Authentic: To be or not to be?

If you’ve been sipping on any of the recent social media marketing Kool-Aid, you must know by now that being authentic is all the rage. (If you missed it, check it out here, here and here.) Customers want the genuine you and nobody likes a person who’s artificial or fake. A no-brainer right?

Well I thought so too until I came across a post on the ribbonfarm blog. There are many interesting nuggets in the entire article but this particular section caught my eye:

The antithesis of authenticity is not artificiality/fakeness. That’s just a strawman argument. The true antithesis of authenticity is irony. And I don’t mean irony in the sense of recent hipster grads wearing “Yes, We Can” Obama t-shirts ironically and pretending to understand the Foucault they were force-fed in school.

I mean irony in the sense of classical marketing, be it a tailored pitch to a CEO for a $100 million account, or using sexy women to sell cars, or equating Coke with happiness. Both marketers and customers recognize, and accept, that they are interacting through some manufactured theater. Both know that there is subliminal manipulation going on, and that it is okay.

Quite the contrarian view. If you get a chance, you really should go check out the entire post.

Understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Having tinkered around with computers and websites for a long time, I consider myself pretty tech-savvy. But when I first heard the term ‘Search Engine Optimization’, it was made out to be some mystical dark art that only experts understood. That was years ago and the situation isn’t any better today! Well, the good news is that SEO is not all that complex and it’s entirely possible for a non-technical person to pick up basic SEO.

What is SEO?

There is a lot of thought that goes into how search engines rank pages. Thankfully, an online store owner doesn’t need to get into this complexity to understand basic SEO. This is all you need to know:

SEO is simply making it easier for search engines to understand your website.

Here understand means knowing what the website is about, gauging its authority and even judging the quality of its content. Once search engines understand your website, it’s easy for them to know whether your site would be relevant to some search keyword. So how does a search engine approach learning about the world?

How Search Engines ‘Think’

Search engines aim to ‘think’ like us normal folks. Anything that helps others understand your website would help a search engine to do so as well.

The rationale is that search engines try their best to copy the way a person understands a website. In order to serve up relevant results, search engines need to match that person’s idea of what is relevant. For example, imagine a world where people relied on the sounds a website made to determine its topic. A search engine in such a world would have developed hearing. And you, the site owner, would need to be careful about what your website sounded like.

This knowledge is powerful as we can now see that basic SEO is common sense! To figure out how to conduct SEO, all you need to do is to determine how to make it easier for website pages to be understood. For example, would having a more descriptive title on a particular page help a person understand it better? If so, then change that title!

The Magic Question

So then SEO is simply making it easy for others to understand your website. This simple concept should guide you in your future SEO efforts. I’ll wrap this post up by suggesting a simple question to help you determine which SEO efforts to undertake.

Will this help others understand my website?

Answer this question each time you make a change your website and you should be on the right track!

Next up

Since this is the first post, I avoided technical details and didn’t suggest actual actions to take. We’ll get around to this in the next few posts, so stay tuned!

By the way, here is a recent video by Google, in which Matt Cutts (who works for the Search Quality group in Google, specializing in search engine optimization issues) goes through websites and talks about what the sites can do to improve their SEO. Enjoy!

Introducing the Merchant’s Companion

Hi! This blog is created by the workaholics at Anafore who strive to write software that helps your online store succeed. We’re caffeine-obsessed geeks who embarked on this exciting journey in 2009 and absolutely love what we do. So much so that we gave up cushy corporate jobs to work on what we believe in!

As part of giving back to the online merchant community, this blog is a collection of our insights and experiences in working with online store owners. We’ll make use of our always-tingling spidey sense to bring to you little tidbits on how to make your online store just that much more successful.

So stick around and feel free to comment, engage or even disagree with us! We may not always get things right the first time round, but we pledge to provide well thought-out and researched posts that make your journey as an online merchant a little smoother.