How do you define SEO?
The Problem With Current Definitions:
The reality is, most people and companies define it differently. Some define it as modifying in-page elements only. Others expand on that and define it as including off-page elements and services such as link building. I'll argue its this lack of clarity and consistency that is helping to give our industry a bad name, as it enables companies or individuals to point their fingers at others and say "you're not getting business from organic search because someone else did not do their job ... its not me!". Companies then get caught in the finger pointing confusion, frustrated with the entire experience, and begin look at the entire industry through tainted glasses.
At the same time, its hilarious really. Time and time again I listen to many in the industry try to define SEO. Inevitably, they always try to define SEO as a set of activities, practices or tasks. To me, this shows tremendous fault in both their logic and their company business models. After all, who really cares about the tasks that you engage in, if they do not produce RESULTS! Is there no expectation? I draw an analogy to employees who want paid for their time, when in that time they produce absolutely nothing. Purchasing a trampoline that won't bounce. Buying a new car that won't move, a pen that won't write, a shoe with no sole. You get the point. Isn't defining SEO as a set of tasks or activities really just a means of transferring responsibility and blame to someone else when the desired results are not achieved.
SEO is ...
There I said it ... my definition of SEO is about getting the desired results from organic search. Organic Search is the medium, just as are newspapers, radio, television. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) however is the process of getting the desired results from organic search using whatever tactics you feel comfortable using ... so long as you achieve the desired results! Merely improving results is insufficient, as it still does not necessarily mean generating any real results ... instead it has to be the achievement of the desired results.
I know this type of definition is a great departure from how all other marketing media are defined (eg. newspaper advertising, radio, television, etc.), but we're not like any other media? Also, in this new information age economy, its time we started to define marketing by success and results, rather than by tactics and tasks. Clients do not care what goes into an effort ... only what results. Products already do this ... when you buy a product typically, you buy it knowing what it will do ie. what the result will be.
So, for those of you who argue SEO is about in-page elements only, ask yourself this question; does your client think he's investing in your time, or does he expect something more like results? Keep in mind of course that results need not be defined as 'rankings', and that we as SEOs can never absolutely guarantee anything. We can set expectations though ie. desired results. And I'll bet he's investing to get those desired results!
In summary, to those of you who define SEO as anything other than the achievement of desired results ... stop pointing fingers. You know the old saying ... while there's one finger pointing at someone else, 3 are pointing right back at you!
Just my humble opinion!