Search Engine Optimization – Process or State?

Is it possible to be truly optimized? Is optimized a state or a process?

I checked my 14-year-old Webster’s Dictionary. The definition for “optimize” said: “to make the most of; develop or realize to the utmost extent; obtain the most efficient or optimum use of.” My pre-search engine optimization resource didn’t give a definition for the noun “optimization.”

So, I looked it up on an online dictionary, which defines “optimization” as “the fact of optimizing; making the best of anything” and “the condition of being optimized.”

Hmmm. That definition seems to imply both a process and a state.

Search Engine Optimization – The Process

In the world of search engine optimization, the definition has certainly changed over the last 10 years. In the early days of search engine optimization, earning a prized first-page position on Google or Yahoo was as easy as adding some mega tags and page titles, wiping your hands and walking away.

No more. Search engine optimization has become a game of cat-and-mouse, and it seems that the 800 lb. mouse does most of the winning.

Web site owners who want to earn and keep a top position on the major search engines now must buy into the realization that search engine optimization is a process, not a state. There really is not a point at which one could say their site is “search engine optimized.” Yes, the site might be performing today on the search engines, but give it six months or a year and you’ll likely be tweaking the site, looking for links or doing more research to find out why your site’s rankings have dropped.

For their part, the search engines maintain that their efforts to upset the proverbial SEO apple cart is to prevent manipulation of their rankings and provide the most qualified results. Maybe it’s working, maybe it’s not.

As they say: “It is, what it is.”

Why Search Engine Optimization is so Important

So, why would anyone bother? Well, like it or not, the Internet and search engines have become the most popular research tool for people looking for products, services, … heck anything. Most companies understand the importance and value of having a web site, being able to disseminate huge amounts of material without incurring printing and postage costs, getting their information in front of prospects whose names they don’t yet know, informing potential customers in far-flung areas.

But, the only way of “making the most of” (see definition above) that web site is to make sure that it’s in the best possible position to be viewed by search engine visitors. Which means it needs to be optimized.

Marketing research firm MarketingSherpa conducted a study of 2,000 marketers whose sites had been optimized. They found that companies that had used an in-house search engine optimization person saw traffic to their sites increase an average of 73%.

Companies that outsourced SEO saw an average increase in traffic of 110%!

For companies investing in the effort to do it right, search engine optimization clearly works.

How Search Engine Optimization Helps Search Engines

At the same time, when done properly, search engine optimization works well for search engines. I can’t tell you the number of web sites we’ve reviewed for prospective clients that were poorly organized and failed to tell a cohesive story about what they do. If human eyes can’t make heads or tails of a site, you can be sure that a search engine robot won’t be able to either.

Optimization is the process of making sure that a web site does a very good job of explaining exactly what a company does. At its best, search engine optimization will inform not only the search engine looking to categorize and rank the site, it also will help the user who has benefited from the company’s effort to clearly convey the essence of its products and services.

Back to the Beginning – State or Process

When we talk to clients and prospects, we do reference optimization as a state, as in: “Your site has been optimized.” From a practical standpoint, it’s easier than saying “Your site is optimized, for now.” Since no one but the engineers at Google and Yahoo know when the next big algorithm change will be out nor whether it will negate any of the work one has done to a site, why be the pessimist?

We’ve done optimization work on sites that has kept those sites in the forefront of search engine results for several years at a time, and we don’t use techniques that are verboten.