The Truth About SEO

What did the book just say?

In this week’s reading in the book Social Media for Social Good one of the five must have characteristics of a blogger was “4.
Have SEO Knowledge”. I was personally taken off guard by this advice because of the generally accepted belief of how complex SEO has truly become. One way to test how arrogant (or naive) someone is in tech is to ask them if they know how to optimize for search engines. I had a Director in our company ask me that once and I said, “No”. He said, “That’s good because most people say they do but no one really does”.  Well I’m sure someone who works for Google does but the spirit of what he meant was true and here’s why…


Google makes billions of dollars every year through search generate revenue. The majority of that revenue will come from companies who want to pay to have their site returned in the search results. Paying to show up in search results is called Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In practice, you want to be good in SEO (in theory free) before you spend resources on SEM (always paid). Regardless of the method the goal of the search engine company is the same — only show search results which are relevant to the search. If the search results became irrelevant then users would simply stop using Google because it would cease to be a useful tool. And, if users stopped using Google then ad revenue would also cease. Therefore Google is always tweaking it’s algorithms to return the most relevant pages to the user.  This is a constantly changing and never ending process.

The constant changing means the steps taken to get on “Page 1” will be much different than the steps to stay on “Page 1”. In our company we have huge teams dedicated to doing nothing more than SEO and SEM. Just in my area we spend millions of dollars in this space; it is that important in the world of eCommerce. However, I would dispute the importance of SEO for non-profits especially given the resources required to do it properly. If a non-profit wanted to undertake SEO then I would advocate for hiring an agency to optimize once a quarter. Time for the marketing and PR staff of the non-profit would be spent better elsewhere.

A fun way to show the complexities of SEO and SEM

    • Google uses a lot of data about YOU to determine search results. One way to see search results without your browsing or location data is to use this site: That will return a Google search without your data inputted into the search algo. Compare that with the same search run in Google.
    • Do a Google image search on SEO and look at all the crazy diagrams trying to illustrate SEO strategies. I honestly couldn’t tell you which one is correct, or if there is a correct one, and that’s my point.

3 thoughts on “The Truth About SEO

  1. Thanks for this post about SEO! As a 5-year Google vet, I feel the need to stress the importance of consistent, new, fresh, excellent content on a website if it’s going to be ranked well! So, for nonprofits who don’t have the resources to engage serious SEM consultants, just making sure that website content is up-to-date, engaging and interesting to users should go a long way to boosting search ranking.

  2. Thanks for post. I’m not a tech vet by any means and it helped me understand the information a lot more in a more meaningful way. I like the way you break it down in layman’s terms =)

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