SEO: Gimmick or gotta-have?

SEOIf there’s any one thing about the Internet that confuses online content producers (e.g., writers, musicians, photographers, videographers, etc.), it’s SEO, or “search engine optimization.” To most creative types, SEO means that it’s not good enough to write a great blog entry, create a great video or capture a great image. No—now you have to trick Google into listing your website higher in the search results by inserting keywords over and over again to the point of being awkward and unreadable, or use a lot of links, or add the right captions to your photos. In other words, take your Mona Lisa and add neon lights to it so it looks like some kind of Vegas attraction designed to lure in tourists.

Well, that’s only partially true. There was a time when the algorithms that search engines used to identify the “best” results for your queries were rather primitive. The assumption was, if the website uses the word “cars” a lot, and has lots of car links, and has a domain name like “,” it must be a great website, right? Wrong. But today’s algorithms have come a long way from the Internet’s ancient past during the Clinton administration. Today, search engines are pretty savvy when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff. While it’s still smart to know what search engines look for when ranking their results, it’s no longer a game of “tricking” the search engine. It’s more about having the right information in the places the search engine is going to look. And it’s more than ever about content.

SEO is a “gotta have” when it comes to your website. But it’s not the be-all, end-all.

Quality content, after all, is what search engines want to provide you. (They also want you to click on ads, but Yahoo!, Bing and Google know they’ll only get you to their sites if they produce results.) And so once again, we’re faced with the time-tested adage: content is king. Good website content leads to customers inquiring about your products or services. And great products and services, combined with excellent customer service, build brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is the ultimate goal (or should be!) of any business. When customers have good experiences, they come back and tell their friends. When they have bad ones, they don’t come back, and they tell all of their friends and some strangers, too.

So, yes—SEO is a “gotta have” when it comes to your website. But it’s not the be-all, end-all, and your website content should not be driven entirely by gimmicks and tricks that won’t fool today’s search engines anyway. Create good content, treat your customers well, and focus on building your brand.

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