“I think organic is the way to go,” said a colleague of mine this morning. It sounded as if he disagreed with me about the merits of optimizing his web site, which he had built himself using software called SiteSpinner.
I realized that my colleague equated organic with free. He must have been thinking that because optimization can cost money, optimization must be akin to taking out a paid Google ad. He thought that “organic SEO” was free, that it just happened naturally.
Organic, by definition, means “characterized by continuous or natural development.”
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is defined as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”
You may elect to do your own SEO for free. Or you may hire someone to do it for you. Regardless, the main listings that appear when you do a Google search are organic — that is, developed naturally just as organic vegetables are, with as little interference as possible. (This notion is kind of funny, because in reality the famous Google algorithm that determines which sites place highest are certainly not organic. They’re an artifice. However, the algorithm is intended to purify the listings, to purge them of unfair influence, and to keep the listings as democratic as possible.)
SEO deals with anything that helps your web site legitimately rise in the search engine results, or SERPs. SEO includes four pillars:
- content (i.e., keywords)
- links (both inbound and outbound)
- social media (to the extent that it drives traffic to your web site)
- local search (i.e., management of your geographic data)
That’s how I classify SEO, anyway. (Search Engine Land categorizes SEO success factors into three: on the page SEO, off the page SEO, and violations.)
With SEO, you polish your writing to fit the search engine algorithm we believe Google uses. I say “believe” because only Google programmers know with absolute certainty why your site rises and falls in Google SERPs. The rest of us are just guessing.
Sure, there are accepted norms (example: place key words close to the beginning of your copy, as well as in heads and subheads). You can find many lists of SEO success assumptions, among them Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO.
Generally, what Google rewards or punishes makes perfect sense. Occasionally it doesn’t. However, what we refer to as the Google algorithm continues to change.
And, as I always caution, of course there are algorithms other than Google’s. Bing’s, for instance, and Yahoo’s. Honestly? No one really cares about them. Google is the 400-pound gorilla in the room.
As someone who spends a lot of time helping clients make more money on the web, I do believe it’s important that you write your copy entirely without thought to anything other than the standards of good communication.
Your copy should organically be
- interesting, if not fascinating
- grammatically correct
- written to an 8th or 9th grade reading level
- sound and to the point
- accompanied by at least one visual asset
- accompanied by internal links and external links
- at least 300 words
(There are other concerns, but these make the point.)
The SEO I apply happens only after your writing is complete.
“Organic” does not mean “free”
The bottom line: The word “organic” does not mean “free” or that you don’t need to give a thought to SEO. Quite the contrary. Every little bit you do to improve your SERPs makes a difference and is absolutely necessary to boosting your ranking.