When you eat sleep and breathe SEO every day, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t share your interest and passion. So today, I’m getting back to the very basics of Search Engine Optimization. Hopefully, this will allow readers to see the big picture of SEO more clearly, without it being cluttered up with all the little details that can confuse the picture. In other words, let’s look at the forest and forget the trees for a while.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
I’ll begin with a simple definition of SEO from Legal Internet Marketing “Creating and improving a website so that it will rank high in the search engines and help potential customers or clients find the website.”
I like this definition because it acknowledges the fact that the reason you want your site to rank well in the Search Engines is because that will bring you more traffic than if it is buried in the results pages. Ranking well is all about getting targeted human traffic to your web pages.
Here’s another one from Search Engine Writing “A form of online marketing, search engine optimization (or search engine marketing) is the process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. Successful search marketing helps a site gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases.”
This definition makes me happy because it talks about relevancy, a key issue in SEO – relevancy to searchers, as well as to the Search Engines.
The Search Engines want to return the most relevant results for every search query made. It really is that simple.
Relevant results are exactly what searchers want and what they judge a Search Engine by. They don’t always get it right, but the Search Engine with the best results is the one that more people will use more often. Therefore, relevancy is the basis for the success and profitability of the Search Engines.
Successful SEO is providing relevancy and communicating it effectively to the Search Engines and to the humans who search the internet using them. Removing obstacles from this process is a critical function of optimization, but we’ll talk about that in another article.
Black Hat SEO is when you try to gain “unearned” relevancy. These tactics usually involve deception of some kind and while they can be very effective in the short term, they typically have little or no staying power. In fact, they can actually harm your website and your online business by eliciting a penalty or banishment in the Search Engines.
How Do We Demonstrate Relevance?
By what we TELL the SE’s and human searchers that our pages are about. We do this by using page titles, meta descriptions and meta keywords. Some of these tactics are more effective in some Search Engines than they are in others. I prefer concentrating my efforts on Google, but many site owners enjoy great success optimizing for MSN and Yahoo.
By what the SE’s and human searchers SEE on our web pages when they read them. Original content clearly focused on one topic conveys relevance in the best possible way, especially when it supports the title and description we have given the page. For Search Engine purposes, think about content as the text on the page. While Google recently announced that they are making inroads into indexing flash files, I wouldn’t count on this just yet.
By what others SAY about our web pages with the links they point at them.
This includes the number of links to pages from trusted websites and what the words in the links say the page they point to is about. For example, a link that says click here or more info doesn’t tell the Search Engines or the humans reading it very much. However, if the link says Downtown Denver Hotel, both the SE’s and the humans reading it believe that clicking on the link will take them to a page about a downtown Denver hotel.
By the quality of our landing pages. The more searchers who click through to a page from the search results, the more relevant the Search Engine determines the result to be. If searchers go to a page from the results and then immediately click away from it, the less relevant the Search Engines believe the page is for that query. Google also has tools, originally developed through their advertising programs, that tell them what the topic of a page is.
To Rank, Be Relevant
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it really is. The basics of SEO are to be original, be popular and most importantly, to be relevant. If you do these 3 things, you’ll be well on your way to ranking well in the Search Engines.