SEO for Dummies
The term SEO (search engine optimization) is everywhere, but what does it mean and what does it mean for websites? How does it work and what is its function? We’ll take a close look at SEO and how it applies to the web and businesses on the web.
How Search Engines Work
To address how SEO works, we need to begin at the apex of the internet – the search engine.
There are literally millions upon millions of web pages on the internet. Like a library, this content needs to be organized and cataloged, which is called indexing. Indexing is one of the main jobs of a search engine.
Search engines index information by text, images and other data, creating for itself its own localized, yet organized, catalog of available information. Without organizing the vast information available on the web, it would be impossible to find anything at all. To keep current on the constant flow of updates and new information, search engines use “spiders” to search out and add new information to an engine’s indices. Spiders (or robots) are programs built specifically to gather new data and index it accordingly. Spiders do this by following one link to the next (aka, ‘crawling’), gathering new information along the way.
In the past, only certain pieces of information were indexed; these days, search engines catalog and index all content, including text, images, HTML, video and audio. This was a necessary outgrowth for search engines as user need for information became more specific.
The second biggest job of a search engine is to determine the value of each page. Search engines need to do this do provide a web searcher not just with information that matches keywords, but also to provide information that is the most relevant to their particular query. In order to do this, search engines employ complex, proprietary algorithms that are highly protected. Each search engine has its own algorithmic formula that determines what information is most important in a given search; this is why you will get different information from one search engine to the next even when you use the same exact query language.
Page Ranking: What It Is and Isn’t
PageRank is named after Larry Page, a Stanford University Masters program alumnus. Page, along with then fellow graduate student Sergey Brin, developed the PageRank algorithms in 1996 after realizing that search engines of the day were not producing the results people wanted and needed. They then went on to found Google, where Google PageRank made both its debut and its name, and is considered both the pioneer and founding father of page ranking in general.
Prior to Google, query results were determined and displayed by keyword use only, and query results were a mix of paid-for advertising links and real query results. There was no way to tell if a link displaying in a query was from a paying advertiser or not, and overall relevancy to the query was not a factor in the search. Therefore, searches brought up a lot junk.
Google, the leader in what is considered organic ranking, raised the bar for all search engines by not only bettering query algorithms and results, but by also clearly separating those websites that pay for page placement versus true query results.
Definition of Organic Ranking
The term ‘organic ranking’ delineates search engines whose algorithms return results based solely on objective criteria, such as high content ratings, the number of relevant links that point to that page, and the relevancy of the search’s keywords. Organic ranking has been instrumental in pushing most, if not all, query searches to be based on both content and keyword relevancy, not on paid advertising.
Not surprisingly, people tend to trust search engines utilizing organic ranking far more than those who do not. Companies also benefit more from organic ranking in the long run as statistics show organically-ranked sites get more click-throughs, and as a result, more conversions and more sales. It’s also free – but it’s not an easy endeavor. This is why content and SEO have become so important when working in the business world of the web, and why good content needs to be a priority.
How SEO Helps Your Business
Now that we’ve covered the basics of web searches and page ranking, we can get back to the heart of the matter: SEO (search engine optimized) content.
SEO content is any content that helps your site gain more visibility and ranking in any organic search engine query. In a broad scheme, SEO content can be anything from text and images to audio files and videos.
First Effective Steps When Utilizing SEO
The first action to take, once your website is designed and set, is to get it indexed. For purposes of demonstration, we will use Google as the search engine of choice.
Getting your website indexed by Google is both simple and necessary. It is simple in that you can submit your site through Google’s Webmaster portal at http://www.google.com/webmasters/. It is necessary because without getting your website indexed, you have little to no chance of getting your website picked up in a query result.
Create Effective Titles and Meta Tags
Once you’ve submitted your site for indexing, you will create a title and meta tag for your website. This is where keyword relevancy is crucial.
Simply put, the title of your website describes the content to be found on the page for both the search engine and in query result listings. Therefore, your title should not consist of your company’s name; rather, it should consist of pointed, carefully chosen keywords so that when a query is posted by someone looking for products and services you offer, you’ll be indexed appropriately and appear in the query results.
The same goes for meta tags. Meta tags give a search engine additional information it will look for when indexing a page. Again, you do not want to use a company name or tagline here. You want to use well-chosen, specific keywords that will allow the search engine to pick up your website for a user query.
The last component Google looks at when indexing a site is inbound links. This is where Google looks at sites that link to you and that link from you to them. Google has an algorithm that determines the quality of these sites, and once a site is determined to be of a certain level of quality, any link to your page from them, or from your page to them, is looked at as a positive ‘vote’ in the eyes of Google.
How do you get ‘votes’? That’s where valuable, useful content comes in.
Producing Valuable, Effective and Useful SEO Content
Content is king – there is no doubt about that. But with continuous advances in search engine algorithms and smarter consumers, you cannot skimp, post fluff or, worse case scenario, steal content and try to pass it off to your web viewers as valuable and real. It also doesn’t work with search engines, as algorithms like Google Penguin are programmed to weed out ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques of keyword stuffing, cloaking, link schemes and deliberately duplicated content. And why would you? The benefits of creating useful, valuable content give your website and your business are vital:Courtesy of optimum7.com
- Original content, with chosen keywords used naturally and modestly, is given higher value in search results. As mentioned before, search engines give low rankings to sites that try to cheat with the overuse of keywords.
- Worthwhile, updated and regularly added content is also another SEO strategy. Websites that regularly update and add good content to their sites will rank higher in search results than old, stale content that has not been revisited or updated by the writer.
- The more informational, useful, well-written and otherwise valuable content a website has, the more opportunities to receive inbound links from other sites, which is an extremely important SEO factor.
- The more content a website has, the more opportunity for deep links – which are widely accepted as the most important factor in SEO. Deep links are backlinks that link to internal sections, subsections of your website. It serves to prove to Google et al that specific and targeted information has been found, read and linked to by another site that finds this content valuable.
SEO, while being an internet catch-phrase, has incredible value to any website. Once you know how SEO works, you can create an effective SEO plan for your website that can help bring your marketing, advertising and sales goals to fruition.