The quote, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” has been attributed to Albert Einstein (h/t Victoria Nigar). I don’t know whether Einstein actually said this or not, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it.
And so, here’s my simple explanation of SEO:
SEO is creating technically sound web pages that motivate people to link to them, share them, and otherwise publicize them.
Too simple? Let’s break it down:
Let’s stop right there. You aren’t creating new pages? You’re not doing SEO, IMHO. Page and content creation should be at the very core of your SEO strategy. Without new content, you’re going to have a very difficult time doing the rest.
Technically Sound Web Pages
Yes, making your pages technically sound matters. Does your site have a well-thought out site architecture? Can each and every page be reached by a link from another page? Do your pages contained optimized meta information? Does your site design provide a good user experience?
Search engines must be able to crawl, index and understand your pages.
Getting people to “do something” can be tough. Especially online. But the point here is that you need to think about people, not robots. People will make the difference as to whether your site performs well in organic search or not. People will either like what they find on your site and take action, or not like it and do nothing.
Also, people have all sorts of different motivations. For example, some people are more easily motivated to take action online based upon their relationship with the author online.
People are central to SEO.
Link To Them
Despite all the changes going on in search, links still matter. Especially natural links that are the result of a person motivated by your content.
Obviously, there are many ways to persuade someone to link to your content. But be careful. The more “persuasive” you are, the less value a search engine might put on a particular link.
Make your content link-worthy and link-able. Even some great content that is very enjoyable to read, isn’t necessarily link-worthy.
In case you haven’t noticed, the web has undergone a social evolution. Almost everyone can cast a social vote for content online. Getting your content shared can get it in front of a much wider audience in a much shorter amount of time than many links on highly trafficked websites.
But remember, it’s people that ultimately are doing the sharing. Think about what information your audiences are demanding from you and supply it.
Linking and social sharing aren’t the only way that people can publicize you and your content online. People can write about you. They can interview you. They can email your content to a friend. And yes, some will still even print it. And all of these means of transmitting your content can have an impact on your visibility in search results.
An email can turn into a link.
An interview can turn into a phone call which can turn into a link or share.
A printed version of your web content can get passed around an office, turn into a phone call and then into a share.
That’s about as simple as I can put it.