As a developer it’s always apparent to me that different people have different ideas about what search engine optimisation (or “SEO”) actually is. The most popular opinion, by far, is that search engine optimisation is a series of ‘magic’ tweaks and secret handshakes to make pages rank higher, resulting in perceived usefulness and more sales. I think that this is a backwards way to look at it myself.
The point of a search engine is to deliver relevant results to the user. User enters a search term, search engine goes through it’s index and delivers the content it thinks is best to User. The search engines want to be seen as the best at delivering the ‘right’ content, so it’s important that only decent content ranks highly (especially as beyond a certain point in the SERPs, users either change their search terms or use another engine).
Throw enough money at a page and you can get it ranked high enough to deliver the much-wanted sales. However, if your outgoing expenditure on SEO or advertising is greater than that of the returned sales, you’re wasting time and money.
In my experience, the key is to turn that around on it’s head, putting yourself in the shoes of the user (or in fact the search engine). Spend time and money on improving the relevance of a page, and the relevance of your site overall, and all of a sudden you’ll find you’re working with the search engines instead of against them. In turn, this improves the experience for the user, which is much more likely to result in the kind of sales (and positive experiences) that clients really want.