Dec 30

Intro to SEO, Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Few people really understand what SEO is and the significance of making use of it. So exactly what is Search Engine Optimization? How does it work, and what is it’s exact purpose? Is there a shortcut to getting your web site up the rankings? This intro to SEO is meant to answer these questions for you, and explain the multiple uses of SEO.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is also known as Web site Promotion Services or Web site Ranking Services or Online Marketing. They all mean the same thing: getting your web site to rank highly for free searches that people enter into Search Engines. If we use Google as an example, we’re talking about the main list down the middle of the page, and not the sponsored links down the right. Some people call this “organic listings” or “organic search results”.

The aim of this technique is quite straight forward, so that when your potential customer searches for “Widget 25”, if you sell them, you want your web site to be the first result they see, or at least in the top 3 or 4. It is just about useless to be on the second page of search results.

But how do you go about achieving that coveted #1 ranking for your product? To answer that, you need to know how the search engines work, or more specifically, how they decide that your web site is “better” than your competitors for that keyword. As a matter of fact, this can be broken down into three steps:

Finding out if the search engine knows your web site exists?

Has your web page got anything to do with your product, or is it discussing something completely different?

How many other web sites on the internet think that your web site is important?

The first sounds trivial, but isn’t. If the search engine has not yet indexed your site, it doesn’t know you exist. So at this point, you can’t answer questions 2 and 3.

So just how do you get your brand new web site to be visible to the search engine? Search engines crawl the internet by following links on web sites, so if no one has linked to your new site, the search engine can’t know you’re there, as it isn’t like walking down the street and suddenly stumbling upon it. You can submit your web site to the search engines directly to tell them you exist, but the SEs may “have their feelings hurt” doing it that way, so they may devalue your rights, and reduce your priority. At that point, it can take up to 3 months for them to decide to visit you. This means you’re like a boat missing on the Pacific Ocean, lost because no one came to find you.

The role of Search Engine Optimization in getting your site indexed is also quite labour intensive. I doubt you knew there are over 140 search engines at last count? Worse than that though, just because a search engine came to look, doesn’t even mean they will necessarily add your web site to their index. In an ideal world search engines would just find you by following links to your site, but in reality this could also take months.

A fact of prime importance in promoting your web site to the search engines is this: there is no one unique thing that you should do to the exclusion of all others. As with financial investments, if you don’t want to crash and burn, the best strategy is to have a balanced portfolio. For Search Engine Optimization, submission to search engines is a useful tool to get you in the search engine indexes, because if they don’t know your web site exists, they can never show your site to the searchers. But it can’t get you to that #1 position with just having your site indexed, so you’ll need to perform several other procedures.

The second step in our is called On-site Optimization. It’s the SE’s understanding of how relevant your page is to the search term. Does your web page have “Widget 25” in the Title, or in the description? What about titles on your page, and bullet points? How many times does the phrase “Widget 25” appear on your page as a percentage of total? Is it 1% or 10%? These factors are used by the search engines to decide how optimized your web page is and hence how important it is. All other things being equal, if it comes down to the search engine deciding which search engine optimized web site to rank #1, your web site or your competitors, and your web site has “Widget 25” in the title and your competitors doesn’t…. which do you think the search engine will rank #1?

To continue with our intro to seo, be aware that on-site web site optimization is only part of the story. In the previous example, the search engines use it to work out who to rank where with respect to each other. But to get to that stage, we must meet Off-Site Optimization. The search engine must have already decided that you’re web site is worth ranking. That comes about by reputation, and reputation is gauged by how many other web sites link to yours. This is Off-Site Optimization and is our third step, the art of linking. Links are not created equal and there are several factors when it comes to getting links:

Quantity – how many web sites link to yours, although this is the least important factor.

Source Web site Reputation – How “important” is the web site linking to you? Do you think that a link from www.microsoft.com is more important than a link from your personal blog (diary) site?

Source Web site Relevance – If the web site that links to you is search engine optimized well for “Widget 25” then that’s better than a link from Tracey’s Knitting Circle web site.

Link Text – What does the link say on their web page? Does it say: www.your-site.com or Buy your Widget 25 here ? Which do you think is better if you want to rank highly for “Widget 25”?

Assume you sell Apple Mac computers, what would be the perfect link? How about a link from www.apple.com’s home page that says “Buy your Apple Macs here”? It’s a site that has massive reputation, is very relevant and links to your site including the phrase “Apple Mac”, which we’ll assume you want to rank for if you sell them!

Great, we’ve found a magic bullet that will shoot you to that #1 slot, right? No! Sure, having that link would give you a massive boost and might even do it, but it’s not the only story. Remember, a balanced portfolio. Here’s an exercise for you. Search Google for “Click Here”. The number 1 site is the Adobe Acrobat Reader download page and yet the phrase “Click Here” doesn’t appear on that page anywhere and the page has nothing to do with “Click Here”. So why is it #1? Because over a million web sites link to that download page, with the words “Click Here” as the text of the link!

I have shown you that there are many factors to optimizing your site to get high rankings in the search engines. Remember, the higher your rank is (PR 1 is highest), the more often your web page will appear in a search result. This is the ultimate and least expensive traffic to get, actually free.

In effect, I’ve only scratched the surface here and haven’t even mentioned a critical early step of how to scientifically check if you are even optimizing for the correct search keywords and key phrases. You could spend months ranking for “Widget 25” and yet get no traffic, until you finally discover after wasting time and money that your prospective clients are really searching in droves for “Widget 56XR”. There are specific techniques to ensure you are using the best keywords and keyphrases, and you’re on to a hiding to nothing if you don’t do it up front.

There’s a lot more in our intro to seo, that you can learn about Search Engine Optimization. Visit my site, and find out just how important it is to understand at least the basics, the fundamentals that could make the difference whether the search engines recognize the true value of your web site.