Ah, SEO. Search Engine Optimization. You know you need it, you know it’s important…you’re just not a hundred percent sure what it is. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

SEO is a nebulous term for a nebulous concept. But at its core is goal: for a website to rank as high as possible in search engine results. Therefore the answer to “what is SEO” is “any action that positively impacts searchability of a website.” And never you mind that “searchability” isn’t actually a word.

Thus when someone offers to sell you their “SEO services,” you need to know what exactly they are offering. Which is tricky, since it’s quite logical for someone to seek “SEO services” are doing so because they have a loose grasp on the concept themselves.

At Rocket Pop, we never guarantee a client they will be on the top of search results. For one thing, “search results” is about as vague a term as you can find. For another, there is no silver bullet when it comes to SEO. What there is, and what we promise, is to do things the right way. I call this our SEO Best Practices, and my humble contribution to it is ensuring the SEO setup is done right.

When we launch (or take over the management of ) a website, I always check for a few things that are important to the basic communication of a website with a search engine. My perspective is that of the non-developer; I take the well-crafted websites my Rocket Pop compatriots whip up and make a few finishing touches.

  • Allow Indexing – this is, effectively, your On/Off switch for search engines. On a WordPress site, this used to be in a settings section called “Privacy” but has now been changed. Its replacement is found in the Settings section “Reading” – “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.” Outside WordPress, you’ll want to check your robots.txt and make sure you’re not blocking your URL(s).
  • Titles and Metas – Our developers, being the consummate professionals they are, set proper Titles as they create our websites. I follow up and make sure the meta title (setting the main Title makes this second step a bit redundant, but we do it anyway) and meta description are set for each page. This ensures that search engines will see the proper titles, as well as the user looking either at the site itself or at SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages).
  • Sitemap – a sitemap, in a perfect world, is not a necessary step in setting up a website. If your website is coded and constructed properly, then search engines don’t need the extra guidance of a sitemap to find and index all the pieces of a site. So, again, my work is essentially done for me by our devs. But we’re all about being comprehensive, so I take the additional step of creating a sitemap and submitting it to search engines like Google.
  • Check the content – to put this “step” here is a bit misleading. Your content is the most important aspect of SEO – at the end of the day, the more relevant and interesting your content is, the better your site will perform in results. So in truth the biggest step in SEO is when our copywriters and devs craft the content with the client. So in truth, ensuring the site content reflects the important and relevant keywords while remaining appealing visually for the user happens well before this stage – I just give it one more look to make sure we did things right.

When I’ve made sure all these bits are in place, we clear a site to be officially launched. So what was the SEO work? All of it. The SEO work started before the first line of code was written. And it continues long after the site’s launch. SEO is the ongoing relationship of a website to a search engine.

Next time on my little Tricks of the Trade series I’m starting here, we’ll dig into Google Webmaster Tools. Stay tuned!