Search Engine Optimization

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

social media iconsSEO is the process of getting traffic from the “free”, “organic”, “editorial”, or “natural” listings on search engines.  All major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have such results, where web pages and other content such as videos are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users.   The factors used in ranking are changing constantly but it is generally an accepted fact that the good use of relevant keywords in content and links to other relevant sites considerably helps this ranking.  SEO is a technique which helps search engines find and rank your site higher than the millions of other sites in response to a search query. SEO thus helps you get traffic from search engines.

The first basic truth you need to know to learn SEO is that search engines are not humans. While this might be obvious for everybody, the differences between how humans and search engines view web pages aren’t. Unlike humans, search engines are text-driven. Although technology advances rapidly, search engines are far from intelligent creatures that can feel the beauty of a cool design or enjoy the sounds and movement in movies. Instead, search engines crawl the Web, looking at particular site items (mainly text) to get an idea what a site is about.

How do search engines work?

A major component of this is a robot, or spider, which is software that gathers information about your site and brings it back to be analyzed by a powerful central “engine”.  This activity is referred to as crawling or spidering.  There are lots of different metaphors for how robots work but we think ants make the best one.  Think of a search engine robot as an explorer ant, leaving the colony with one thought on its mind – Find Food.  In this case, the “food” is HTML (the coding used to develop a website) text, preferably lots of it, and to find it, the ant needs to travel along easy, obstacle-free paths: HTML Links.  Following these paths, the ant (search engine robot), with insect-like single-mindedness, carries the food (text) back to its colony and stores it in its anthill (search engine database).  Thousands and thousands of the little guys are exploring and gathering simultaneously all over the Internet.  If a path is absent or blocked, the ant gives up and goes somewhere else.  If there’s no food, the ant brings nothing back.

So, basically, when you think of a search engine consider it a database that holds pieces of text that have been gathered from millions of sites all over the Web.

What sets the search engine in motion?

A search.  When a Web surfer enters the term “grape bubble gum” into the search engine, all of the sites that might be relevant for that term are brought to the forefront.  The search engine sifts through its database for sites containing terms like “grape growers”, “stock market bubble” and “gum disease”.  It uses a secret formula – a.k.a. a search engine algorithm – to sort the results and in a fraction of a second, a list of relevant sites many containing the exact phrase “grape bubble gum” (or with links from other sites containing this phrase) will be returned in the results page.

There are lots of things that factor into the way robot search engines determine the rank for their main search results.  But just for a start, in order to be in the running for ranks, you need to provide HTML text to feed the Search Engines and HTML links as clear paths to the food.  Keeping those robots well fed and happy is one of your biggest priorities.

The entire process of a web search is text based, even when the item being sought isn’t text at all, like a picture or a video file.  The search engines care about how much text you have on your site, how it’s formatted and, of course, what it says.  Keyword use in the content of the site is as crucial as putting the keywords in the coding that the search engines see.  If the site changes because say a company changes its products then new keywords are in order.  Even if no obvious changes take place regular keyword analysis is in order because search behavior and trends may change as well.     

What is Link Building?

Since the late 1990’s search engines have used links as votes .  The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and complex algorithms create nuance evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.

Links aren’t everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines’ algorithms to link-based factors.   Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of a website & page based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while “spammy” sites receive very few links from trusted sources.  Links are a very good way of identifying expert documents on a given subject.  Growing the link profile of a website is considered, therefore, to be critical to gaining attention and traffic from the search engines and are among the top tasks required for improving traffic to your website.   The more popular and important a site is the more links from that site matter.  To earn trust and authority with the engines you’ll need the help of other link partners.

What is Social Sharing?

The last few years has seen an explosion in the amount of content shared through social services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and others.  Although search engines treat socially shared links differently than other types of links, they notice them nonetheless. There is much debate among search professionals as to how exactly search engines factor social link signals into their algorithm, but there is no denying the rising importance of social channels.