You might be a little shocked by the time you finish this article. You might even refuse to believe me. But I’m telling you straight: when it comes to SEO, you are almost certainly over-thinking it.

Let’s take a quick poll. Are you reading every SEO article you can get your hands on? Are you constantly tweaking your page title and meta tags to see if your site moves up the rankings? Are you running daily search queries to see how your site ranks for certain keywords? Do you break into a cold sweat every time Google rolls out a new algorithm update?

If you’re guilty of one or more of these actions, you are totally over-thinking SEO and you need to stop. Right now.

I’ve been in the Search Engine Optimization business for 18 years — long before the acronym SEO was even coined. I’ve witnessed the birth of Google, the death of AltaVista and more algorithm tweaks than Yahoo’s had CEOs. With all the changes the search industry has experienced over the years, I can tell you that the key to SEO is this: understanding your audience. That’s IT. That’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to understand latent semantic indexing, you don’t need to know HTML, you don’t need to know Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon or any of the other latest algorithm changes. You just need to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you don’t know your audience you need to get to know them. Quickly. Talk to them, talk to the staff who deal with them most often. Find out what makes them happy and what is turning them off. Look at their purchase history, their feedback, their interaction with your brand on social media. Survey them.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web and how this is changing SEO best practice. Well guess what? SEO has always been about semantics. The main purpose of the Semantic Web is to enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Just like it has always been, the Semantic Web of today is based on searcher intent.

Every search is a question in disguise. When deciding what web content to rank highest in search results, Google compares the content of your pages with the original search query to see if they match semantically.