Search Engine Optimization Primer

Search Engine Optimization, sometime referred to as Search Engine Marketing, can seem overwhelming at first. There are new acronyms and terms to learn. You may be expert at your business or profession, but as an uninitiated player on the sidelines, it sounds like a lot of “computer voodoo.” However, once you understand the basic premise behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you catch on quickly to know what it’s all about.

The search engines, like Google, build an index of web pages for terms they believe are relevant to the content found on the page. When you perform a search using Google, you really are searching and index of all the web pages on the Internet. They do this because the better their results returned to the searcher, the more likely that person continues to use that search engine. Of course, there are other motivations like the paid advertisements that are found on a search results page. But that’s a topic for another day.

Each search engine results page (or SERP) includes about ten organic listings (i.e. those you don’t have to pay for) your goal is to have your page indexed on Page One for a set of terms you believe relevant to your content and business.

To do this, you simply give the search engines what they want.

So, what do search engines want?

Search engines want a number of things but here are some of the basic ingredients that are common to Google, Yahoo and Bing:

1. Quality web design and informative content.

The better your content is, the more likely the search engines are to help you promote your content through better search engine placement.

But how do the search engines determine the quality of your content? Since they do this through an automated process, they had to come up with metrics that allow programs to award points to each web page on your website. Some of these points are related to what is found in the HTML of your web pages. Other points are awarded for how long people linger on your website and if they visit other pages. The longer a visit lasts then the greater the likelihood that they find the content on your pages helpful.
In other words, they found what they searched for using the search engine tool. The visitor had a positive experience and your website is awarded more points than another where people only visit a single page or stay just a few seconds.

2. Ability to easily evaluate what the main keyword phrases are to place in the index for your web pages.

Similar to the index at the end of a book, you expect the search index to present results for you to review that actually are relevant to your query. As your pages will be found when someone conducts a Web search, the search engines need to index your pages for terms (called keyword phrases) that are most relevant to your on-page content.

You can help them by ensuring that each page of your site is optimized around keyword phrases. How many keywords you should optimize for is really not known, in fact, there may not be a set number of phrases. The key is to ensure that each keyword phrase is relevant to each other.

For example, a website about arthritis in dog shouldn’t have pages and keywords devoted to how to raise your puppy. Instead, chose keyword phrases like arthritis in dogs, natural treatments for arthritis in dogs, and so on.

After choosing which keyword phrases to target, make sure to add them to your “meta page title” and “meta page description” at minimum. These are HTML components of your web page.

Also, it’s important that these keyword phrases appear somewhere on your actual page… the content that can be read by your human visitors. This helps the search engines to index your pages more easily and you will be rewarded for your work.

3. Getting as many links as possible for each page of your site.

In Internet terms, each link pointing to your site is seen as a “vote” that your page is relevant to the piece of text that is linked.

So, if you want a particular page of your site found for the keyword phrase, best Sydney plumber, you’d be wise to get as many websites as possible to link to your page using this phrase in their “anchor text.”

Anchor text is merely the words that create the clickable link. If the phrase, “best Sydney plumber,” is linked to your web page, you just earned a “vote” for that page.

The more links you can get with that term, the more likely your page will be to rank well for it.
There are numerous methods to improve the SEO of your website. The principles discussed above create the foundation for each page of your website. If your pages contain great content and the website is sound, pages are optimized for a relevant keyword phrases and are linked to from other websites, you’re on your way to improved search engine placement.