What Is SEO And How Can You Apply It?
With the integration of search engines into our daily lives most of us have heard about SEO, Search Engine Optimization, at some point, in one form or another. The good news is that just like starting your own website, SEO can be done by anyone willing to put in the effort. You don’t have to know html code or be a techie. Sure, you could go out and pay someone, but as with many things no one will care more about the quality of the work than you will. Plus, you’ll save a lot of money.
Now this is not something that will have drastic impacts and have you listed on page one of a Google search overnight. In addition to the technical side, SEO is just as much about your mindset and learning to think like a search engine when creating and organizing content for your site. The added benefit is that ultimately your webpage becomes better organized and clearer for your human readers as well.
But what is SEO really and if we have a website how do we apply it? Whether you’re using Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask you’re familiar with the process, but do you know what these engines are looking for in order to provide you the information you are looking for when you search? Furthermore, do you know how to communicate to these search engines that your site is relevant and quality enough to be featured? Every search engine works a bit differently but since Google is the most popular, if you can be found on Google chances are you’ll be found on the others as well, however, there may be differences in how you rank depending on the search engine used.
How Do Search Engines Work?
According to HowStuffWorks.com “Early search engines held an index of a few hundred thousand pages and documents, and received maybe one or two thousand inquiries each day. Today, a top search engine will index hundreds of millions of pages, and respond to tens of millions of queries per day.” So how do you make your site stand out? That’s where SEO comes in. SEO is about great content supported by the information search engines need to accurately index and favorably (for you) rank your site.
Search engines work by seeking out and “reading” and indexing every website out there to be used in determining if your site is relevant to what is being searched. Search engines have software “spiders” that do the legwork on this process, called web crawling. The spiders begin with heavily used servers and popular sites and follow all the links on the site to travel the most widely used parts of the web reading and indexing as they go.
What Do I Need to Know?
I won’t bore you with all the details, but if you have an online business or use a website to help your customers find you it becomes clear why this is so important. I will focus on some key points to pay attention to so that you can apply SEO right from the get go. Some of the main factors that matter are the keywords you use, the title and subtitles, links between sites, and authority or reputation of a site. These are easy things that you can address from the beginning.
Words – The words you use, from your domain name to the text on your site and in your blogs, are important. This is what the spiders are “reading” and using to determine how to index your site. Of course, you have some say in how your site is indexed by selecting your Meta tags. Meta Tags are what allow the owner of a site to specify the key words to be used in indexing the site. (I have recently heard that Google does use these any more, but I cannot confirm. This doesn’t mean that other search engines aren’t using them) A word’s frequency of use on the site is also important in helping a spider determine what your site is about and the strength of relationship to the topics being searched. Update your articles and post new content. Give the spiders something new to chew on. Fresh, new content will help your site’s search results.
Bottom line: Do your pages use the keywords that you hope you’ll be found for? Are you using words that search well on your site and in your articles? Are your pages well written and do they have fresh, new, quality content?
Title and Subtitles – Spiders give more weight and pay more attention to words in the title, subtitle and first paragraph of your website or blog post. Try to repeat the key word in all of these areas to make it clear to the spiders, and your readers, what your content is about. Don’t overdo it. The search engines are wise to this, if you simply try to spam the keywords into your article two things will happen: 1.) People will think a fourth grader created your site and 2.) the spiders will penalize you for spamming. Just be clear and tastefully reinforce what you are writing about.
Bottom line: Are your headlines and sub-headlines using relevant key words? Do your html title tags contain key words relevant to the page topics?
Links – The spiders follow incoming and outgoing links to and from your site. The more of these there are the more assumed relevancy and page authority your site will have therefore getting a higher rank. the key is to link to high quality sites and ideally have high quality sites link to your site. It is about quality not quantity with this one. If you have a blog offer to write guest posts and invite other bloggers to guest post on your site. If you have a product or service collaborate with other complimentary services and link to each other’s site. It will help drive traffic to both sites and in turn yield exponential benefits.
Bottom line: Are you linking to and receiving links from high quality and trusted sites?
In closing, SEO is more of a lifestyle and ongoing effort than just a few quick changes you make and forget about. Plan to keep up with this. The more you learn the better you’ll get at it and easier it gets. Again, learn to think like a search engine and like those that you hope will find your site. Be patient as the effects of your changes won’t be immediate. Think in terms of weeks, not hours. There is a lot of information out there so do some research and stay up to date.