|How It Works|
SEO and High School Popularity
One of the most confusing aspects of building an online business is search engine optimization. Most people who have built a business online, or at least tried to do, have at least heard the term SEO. But what does it really mean when you talk about SEO anyway? Just what would we do for you in order to help you build your business up online?
Here's a basic primer on SEO and how link building works, which we like to call SEO 101 or, SEO high school:
Two Types of SEO
The first thing to understand about SEO is that there are two types of SEO. One of them is called "on page SEO" and the other one is called "off page SEO." You can't have one without the other, though off page SEO is a little harder to do than on page SEO.
Now if you've only heard the term but know almost nothing else about SEO other than that it needs to be done in order to succeed online, you're probably staring at the previous sentence and wondering what the heck we're talking about. Not to worry though. We'll make it easier to understand how link building works by relating to something we all know something about -- high school. Here's how it works:
On Page SEO
Think of on page SEO as being fashion conscious and making sure you have a great looking body when you're in high school. Whether a boy or a girl, dressing in nice clothes, driving the right car, making sure to take care of acne if it rears its ugly head and generally looking like someone cool was important to your popularity ratings in high school.
Now, even though it's incredibly shallow to do things this way, the fact is that high school is a popularity contest and those who look the part are more likely to get the girl (or the boy).
All of these things are exactly the same as "on page SEO." In essence, when you do on page SEO, you are trying to get the attention of the search engines and especially of Google, which is the ultimate cool kid on the block.
You do this by dressing correctly, or in this case, setting up your website in a way that makes it easier for Google to find it (it's a lot of technical stuff which an SEO expert can handle -- the important thing to know is that it needs to get done and can be done by someone who knows what they're doing).
You also need to drive the right car, which in this case means making sure that your server, the place which drives your website out to the world is fast and reliable. Even though people generally won't see the flashiness of the "car," they'll notice it when your website loads up quickly and so will Google.
Finally, you need to take care of your body and avoid problems with acne. In this case, that means making sure that your website just looks really good and doesn't have a lot of junk on it which could hide the beautiful site you built (just like acne can hide your beautiful face, putting too many objects on your website can take what is otherwise a great looking site and make it look hideous).
Okay, so much for the world of on page SEO. Let's move on to the question of off page SEO, which tends to be a little trickier (and which is the basis of how link building works), much like it is in high school, because it involves things that you can't always control:
Off Page SEO
In high school, simply looking good and having the right kind of car was only half the battle toward becoming popular. You also needed to be seen in the right places, be seen hanging out with the right people and generally be accepted by the masses as a cool kid. There were two ways to do this and the two ways largely match up to what constitutes off page SEO.
The Grassroots Approach
There were a handful of people in high school who could pull this off and become one of the cool kids, simply by being the kid that everyone knew. They would go out there and just talk to everyone and anyone, never taking no for an answer.
They would be the bubbly personalities who, even if they weren't necessarily known to the popular kids became popular because they were simply out there, pressing the flesh and getting to know everyone.
This way of doing things represents what might be called the mass or spammer's approach to SEO. Basically, Google, like a fickle girl in high school who isn't sure whom she should go to the prom with, wants to be associated with the popular kids (or popular websites).
So, it takes a look at how many other websites have "voted" for your site. In this case, that means getting links from other websites back to your website (called backlinks in Internet parlance).
It's kind of like where you're just the kid who everyone knows in high school and everyone seems to like, simply because you have a bubbly personality. The thing is, just like in high school, getting the masses without getting the popular kids means that your influence is going to be limited. Google too will take notice if you seem to be popular with the masses (or the non popular kids) because you are "known."
However, just like the head cheerleader, just being known to lots of other kids isn't necessarily enough to get her to go out with you, at least not as a first choice. You also need to ultimately get accepted by the most popular kids in the school.
SEO works the same way. You can have thousands of unknown websites linking to you, but ultimately, that needs to be a base for getting the more popular sites to link to you. This is called off page SEO (aka how link building works) by the way because everything happens "off the page." You don't do anything to your own website when you get those links -- they happen elsewhere.
The Creme De La Creme Approach
The other way to get popular in high school (and to do off page SEO that works) is to have and "in" with a handful of the popular kids. Maybe they know your big brother and they're willing to give you a chance because of it.
Maybe you've simply got gobs of money and that instantly makes you popular. Or maybe, like that kid in the 80s movie, Can't Buy Me Love, you bought your way in by paying a popular girl to "date" you.
This is the professional SEO approach to SEO as well. In essence, when you hire an SEO professional, it's like getting an "in" which lets you jump the popularity contest to the highest levels because the SEO expert is able to take your website and get it noticed on the most popular websites, making you the SEO prom king to the Google prom queen.
A Word About Page Rank
A final note to help you understand how SEO works. In some high schools, some of the kids would actually publish a popularity list where they would rank guys and girls on a scale of popularity. You never wanted to be on the bottom of that list because that meant you were a nobody. Google, the prom queen of SEO, publishes their own popularity list.
That list is called page rank and in essence, it's a measure that they use which tells you how popular a particular website is. So, just like dating the girl or guy on the top of the popularity list would get you to the top of the list as well, getting links on sites with the highest Google page rank gets you better rankings also, thus making your job of doing SEO for your website that much easier.
The catch of course is that if you're a nobody, it's hard to date the head cheerleader. Similarly, if you're a nobody online, it's harder to get a link on the best websites. Fortunately again, your SEO specialist is your friend -- he or she can help you get to the top of the rankings quickly by using various "ins" to get you a link on some of the best pages on the web (since he or she understands well how link building works).