What is Search Engine Optimization

April 21st, 2008

What is SEOIn most simplistic terms, search engine optimization (SEO) is a combination of tactics to make your website show up in the search engine results pages (and for the most part the first page or top 10 organic results). This process is to increase your website traffic with relevant visitors who may convert into customers or give you the desired interaction.

Those visitors will use certain key word strings (two to three words and most likely not your company name, unless you’re Nike or Sephora). You will need to somehow figure out what those key word strings are and tweak your SEO strategies constantly to get the desired effect.

Sounds vague to you, right?

You are not the only one! The reason it is vague is that there are many search engine optimization strategies and tactics, and they are constantly evolving; because the heavyweights like Google and Yahoo change the rules and will not share the formula with you. The reason they keep it all a secret is because they want to bump out the spammers and black hats (online marketers who try to trick the system). Remember the days when you typed in “Britney Spears” and you got directed to a sex site? Google now serves relevant pages for search terms, and it is all because its algorithms are more complex. Algorithms are basically a mix of variables that is hard to count for one factor being the result.

I like how William Flaiz articulated SEO in his blog: Standards? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Standards!

“The goal of SEO is to increase the search rankings of a client for specific terms. No matter how you rationalize it, whether you think you’re increasing a pages relevancy, optimizing a site to search engine standards, or ’building connections,’ we’re manipulating search results. The point of a search engine is to provide the most algorithmically relevant pages to a user. ”

“SEO is a discipline of balance, and careful mixture of human and algorithmic input is necessary to create truly helpful listings. ”

SEO strategies that help your business grow online:
The following are just a few samples of different search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that make your website search engine friendly and that, in the end, increase relevant traffic to your site:

  • Key word discovery and enhancements: Using tools and competitors’ websites to find out what key word strings to focus on. Also using your analytics or even your pay-per-click campaigns (if you are doing any) for some key word ideas. Looking at each page as an opportunity to focus on a theme of a few key words. This strategy can always be tweaked and enhanced as you learn more about your target audience and how they arrive at your site.
  • Content-rich copy: Writing your web copy with key word strings that your potential customer or site visitor will search for you.
  • Making sure site architecture is crawlable: Having html pages that can be read by the search engine robots (not a Flash site), having pages that are not dynamic (choosing the right CMS or e-commerce platform), having navigation links that are readable from home page, constantly tweaking and cross-linking pages throughout your site. Linking to sitemap from your pages, and having a robots follow in header (not a “no follow”).
  • Posting fresh content on a continual basis: If you have a website that has fresh content, the search engines will come back and index your site more in the results pages. Also more new content means you will also have more key word strings and potentially more traffic. Having a blog is a great way to add fresh content, and the search engines love how crawlable they are.
  • Rolling out the red carpet for the search engines: Includes having a robots.txt and a sitemap.xml with all your pages listed and ranks. The search engines also need you to pay attention to and label every inside web page with unique title tag, meta description, key word tags, image alt tags that match or complement the content within that page. Read my blog on “Why Use Google Sitemaps?”. (also, check out Danny Dover’s SEO Cheat Sheet – I think it is quite handy!)
  • Link building: Have complementary sites link to your site. The more relevant and complementary key words the linking site has to your business, the more it will so-call lift your rankings.
  • Social media tagging: Get your site listed by tagging (which is kind of like getting yourself categorized by key words in directories). This can include digg, del.icio.us etc.
  • Universal search: Optimizing and labeling/tagging images, video and news with key words. More and more you will see these popping up in the results page versus just text links.
  • Local search listings: Getting your company listed in local search, also making sure you put your full address with zip/postal code in text in the footer of your pages or contact page, Google picks that up as well.
  • Using website statistics: Analyzing, interpreting and looking for opportunities and ongoing tweaks for key words.
  • Avoiding black-hat strategies: This is a bad-guy strategy. Avoid using duplicate doorway pages, cloaking multiple sites with same content, stuffing key words in same color as your background and in invisible Div’s. You can maybe trick Google for a short while, and it would be very hard to get relisted in the index, if they find out and penalize you for it. Follow rules stated in Google Webmasters area and you should be fine.

Each of the tactics above warrants further explanation in separate blogs and you can really invest more time dissecting individual areas and tactics. The more you work on SEO best practices, the more likely it will grow your website traffic. I also like to term SEO as a full-circle process and not linear – you can learn from one SEO tactic that can further help another. SEO is all about research, analyzing, interpreting and tweaking – definitely not a one-time project!

Complementary to search engine optimization (SEO) is search engine marketing (SEM) strategies and for the most part are online marketing campaigns that may have some hard costs (outside of someone’s time to implement). For example: pay-per-click advertising, cost-per-acquisition initiatives, paid directories, banner advertising, e-mail marketing. Read my blog on “Multidimensional Online Marketing Tips” – it will give you some ideas on having a mix of SEO and SEM strategies.

If you want to share similar experiences on this topic, I encourage you to leave a comment!

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2 Responses to “What is Search Engine Optimization”

  1. How to Discover Key Words for Search Engine Optimization | Seed The Web on September 15, 2009 8:55 am

    [...] word density is one of many search engine strategies. Read more on “What is Search Engine Optimization,” if you implement a few strategies, they will all help with growing your website [...]

  2. Comparing Website Optimization to Search Engine Optimization | Seed The Web on September 16, 2009 9:47 am

    [...] My definition of search engine optimization (aka SEO): In most simplistic terms, search engine optimization (SEO) is a combination of tactics to make your website show up in the search engine results pages (and for the most part the first page or top 10 organic results) This process is to raise your website traffic with relevant visitors who may convert into customers or give you the desired interaction with your website or with your business. For a snapshot of some strategies for SEO, read more on my blog “What is Search Engine Optimization?”. [...]

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