“The Internet has no such organization – files are made available at random locations. To search through this chaos, we need smart tools, programs that find resources for us.”

-Clifford Stoll, Silicon Snake Oil, 1995

Search engine optimization goes beyond traditional marketing and advertising by providing techniques to help a site increase its organic traffic (visitors from search engines) by increasing relevance and assisting the indexing activities of search engines. Search engines use special software to index, or record, the content of your site. Much like library patrons who find books based on title, author, or subject, the search engines find websites based on the unique words (keywords) we type in.

Relevance is a website’s connection or affinity with the keywords typed into a search engine. Search engines calculate the relevance using a number of criteria, including how often those keywords are used, where they are used, and the site’s relationship to other websites with similar keywords.

From this we can begin formulating the basis of our SEO strategy. These three foundational elements are: content, coding, and community. search engine optimization graphic


People are searching for something- an answer, a recipe, a service, a product. Your content must use or pertain to the keywords people are searching for. Good content is the most important thing.


Your content is supported by a scaffolding called code- the html used to structure and present your copy to end users. That scaffolding can be optimized to help search engines better index your website.


Your site isn’t an island but is part of a larger community of websites that are related by mission, audience, and/or content. Being an active part of this community helps increase your relevance.

In order to know who to appeal to and how to appeal to them it’s best to start by being very clear with yourself and your website by asking:

  1. What do we do?
  2. Who do we do it for?
  3. How do those people find us? What words might they use?

From this exercise you should begin formulating a list of your keywords- those unique words that describe what you do and how your audience will find you.

In upcoming post we’ll look at each of the three foundational items in more detail and begin drafting our strategy.