So much has changed in the last couple of years in search engine optimization (SEO). Between the latest trends, algorithm updates and best practices, it has become quite a challenge to educate those who do not work in the industry. Typically, when I meet with a small- to mid-sized business, they fall into one of two categories: the first are those who have never worked with an SEO agency and think it’s some really complicated science; the second are those who have worked with an SEO agency, had a bad experience and now view it as some hocus-pocus snake oil.

I understand that not every business owner or marketing director can dedicate time to SEO, but I do encourage that they learn and actively participate in the process when possible. Ideally, your SEO consultant/agency should work closely with you to determine how to best leverage your industry knowledge or products/services towards creating a successful optimization strategy. It’s cheesy to say, but knowledge is power, and it ultimately helps to ensure that your website winds up search engine- and user-friendly, as well as Google update-proof.

The average person may not know Moore’s law by name, but they certainly know that their new iPhone 4s will be equivalent to a brick in two years. Changes in the SEO industry follow a similar principle. Search engines are constantly improving their algorithm, and best practices for user interface are quickly evolving. So, what works now may be completely irrelevant in six months. That’s why SEO isn’t an immediate solution (try PPC for that). It’s about working together over time to create an online strategy that best works for your business type.

Whether you fall into the first or second category, the most important message to take away is that being more involved in the process is essential to the success of your optimization. Since SEO is constantly evolving, and best practices can change in the blink of an eye, it’s difficult to educate those who do not work full-time in the industry. Nonetheless, this is the first of a three-part series that will educate you on some of the basics of SEO, so that you can ask the right questions and pick the right agency for the job. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will cover on-site optimization.