Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a form of web promotion and is the process of optimizing your website so that it appears at the top of the various search engines and directories when a potential customer types in a search query relative to the content of your website.
Just about anyone who uses the internet uses a search engine like Google or Yahoo to locate websites. Using a search engine is like going looking under the Yellow Pages for a certain type of business.
For example, a potential customer is looking to purchase new wooden shutters for her home. She visits a search engine and types and in the box on the screen, types in a search phrase, using the keyword phrase, wooden shutters. When the Search button is clicked, a list of websites targeted by the keyword phrase wooden shutters appear. The order in which they appear is based on their ranking by the search engine.
The higher the ranking of a website, the closer it is to the top of the search engine results page, increasing visibility. The more visible it is, the more targeted traffic it receives.
How are website rankings determined?
There is no guaranteed method for determining a website's rankings on a search engine. A website's placement on a search engine results page is determined by that search engine's algorithms, or formulas. These formulas are a complex set of weighted criteria. Each search engine has its own algorithm for formulating a website's rank on a search, and each algorithm is a trade secret.
The purpose of search engine optimization is to tailor a website so that it contains the criteria that the search engine algorithms are seeking in order to give a site a good ranking.
Search engine optimization strategies improve a website's visibility using organic listings, meaning the utilization of unpaid listings, rather than incurring the additional cost of paying for advertised listings. The most successful websites accentuate promotion through search engine optimization methods such as keyword savvy content, strategic tags, search engine placement and link relevance.
By focusing on targeted traffic through search engine optimization, a business can increase its website's visibility towards the type of visitors that have a specific need or interest that can be met.
The steps below describe the process of creating an effective search engine optimization strategy:
Step 1 Keyword Research & Analysis
SEO begins with a website's marketing goals to see what type of traffic or market segment the business is looking to attract. Who are the potential customers, and what keywords are they going to use in their search queries to locate your website?
Step 2 Website Navigation
Building on the results of your keyword research, how are you going to organize your website. A good strategy is to focus each page on its own keyword phrase.
Step 3 Website Ranking & Content
What sort of information are you going to share with your target audience? The content of your website is crucial when it comes to optimization. This not only goes for search engines, but also for your target audience. The more relevant information you provide on each topic that correlates to a keyword phrase, the better your chances of achieving a top ranked site.
Step 4 Tags & Website Optimization
There are several types of tags used in search engine optimization; title tags, meta-tags and alt tags to name a few. These tags contain brief descriptions of the content of your website, and are relevant to your keyword research results.
Step 5 Web Design & SEO Ranking
The search engine robots have trouble interpreting certain types of content, such Flash files, and iframes, and images. If the robot can't read the information, it hinders the optimization of the site.
Step 6 Link Building
One of the factors that determines your site's rank is the number and types of sites linking to you. Most of the time these links reflect positively upon your ranking, but sometimes, the wrong kind of link can count against your optimization strategy.
Paid vs. Organic (unpaid) Listings
Paid listings offer a different type of web promotion strategy than Search Engine Optimization. They can be seen on the top and to the right of a search engine results page. Sometimes the section will have a heading that says Ad, Sponsored Links or Sponsor Results.
The websites that you see listed are there because their owners bid on the search query that you typed in. The highest bidder gets the top position.
Are Paid Listings worth the expense?
Obtaining targeted traffic through paid listings, such as pay per click or banner advertising can be very expensive. The cost per click can run several cents for less competitive terms on up to several dollars for the more competitive key words. In many industries, site owners have mixed views as to whether the costs are worth the return on investment. However, if you are looking for quick results and are in a highly competitive field, paid promotion is effective over the short term.