Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing have become the most commonly visited sites on the internet. Almost all web users begin their browsing sessions with one of these services, or refer to them repeatedly as they search for specific sites, products, and services. Websites that appear at the top of the search results naturally receive more visitors and attract more customers. So what can you do to get your website to the top of the list?
That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. By understanding what search engines look for when ranking websites, we can make changes to a site so that the search providers put it closer to the top of the results. With enough time and effort, it’s possible to get a site to one of the top spots in the organic search results.
This article will help you understand the basics of SEO. If you have struggled to know where to go to start learning SEO or had a hard time sorting through the massive amount of information available this article will help you sort through the basics so you can have a better foundation to start.
A Brief Overview of the SEO Process
Search engines have two goals:
1. To provide the most relevant sites for the specific keywords that were searched for
2. To rank those sites based on the quality of the sites
So to be on the top page and rank well for specific terms you need to provide high quality and relevant information for those keywords–and make sure Google knows that. Here is some information about how to start.
Keywords are the terms that people are entering into the search engines. These keywords will be placed on your site strategically to let the search engines know what your site is all about. The optimization process for these keywords starts with the content on your own website. This means that the first step in optimizing your website is to understand your business and your market well enough to select good keywords. Good keywords are targeted towards someone you would want to visit your site. Usually, this person be motivated to take a specific action (such as making a purchase or giving you their email in exchange for something like an e-book guide).
Usually it is better to start with specific keywords and then branch out after you have gained a presence for your original keywords. It is always better to have few visitors to your site that are highly motivated for your product than to have a larger number of visitors that don’t care about what you are offering. If you were selling a product like high quality MP3 players, you would rather have traffic coming from people who searched for “high quality MP3 player” than you would for people who searched for “music”. People searching for “music” could be interested in buying music, the history of music, or something else related to music in general. You would get a lot of traffic if you ranked for “music” but the traffic would not be highly qualified. If you were ranking high for “high quality MP3 player” then you would get people who are looking for what you are offering and you will have a much higher conversion rate.
Simply put, search engines like sites that are useful to the people searching for a given term. You should pay attention to your website pages to make sure that you use the keywords in the way that you determined is the best keyword search phrases. However, from there you can and should use other terms to make sure that the content sounds natural and is worth reading. Don’t force extra keywords just for the sake of pumping keywords in there. The most basic way to determine if your site pertains to a specific keyword is by counting how many times that word (or phrase, i.e. a string of words) appears within the text on each page of the site. Having the proper keyword density and making sure the keywords appear in the right locations throughout the site is vital.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite good enough to stuff a keyword in here and there where it doesn’t quite make sense. This makes it clear to visitors that you’re not really serious about helping them out, and the search engines often can pick up that it is “fake”. In the worst case scenario, if done egregiously, it can work against you and limit your results.
Another way search engines decide which sites are the most useful to web users is by counting how many other websites link back to the site (while factoring in the quality of the linking sites and the type and location of the link, among other things). The idea here is that if other sites link back to your site, there must be something on your site that they find valuable. It’s kind of like a vote for your site. More reputable sites that link back to your site count for more than less reputable sites. Consider the difference between ESPN.com linking to your site and some spammy “link mill” site that is created for no other purpose than to link to other sites for SEO purposes. The link from ESPN is hard to get–it has to be highly relevant and credible.
However, for a couple of dollars you can buy a lot of low-quality links. The best links to get are from a high quality site that is relevant to your industry. The best way to start link building is to build relationships with other people in the industry. Start on Twitter or Facebook and search for people that you might be interested in. Start out with simple messages or compliments about what they are doing. That can grow into opportunities for people who are knowledgeable and credible to either link to you or write a guest post for your blog–and you can do the same for them. Also remember to reach out to family and friends to let them know what you are up to, and, if possible they can link to your site and tell their friends about you through their sites or social media outlets.
Link building is perhaps the most time consuming and challenging aspect of SEO. It requires having valuable content that people link to without being asked, as well as relationships with other reputable sites that may be willing to add a link to your page to their site. Building valuable links is one area in which SEO providers can shine. Their job is to have the time to do it, and they have networks that enable them to get your website “out there” among other well-ranked sites.