WHAT IS SEO?
The active practice of optimizing a web site by improving the quality and increasing the amount of traffic to a web site from a search engine through the use of organic or algorithmic (natural) results is known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
SEO as a science has become a major part of Internet marketing and while it is highly technical, the process has turned into not just programming for the Web, but also into a highly evolved sales technique that involves hundreds of variables that are all brought together into one web site.
SEO should be thought of as a highly effective way of marketing through the manipulation and use of the internet.
A successful SEO looks at and considers how search engines work and also looks at what people are searching for. To put it simply, the basic idea of SEO involves looking at the website, then editing its content and coding it with specific keywords that increase the website’s relevance. The process also involves the removal of barriers to the many indexing activities of search engines.
Usually, the number of visitors a site receives is dependent upon how early the site appears in the search results list.
With SEO, there are many various kinds of searches that may be targeted, such as searches specific to location, image searches, and vertical search engines that are specific to an industry or industries.
The optimization of a web site for search engines involves many different elements, some of which may be intertwined. This process has given rise to a new computer related (and broad) field known as website optimization. The field of consultants who carry out optimization projects for their clients are known as “search engine optimizers”. These consultants may provide SEO either as a stand-alone service or they might offer it as part of an overall sales and marketing drive.
And, because many times an SEO that “works” might involve changes to the source code of a website, consultant services can be expanded to include both the development and the design of a web site.
As early as the mid-1990s, the owners of web sites began to recognize the value of having their sites “high profile” or readily and quickly visible in search engine results. Early efforts to capture search engine users proved to be far from reliable as a webmaster’s choice of words could cause an inaccurate result based on the site’s actual content.
Web content providers were not above manipulating data to achieve a higher ranking and this often resulted in abuse and less than honest use of the process. Over time, search engines responded by using algorithms that were more complex and made it more and more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. As SEO technology progressed, search engines combined a wide range of factors in their ranking algorithms to prevent and to reduce the manipulation of links.
Eventually a couple of graduate students at Stanford University came up with a mathematical algorithm that gave a rating to web pages.
The number that the algorithm calculated became known as “PageRank”, a program that estimated the likelihood that a page would be reached by someone who was randomly surfing the web. The same students who came up with “PageRank”, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, went on to develop perhaps the first well known, and most famous of all search engines, known as “Google”.
Google maintains that it ranks sites using more than two hundred different signals. The three leading search engines, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's Live Search, will not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages, but various SEOs have studied and published opinions. Other SEO practitioners attempt insight into various algorithms by studying patents held by various search engines.
HOW DOES SEO WORK?
The ultimate and highest objective of search engine optimization (SEO) is to build a website’s volume of traffic counts that hopefully will result in conversions.
SEO attempts this by using certain keywords in a search query that will cause the website to achieve a very high ranking. Simply put, the goal of SEO is to make a website’s content better – as in more relevant and capable – than the competition’s site.
Unfortunately, this entire process can often seem more like a competition for rank, based on keywords, rather than a competition to see who can best satisfy the needs of those who are searching or entering a query.
Although the use of technology figures heavily in building a successful SEO, there are no deep, hidden secrets to search engine optimization.
The necessary steps to take are all based on ranking and placement methodologies that, if followed, should allow the user to be successful in besting the competition and achieving a high ranking.
This can be achieved by determining the correct, desired search keywords. Part of this strategy involves knowing what keywords are working for those considered to be the competition, especially keywords that are being successfully used by those competitors, the result of which can be seen in the placement rankings.
Besting the competition involves knowing what keywords and what search engine services are working, then using (and possibly improving) those keywords. And, while the right keywords are integral to the success of an SEO, it is also important that a web site be content rich.
Certainly, being in the top 10 rankings for all major searches does happen, but very few sites really do accomplish this, and sometimes the effort to do so can go far beyond what is reasonable and worth the effort.
It is said that search optimization never rests, so even if a top ten ranking is achieved, the results change every week due to competition, so staying on top would entail the constant monitoring of information.
Preparing for a search engine marketing campaign involves the choosing of the right keywords, the analysis of competition and education on what site submission is and other strategies.
However, it is also important to know when to monitor your search engine ranking, how to look at and how to objectively analyze your results (traffic and conversion) and what common mistakes should be avoided.
Additionally, in preparation for SEO, it is important to understand how the search engines operate. The vast majority of search engines rely on a few basic functions in order to provide results for those who are searching for information.
Here are a few of those functions:
ź Web Crawling - An automated program that basically “crawls” through the World Wide Web. The words “bots” or “spiders” are sometimes associated with this process.
ź Document Indexing – After a page has been “crawled”, it can then be stored in a document database that is the search engine’s index.
ź Requests for Information – Sometimes known as “queries” that hit the search engine. The search engine then searches through its index and finds everything that matches the request.
ź Viewing and Ranking Results – A process in which the search engine, after it has determined the match results, runs an algorithm calculation for each result and decides which are most relevant to the request. The information is then presented to the searcher in order of relevance.
The next and logical question is “How do search engines go about determining relevancy”?
The logical answer is that relevancy is determined through an algorithm the search engine employs. Although the search engines strive to keep this information confidential, there are some general rules that are followed, such as:
ź The location and the frequency of keywords on a web page.
ź The proximity of the keywords to the top of a web page.
ź The frequency with which the keywords appear on a web page, especially close to the top of a web page.
A word should be said about the two widely recognized categories of SEO.
The first category is the SEO in which techniques are employed that are both recommended and approved by the search engines. In the first category, the content is deemed to be for the good of the user, not the good of the search engine. The guidelines conform to that of the search engine and there is no deception.
The second category SEO seeks ways to improve placement that are not approved of by the search engines and this SEO typically employ deceptive techniques.
Obviously, the SEOs that are most successful long term fall into the first category.
A key decision to be made in the creation and implementation of SEO has to do with whether to handle the process in house or hire a third party to do the work.
There are advantages in doing your own SEO, besides the obvious advantage of cost.
Among these are having complete control over all aspects of the site’s development and progress and being able to learn what is successful and what doesn’t work.
However, SEO is very definitely a long-term commitment of time and effort. Some parts of the process can be difficult and search engines can be slow in responding to changes that might ultimately prove successful. For this reasons consideration should be given to using a professional SEO if you don’t feel capable of doing the job yourself.
SEO professionals provide a history of varied experiences, might have contacts that are useful and can be depended upon to diagnose and fix possible problems and issues having to do with ranking. Although the SEO professional can generally be expected to cost more money up front, there is a distinct possibility that the project can be completed in less time, and with better results, than a DIY attempt at SEO.
If uncertainty prevails on which route to take, be aware that a balance can be achieved by taking part of the project yourself, and hiring an SEO consultant who will charge an hourly rate and provide assistance as requested.
However, if you do decide to go with a professional SEO, make sure that your choice is a well educated one as the SEO industry has a reputation of attracting those who cannot be trusted and are not honest. In particular, during the process of choosing a firm, be aware of those who offer link exchanges and “free-for-all” links and beware of overly aggressive tactics such as manipulation and search spam, both of which can result in a ban from search engines, which would be a full-fledged disaster.
Here are some examples of pertinent questions to ask of any firm or individual whom you are considering hiring to take care of your SEO:
Following are some useful questions to ask a potential SEO provider:
ź Do you always follow the accepted and approved Google Webmaster Guidelines?
ź What results should I expect and in what time frame?
ź How much experience do you have in the field of SEO?
ź What do you consider to be your most important SEO techniques?
ź How long have you been in business as an SEO consultant/expert?
ź How will I communicate with you?
ź Will you be sharing all of the changes you might make to my website, as well as providing information about your recommendations and why you make those recommendations?
The final bit of advice to keep in mind in implementing SEO is to keep in mind that a huge amount of patience is required for this. In order to have a web site with a strong ranking, build a strong foundation that follows these rules:
ź Offer content that is different and unique.
ź Build links and relationships with those in other online communities
ź Use discretion when presenting information; avoid display ads and pop-ups.
ź Pay diligent attention to website quality and the success of various promotions.
ź Know the guidelines by which you can determine the success, or failure, of your efforts.
ź Whether you do the SEO yourself or seek a third party provider, make sure the foundation is there, along with a clear understanding of what needs to happen over what period of time.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT
There is no doubt that there are many advantages to using SEO. Used properly, SEO can:
1. Drive qualified traffic to your website
2. Increase both your leads and your sales
3. Make your company more visible
4. Give your company a competitive advantage
5. Become a cost effective part of your overall marketing effort
Whether it is to promote a brand or sell a product, the time of SEO is definitely here. As a cost effective way of marketing in the online world, the benefits of SEOs are many.
When using SEO, it is important to SEO maximize your web pages, images, product descriptions, and all social media campaigns.
Now that the search engine giant, Google, has rolled out its “Real Time Search,” it is more important than ever to make sure your social presence is SEO rich and that you provide fresh, updated content on a very regular and quite frequent basis.
Good SEO is part of the lifeblood of your ecommerce endeavors!
There is a well known saying in the world of the internet that was coined because it is all too true: “If you don’t exist with Google, you don’t exist.”
Make sure that Google knows you exist by practicing great SEO techniques!