asked a gardener how to get a gorgeous, velvety lawn like the one he sees at a palace. The secret, the gardener told him, is simply to plant a lawn, keep it free from weeds, and cut it regularly. “I can do all that!” Nasrudin says excitedly. He’s like the website owner who hears that regular blogging, active social media, and strategic linkbuilding will help his website reach popularity. “How long does it take to get it into this condition?”
“About eight hundred years,” says the gardener. The point is that the simple steps toward a world-class lawn — or a popular website — require a commitment of time, effort, and also money, if you need a paid gardener.
SEO requires a commitment.
SEO doesn’t actually require 800 years to get good results, but it does take an investment of time. You may not see immediate results, and if you give up in the early stages you will never see the results that were heading your way while you were working on your website.
You can’t have popularity tomorrow if you don’t have findability today. A good quality website with optimized content is the first step. Regular original high quality content added to your website regularly is the next step. Using social media and linkbuilding to expand your audience is next.
The final step? Keep doing these things. A long-term commitment is what makes SEO work for you.