I have often been asked what Search Engine Optimization is and the best way I can think of to answer this question is to do so through a blog post on this blog. Also, since I will be using this blog to write about Search Engine Optimization in the future as well, it would only be better if I start doing this through an introductory post on the topic.
So, let’s start right away without any further ado.
Search Engine Optimization – What is it?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of making your website more visible to search engine users; that is to say, when a user types a search phrase into the search engine, SEO is the practice of boosting a website higher in the rankings, and therefore making a user more likely to click on it. The second function of SEO is to ensure that users are directed to the most meaningful websites that relate to their search queries. For example, if a user were to search for the term “Indiana University,” the first link to show in the list of results would be the school’s official website because that would be the most relevant link that would point to a webpage full of the most informational content related to the term, in the search engine’s eye.
To determine the order in which the sites are listed on the results page, the search engine looks for content, reliability, popularity and performance. The first word – content – is obvious, as a search engine wants to match a search term with a link that is most loaded with content for that term, as seen with the Indiana University example above. The search engine is, however, not looking for a link that overuses the keyword intentionally. If the term is clearly overused with the sole intention of increasing traffic, the search engine will not rank that website high in its results. Reliability is vital to a search engine as well; it looks for websites with trustworthy, verifiable information, websites that will help the users rather than hinder them. Additionally, a website ranks even higher when it links out to other, more authoritative or knowledgeable websites. A search engine will also check the site’s performance before ranking it on a results page – does the site have valid links, does it load in a respectable amount of time, is it easy to navigate, does it have too many pop up ads, and so forth.
To succeed in a SEO campaign – that is, to make your site more visible and rank higher on the results page of different search engines– there are many methods a site creator or webmaster can use. Choosing the right keywords, for example, can greatly help in increasing traffic to a website. To choose the keywords, a webmaster may employ a keyword research tool such as the free Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool to find less competitive keywords that drive the most amount of traffic. For example, “google seo tutorial” has an average search volume of 320 searches per month while “seo google tutorial” has an average search volume of only 91 searches per month. By simply targeting good keywords with less competition and more traffic, a webmaster can make it easier to rank his website and increase his overall search traffic.
Another way in which a website can become more visible to search engines is by receiving links (or backlinks) from other sources on the internet. The most simple ways of doing this are through social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on – but the webmaster can also increase his online presence by talking about his website on places such as relevant forums, blogs, web 2.0 properties, etc. Another important method by which a webmaster can increase his website’s authority is by receiving backlinks from high authority websites such as government (.gov) and educational (.edu) websites. As mentioned above, search engines value authority and trustworthiness so if the creator is creating a site for Indiana University alumnae, it would be in his best interest to backlink to the school’s website, the top ranking search result for that term.
Creating consistent domain names and having keywords in those domain names can also help in increasing the rankings of a website. In keeping with the Indiana University alumnae website, it would be more prudential for the creator to have a domain name that is the same on the website and all of the social media outlets than to have a different domain name for each outlet. In that same vein, it would also be wiser to have the keywords “Indiana” and “Alumnae” somewhere in the domain name than it would to have an irrelevant phrase or otherwise random word.
The major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo all monitor their search results to ensure that the search engine users are not linked to any faulty or spam websites. Not only this, but search engines will not assign a good rank to websites that overuse keywords, purchase links to make the site seem bigger than it actually is, or have a poor user experience. This is because if the search results page is poor, users will no longer trust that search engine. So, when creating a website, it is very important to keep SEO at the front of your mind as that will ensure that you keep your visitors happy and that you receive a steady amount of traffic from different search engines on the web.