What Is SEO?An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
There is a lot of confusion around search engine optimization, or SEO. Partly this is due to the genuine complexity of the subject — SEO is complicated and changes very fast — and partly it is due to the unscrupulous individuals and companies who use shady practices in an attempt to snatch a higher page ranking.
At its simplest, SEO is a collection of techniques and practices that improve your page ranking. This means that your site is closer to the top of the search results and easier for people to find. In practice, good SEO means working well with Google, since Google is by far the most widely used search engine.
The way in which pages are ranked may change but the ultimate aim of any search engine is to show people the pages that they really want to see. Search engines use complicated step-by-step procedures, called algorithms, to analyze pages and decide which ones should get the highest page ranking. Search engines attempt to find the sites that are most relevant to the search term entered. They also look for sites that are authoritative — containing the most accurate and useful information.
There are many elements that search algorithms use to determine page ranking — and these change over time as search engines become more sophisticated. In general, however, search engines look at:
1. The text, pictures and video on a page.
2. The tags used to describe the content.
3. The number of links leading to a page, including social shares.
4. How old the site is.
5. How many pages there are?
In the past, search engines also looked at the Meta tags on a page. This is a section of the page’s HTML that describes what the page is about. Unfortunately, the Meta tag was badly abused: people consistently inserted words into the Meta tag that had nothing to do with the actual site. Now search engines completely ignore the Meta tag when evaluating a page. It is only used to add a description for the site when it appears in the search results.
To improve your page’s search ranking, you first need to know which keywords are most relevant to your site. Terms that people have searched for in the past are stored in large databases. It is not enough just to select keywords that lots of people are searching for and add them to your site: “Kim Kardashian” might be a popular search term but if your site is about plumbing services, it will not really help customers find you.
Next, you need to incorporate these keywords into your site. They should appear in important places, such as page titles and anchor text for links. Keywords should also appear in your page content. It is important to have plenty of good quality content that people want to read or view. Not only will people be more likely to stay on your site but they will be more inclined to share it, link to it and tell their friends about it. All these things help push your page up the search rankings.
You can also improve your page ranking by making your page easier to navigate and understand. A big wall of text crammed with keywords will not play well with search engines and will not impress your visitors either. By adding a site map, a table of contents and internal links to relevant pages of your site, you not only make it easier for visitors to find their way around but also make your page more search-engine friendly.
The most important thing to remember is that search engines are not enemies to be tricked or subverted. They are your allies in connecting potential clients with your business. Good SEO practices help them to help you by making it easier for people to find you.
If you are not sure you can navigate the complexities of search engines on your own, do not worry: help is at hand in the form of SEO experts and agencies. Outsourcing to someone who has made SEO their specialty makes good sense — they can handle the tricky details of optimizing your site while you focus on your core business.