Search Engine-Friendly vs Search Engine Optimization, There's a Difference

Gyi Tsakalakis
November 15, 2012

"A Search engine-friendly website." "Search engine optimized website." "Search engine optimization."

A lot of folks use these terms fairly interchangeably. But there are some important differences between what these terms really mean and what you can expect in terms of performance in search engines.

First, search engine-friendliness really is a question of accessibility, indexation and whether search engines can generally understand what your website is about. Yoast explains and provides a good example of this distinction:

Optimization means trying, looking at the competition, adapting, and seeing what the results of your changes are. Optimization is in the litte stuff… Optimization is moving that word to the front of the title to make your rankings a bit better.

As a loose analogy, you need lumber, nails and concrete to build a house. But these raw materials need to be assembled. And that's sort of like the difference between search engine-friendly websites and optimized websites.

Second, even if you understand the friendly-optimized distinction, there's something perhaps more sinister at work here.

You see, some folks are selling "search engine-friendly" websites as "search engine optimized" websites. On the surface, this seems rather harmless. However, if you understand the "friendly-optimized" distinction, it becomes quite clear that there's an implication that a "friendly" website will perform in search. It won't.

And even if you understand that that friendly doesn't mean optimized, you still haven't gotten to the real meat of the issue.

You see, while using keywords in page titles and various other places on your web pages, is undoubtedly a part of search engine optimization, it's a rather basic part. Again, the implication is that if you get a search engine-friendly website that allows you to update titles, URLs, etc, that you'll appear in organic search results. My friends, if only it were that simple.

The overwhelming majority of the work that goes into getting web pages to "rank" doesn't occur on the pages at all. Instead, it's all of the off-page search engine ranking factors that play a much more significant role in how your pages rank.

It's not that your site shouldn't be search engine-friendly. It should. However, don't expect your search engine-friendly website to drive organic search traffic without some serious optimization, both on-page, but more importantly off-page.

So, if you want to attract new business from search results, remember that a search engine-friendly website, while an important part of the foundation, isn't, by itself, going to make your site rank.

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Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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