I get this question almost daily so I thought I write a brief overview of what SEO really is. SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is not one thing. It describes a variety of different techniques that are utilized to improve the visibility of the site in a search engine.
Search engine optimization is, unfortunately, one of the most mysterious things in the world to many people who own websites. In reality, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated. The search engines themselves have a business model that depends upon them being able to deliver accurate search results to the people who use their sites. As a secondary way of making money, search engines sell advertising, usually in the form of paid placement at the top and at the site of the legitimate search results. This is tied into search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization is not an end in of itself. It is a means by which a site can be promoted and by which traffic can be driven to a site for whatever purpose applies. Some search engine optimization is done expressly for the purpose of increasing the sales of of retail sites, such as amazon.com. Other search engine optimization is done entirely for prestige purposes, and in some cases, search engine optimization is a natural outcome of the usefulness of a given site. For instance, for just about any subject, doing a Google search will pull up a listing for Wikipedia among the very first results, as that site has a reputation for giving good information or, at least, links to good information.
There are different forms of marketing that are done via search engines and understanding this can help you to understand how search engine optimization plays into the overall business strategy of most commercial websites.
What Is Search Engine Marketing?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is simply increasing the visibility of a website in search engine results as a means of promoting that site overall. It can refer to organic search results or paid search results, which are covered below.
The entire point of search engine marketing is simply to get people to visit a page. In search engine marketing, higher placement – meaning coming up sooner in the list of results – is highly desirable. Coming up on the first page of Google search results is one of the primary goals of most businesses and, once they cross that threshold, they will generally start trying to get to the top 10 listings and, eventually, all away up to number one. That said, coming out number two on the Google search results for keywords relevant to your site is really quite an accomplishment, as is coming up number three, for that matter.
Difference between PPC and SEO?
PPC refers to Pay Per Click. This form of advertising allows advertisers to get away with having an advertisement show up but not paying for it unless it actually functions in the way intended. It is a relatively simple model.
In pay per click advertising, advertisers bid on keywords, which are described in more detail below. These keywords are simply words that apply to their site. An auto mechanic, for instance, might bid on the keyword phrase “car repair”.
The advertiser bid out a certain amount of money to be included in the search results when people search for those terms. If the advertiser has the highest bid, or among the highest bids, they show up on the paid search result section on whatever search engine they have bid for this placement on.
Search engine optimization, on the other hand, relies on organic results. This means simply coming up as a legitimate resource for the given keywords without paying for it. Generally speaking, pay per click advertising provides a fast and easy way to show up on a search engine page, if not in the actual search results. Search engine optimization takes much longer, but the results are generally more significant and longer lasting.
What Are the Most Important Search Engines?
According to Alexa.com, Google is currently the most visited site on the Internet, so that leaves little doubt as to what the most important search engine is. Yahoo is the second most popular of the top five sites that offers search features in English. Baidu.com is a Chinese search engine that is the fifth most popular site on the Internet. The next big name in search, Bing, is the 15th most popular site on the Internet.
Obviously, most of the people worried about search engine optimization are concerned with Google more than they are with anything else.
What Are Searchers Looking For?
What people are searching for on the Internet varies at any given time. It is almost a given that they are searching for whatever’s trendy at the time. For instance, Merry Christmas from Jean Claude van Damme, a viral car video, was one of the most popular searches of 2012 on Google.
When people are Internet searching, however, the consensus is that they’re looking for information or products. What they are not looking for are sites that advertise products that are masquerading information. Google, being the most popular search engine in the world, makes a very strong effort to filter out information that is actually advertising so that it’s searchers don’t feel like they are being fooled by the search engine or that the search engine doesn’t do its job correctly.
What Is Keyword Research?
What is keyword research?
Keyword research was touched on above. Keyword research is simply thinking up words that would logically be associated with a specific website and then doing research into those keywords to see which ones are the most popular.
Excepting the largest businesses in the world, most people who own a website are not going to be able to afford to bid on the most popular keywords on the search engines. There will be too much competition and that competition will be paying too high a price to appear on the paid search engine results for those keywords. For example, you’re never going to outbid SiteOlytics Inc. for the word “SEO” on paid search engine results. just kidding of course you will because we are not bidding on it. But you get the point. Yes?
A great deal of keyword research involves finding keywords that are affordable and that don’t have so much competition that smaller businesses and websites will ultimately be drowned out by their larger competition.
What Tools Are Available for Brainstorming a Seed List?
There are plenty of different tools available that you can use to come up with good keywords for a website. For example, Google Trends will give a list of hot and trending subjects on the Internet that you can pick from to try to get on to the latest, greatest things. Yahoo has a similar service. Google’s autocomplete feature can also give some insight into what people are searching for, as the autocomplete results are based on the most popular searches.
What Tools Are Available to Check the Popularity of Keyword Searches?
While it may not be the answer that people who love the idea that the Internet is the frontier of business would want to hear, the “go-to-place” to check for keyword popularity is Google’s tool for it, Google AdWords. Currently, Google essentially dominates the way that people find anything online and because of that, there are very few search engine experts out there who will spend their time worrying about Yahoo popularity or Bing popularity. Popularity on those search engines is likely to come as a result of being popular on Google, so researching keywords is generally done on the aforementioned tool.
What Are the Steps to Achieve High Search Engine Rankings?
The most important step in getting high ranking in searches is quite simply to have quality content on your website. Beyond that, there are techniques that you can utilize to try to get noticed more readily, but none of them will make up for having bad content and, in particular, none of them will make up for having content that is thinly veiled advertisement. Google will most certainly punish you for trying to create what it regards as spam Internet sites.
How to Get Fully Indexed
In order to get fully indexed on Google, you have to create what is called an XML site map for your site. This is simply a search engine readable file that includes all of the pages on your site, which enables the search engine crawler to go through it and index every single page. Then, you go into the Google Webmaster Tools page and add your site to their index. How long it takes to get indexed is up to Google.
How to Get Web Pages Visible?
Two things, more than anything else are important toward getting your webpages to be visible on Google: good content and good code. Good content makes your website into a resource that Google wants to promote to people searching for information. Good code – meaning code that is valid by the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium – is code that is readable by Google’s crawlers. Broken code will make Google ignore your site.
How to Build Links and PageRank?
PageRank is a system that Google uses that employs a metric to ascertain the overall importance of a site. Importance is largely determined on the basis of how many sites link to the site being ranked. In order to get good PageRank, you have to get other websites of a high quality to link to your site, which is a process called backlinking. You can do this by:
Writing guest blog posts
Commenting on popular forums
Being referenced in informational articles on high ranked sites
Getting enough traffic to generate links to your site on social media sites and so forth
The process of getting good PageRank never really ends. It is also one of the most important elements of search engine optimization.
How to Leverage the PageRank of a Page
If you want to leverage the PageRank of your page – and anything over a 4 is rather impressive – the best way to do it is to sell advertising. People will pay a great deal of money to advertise on a page with good PageRank, as they know it gets plenty of traffic and is considered by Google to be a prestigious site.
How to Encourage Clickthrough?
Clickthrough refers to people clicking on your pay per click advertising to get to your site. In order to do this, most experts will recommend that you include some sort of a call to action on your advertisement. Oftentimes, the good ones also have an enticement, such as offering a discount for clicking on the ad and shopping at the site.
Which Metrics are the Right Ones to Track for SEO?
There are several different analytics programs available for webmasters, so the names given to various statistics may vary a bit between one analytics program and the next. The statistics that are important for determining your search engine optimization success or failure, however, are rather consistent between one site and the next. The statistics to pay attention to are:
The number of new visitors every month
The number of repeat visitors every month
The amount of time they spend on each page of the site
The page that they come from when they visit your site
The pages that they go to when they leave your site
The bounce pages, meaning those pages that almost immediately end up sending a visitor to another site
The pages that retain visitor interest the longest
If you pay attention to these statistics, you can see where your website is working and where it is failing, which are the two most important pieces of information that you can glean from your analytics. The site that refers the most visitors to your site is the one where you are doing search engine optimization the most effectively, whether that means you put a link up on a site with good PageRank or you actually happened to get high placement in a particular search engine.
Which Best Practices Should One Follow for SEO?
Which SEO Best Practices to follow?
There are not that many things that will seriously damage your search engine ranking. The ones that will, however, will damage it significantly. Provided you abide by the following advice, you should eventually get good search engine placement, though it may take a while.
Get links to your site from other sites with a high PageRank
Submit your site to Google for indexing
Regularly post new, high-quality content on your site
Integrate your site with social media wherever possible, particularly Google+
Fix or remove any pages from your site that bounce visitors
Find out your page rank and social SEO indicators with our free SEO Rank Checker
Roland Oberdorfer is a Managing Director and Co-Founder at SiteOlytics Inc. Prior to his current role Roland was the CTO of HP’s consumer direct organization and the General Manager for Web and eCommerce at NIVIDIA. You can find him on Google+ and on Facebook.