What Is Search Engine Optimization?

According to Wikipedia, search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results for targeted keywords.

Webmasters began optimizing their sites for search engines in the mid-1990s. Site owners realized the importance of having their sites appear at the top of search engine results in order to ensure traffic to their sites. Most web users will not scroll down through pages of results but will visit those sites that appear at the top of the first page of results.

At first, search engines relied only on factors that were within the webmaster’s control and, as a result, they became victims of abuse and manipulation. Webmasters were guilty of including irrelevant keywords on their sites to increase the number of visits to their websites and thereby increase their ad revenue.

Webmasters also manipulated the HTML source of a page to try to improve their rankings in search engine results. In addition, inaccurate, incomplete and inconsistent data, whether purposefully included or not, led to pages ranking for irrelevant searches and failing to rank for relevant searches.

Search engines, not wanting to be held hostage to a webmaster’s ulterior motives, developed more complex ranking algorithms. They based these algorithms that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate.

Today’s search engines use hundreds of factor to rank websites on their search results pages. The factors themselves and the weight each factor carries can change continually. The top four search engines, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.com, carefully guard the algorithms they use and these algorithms can vary widely.

Search Engine Optimization Techniques

SEO is about understanding how these algorithms work and what web users are likely to search for when looking for information on a specific topic on the web. The goal is to match those users with sites that offer what they are interested in finding.

Search engine optimization may involve making changes that are noticeable to visitors or just working with the HTML code behind the scenes to optimize presentation and structure. Noticeable changes could include the use of unique content on pages or attention-grabbing titles that are easily picked out by search engines and attractive to human visitors as well.

Less noticeable changes to the everyday visitor are incorporating a definite hierarchical structure to a site or choosing a domain and URL that are more likely to improve a site’s ranking.

Search engine optimization techniques are classified into two categories: those that search engines recommend as part of good design and those that search engines find unacceptable.

The latter is referred to as “spamming” or “spamdexing.” Most reputable SEO consultants do not offer spamdexing techniques, as they can result in the banning of a site from a search engine.

There is an obvious potential for an adversarial relationship between search engines and SEOs. All of the major search engines do provide information and guidelines to aid webmasters in site optimization.

As of 2007, the top search engines do not require webmaster to submit their sites for inclusion in search results. They use technology which discovers new sites and pages automatically.

Search engines look at a number of different factors when it investigates new sites and pages may not be indexed until they gain more traffic or include more links. However, some search engines do operate a paid submission service that will guarantee inclusion but not ranking.

Do Not Depend Solely On Search Engine Optimization

A successful internet marketing campaign cannot rely solely on search engine optimization. The focus of the campaign should be not necessarily to rank the highest for certain terms in search engines but to achieve your business objectives for your website.

In order to meet these goals, you may use a combination of SEO and paid advertising on search engines. In addition, you will have to build high quality web pages that meet your target audience’s needs, address any technical issues that may keep search engines from indexing your site and set up programs to measure the success of your marketing campaign.

Algorithms used by search engines can and will change and even if you are lucky enough to achieve a high ranking today that is not a guarantee of success. Your site must be prepared to handle the increased traffic.

If it is not, your visitors will be dissatisfied with the information available and the desired conversions will not occur. In addition, your visitors will not return to your site and may keep others from doing so via word of mouth.

How To Choose A Good Search Engine Optimizer For Your Business

As mentioned previously, most of the major search engines provide information regarding search engine optimization on their websites.

The following are tips from Google that will help you determine the difference between search engine optimizers that will be an asset to your business and those that will only increase your chances of being banned from search engine results.

  • Be wary of SEO firms that send email out of the blue.
  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. (There is no such thing as a company with a “special relationship” with Google or one that claims it will use “priority submission”.)
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO company’s site.
  • Some SEO firms may try to sell you the ability to type keywords directly into the browser address bar. (This requires extra software.)
  • Choose wisely. (Find out how long an SEO has been in business, how many employees they have and if they religiously report spam abuse.)
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes. (Are you paying for permanent inclusion or temporary advertising?)
  • Talk to many SEO firms and ask other SEO firms if they’d recommend the firm you’re considering.
  • Make sure you’re protected legally. (Insist on a full and unconditional money-back guarantee and don’t be afraid to request a refund if you’re unsatisfied for any reason or if your SEO firm’s actions cause your domain to be removed from a search engine’s index. Make sure you have a contract in writing that includes pricing and requires the SEO firm to stay within the guidelines recommended by each search engine for site inclusion.)


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