Search Engine Optimization is Also Known As SEO
WE will discuss how search engines work and why search engine optimization is important.
In the second section, we’ll discuss basic techniques and important factors in SEO and search rankings.
And, in the final section of this guide we’ll discuss how to maintain and continually improve SEO long term.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to drive search engine traffic to your work.
It involves gaining a thorough understanding of how search engines work and then reflecting that knowledge in your writing and webpage design to maximize traffic to and user experience on your page.
SEO is important because search engines like Google, YAHOO!, and Bing drive the majority of web traffic. Shares on social media can cause short term spikes in stats, but real, long term success comes from maximizing search engines ability to drive traffic to your page.
Not only will good SEO improve search rankings and increase traffic for the author, but it helps people interested in your topic find your page and improves the viewer’s experience as well.
SEO involves strategically using appropriate keywords, building links to your work and making your pages search engine friendly. Although it is important to understand what SEO is, it is also important to understand what SEO isn’t. While SEO can make a big difference in stats, it cannot fix bad writing or poor content. SEO can make good writing into a great, high performing webpage, but it cannot turn poor content into good writing.
How Search Engines Work
Search Engines use “spiders” or “crawlers” to build an index of the webpages available, the words on each page, and where on the page those words were located.These program robots begin on popular webpages and add important words found on the page to the search engine’s index. From there, they follow every link on the page and index the corresponding pages before using the links on those pages to go to the next set of pages, and so on and so forth. This process is known as crawling.
Once this information is gathered by the spiders, it is encoded and stored for indexing. In order to even out the difference between the time needed to search a term beginning with a popular letter like ‘t’ and a search term beginning with a less popular letter like ‘q,’ a numerical value is applied to each word. This process is known as hashing. Not only does hashing even out problems related to letter frequency, but it condenses the index. Only the numerical value and a link to the actual information is stored in the index. This increases index and search speed, especially with more complicated searches that involve multiple words.
When a user performs a search, he or she types a query into the search box. Boolean operators can be used to define specific relationships between the terms in a query. Some of the most common operators are:
- AND-requires that both terms are on the page
- OR-requires that one term or the other is on the page
- NOT-excludes pages that include the following term
- NEAR-requires that two terms be near each other on the page
- “quotation marks”-requires the query be treated as a phrase, instead of each significant word in the query being considered an individual keyword
- FOLLOWED BY-requires that one term be followed by another
These searches are defined as literal searches. Research is currently underway on concept based searching which uses statistics statistical analysis of webpages containing your query to recommend pages you might be interested in, as well as natural language searching which allows users to type a question into the search box using the simple language they would use to ask a friend their question instead of using Boolean operators.
There’s More than One Search Engine
Each search engine uses different rules for determining which words are indexed and which words aren’t. Some search engines index every word on the page. Others focus on the most common words, the words in titles and subtitles, meta tags and the first few lines of text.
If you’ve ever tried searching the same phrase on different search engines, you probably noticed that you got different results. This is because each engine uses different algorithms to weight and index keywords and determine search result rankings. Search engine ranking algorithms use website popularity, meta tags, number of back links (links to the page), keyword frequency and location and a wide variety of other factors to rank webpages and how well they correlate to viewer searches.
In addition to relevance, website popularity is taken into account in determining search rankings. As more interested users are directed to your page by your SEO techniques, not only will the techniques increase your relevancy scores, but the popularity component of the ranking algorithms will increase as well.
(For more concrete information on specific ranking factors and their relative weight please see this website.)
Your Audience is Important in SEO
Now that you know how search engines function, we need to consider how users interact with search engines. To conduct a search, the user types a few keywords into the search box and clicks enter, browses the results and selects a page to visit. If the user is unsatisfied, he or she will return to the search and select another result or modify their query for a new result list.
People perform searches because they a) want to go somewhere specific on the web b) want to do something specific or c) learn a piece of information. In order to create a high performing webpage, you need to think like your user.
Ask yourself how many of your audience’s needs can be met on your page. Add additional, relevant content that meets these needs to attract more viewers and happier views. Then ask yourself if your audience can find your page. What queries might your target audience put into the search engine? Are those keywords found in your titles, subtitles, alt text, summary and first few sentences?
Remember, building content for your users will lead to better results than trying to build pages for search engines.
Search Optimization in the Mobile Age
Is your business trying to reach potential customers who search for information online? Of course it is.
But be sure not to neglect those who use mobile phones -- used by more than 90 percent of U.S. households today, according to CTIA, the wireless industry association. That compares to home Internet usage estimated at about 74 percent, according to Nielsen Online.
The CTIA also says data usage on mobile phones has surpassed the amount of voice data in the U.S. for the first time last year. Along with using mobile versions of Web browsers, on-the-go Internet users are increasingly turning to social media and specialized apps to help them find what they're looking for.
In the era of mobile Internet commerce, businesses need to re-evaluate their search engine optimization strategies. Here are some tips on taking advantage of this shifting trend from computer to smartphone from experts in the field.
Drop .mobi, but limit Flash
"The recent and continued advancement in smartphone technology has brought mobile browsing and search engine optimization (SEO) much closer to standard web SEO practices," says Dustin Ruge with the SEO Consultant Firm, based in New York City. "Previously, companies would pursue the creation of mobile sites (.mobi), with much lighter content and faster load times to support first generation mobile browsers, but today, mobile browsers are becoming much more 'normalized' in nature and tend to perform similar in results to standard Web browsers."
That said, Ruge still suggests to utilize XHTML formats, limit excessive load times (i.e. Adobe Flash) and make sure critical information -- such as phone numbers and addresses -- is prominently displayed and readable in mobile applications.
Test is best, click to call
Amber MacArthur, a new media strategist and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business (2010 Portfolio), agrees with Ruge's last point.
"To ensure that consumers get what they want when searching on a mobile phone, companies need to ensure they have mobile-friendly websites," says MacArthur. "Businesses don't simply have to check their sites on one device, they should test across multiple smartphone platforms, such as the BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android."
Smartphones with these three dominant operating systems allow users to call phone numbers listed in their Web browsers with a single tap or click, which then launches the phone function of the device. You'll know if a phone number or email address can be used as such if they're underlined in the browser.
The most significant change to how consumers are using smartphones to find companies is the widespread popularity of mobile apps."To put this into context, Steve Jobs recently said that there are now more than 200,000 Apple mobile apps," says MacArthur. "In other words, individuals are no longer going through a browser get information, such as restaurant reviews and product recommendations -- this means that traditional SEO placement tactics are less effective."
Ruge acknowledges mobile apps are "exploding in use," but he feels it might be too early to develop any concrete conclusions about its effectiveness in user search. "Based on learned user behavior, I suspect that standard browsing practices through the traditional search engine interfaces will not be threatened anytime soon," says Ruge.
Social networks, too
Customers are also relying on their social networks to find what they're looking for, reminds MacArthur, who says she uses Google less and Twitter and Facebook more."The tipping point for me was a couple of years ago when I went online to Twitter to ask my network where I should stay in the D.C. area. Within minutes, I had dozens of recommendations and links, which was a lot easier than sifting through pages and pages of random search results on Google."
According to MacArthur, about three quarters of cellphone users are using mobile phones to frequent social networking sites. "With such a high penetration of users on Facebook, Twitter and in other online hangouts, it's key that small and mid-sized businesses put time and effort into social networking strategies."
MacArthur suggests businesses consider a free Web service called HootSuite. "Not only will this tool allow companies to post to multiple accounts at the same time within an easy-to-use dashboard, it makes networking with the people on these sites easy and it also makes it a cinch to monitor your brand's reputation (and respond when necessary)," adds MacArthur.
As for the future
Both Ruge and MacArthur were asked about location-based services.
"This is a very difficult issue to address at this point since there are ongoing privacy related issues dealing with mobile browsing and GPS," says Ruge. "Recent privacy issues dealing with Facebook should be a shot across the bow to any unauthorized future use of personal online browsing coordinated with GPS data; the technology is certainly there for some amazing capabilities but Americans are very particular when it comes to privacy issues," he adds.
MacArthur is more optimistic about its immediate future. "Location-based services are exploding as a key marketing platform for many businesses." "For starters, setting your company up on a site like Foursquare won't cost you a cent, giving businesses an opportunity to bring their online relationships with customers offline."
MacArthur also says "augmented reality" tools that add informational layers on top of what you see through your smartphone's camera, "is about to change the way most of us get information." "For example, imagine walking down the street, pointing your phone's lens at a restaurant, and then seeing live links to menu item reviews online."
Although augmented reality is a hot trend, "it's somewhat more complicated to develop, compared to location-based apps and GPS tools, so companies are a slow to jump onboard," says MacArthur.
How to Learn Search Engine Optimization, Online Advertising Article - Technology.Inc.com
It's a major facet of every marketing plan, and every brand leader wishes they had a crystal ball to tell them its fate. Every consumer, client and professional uses it to educate themselves on their options, discover their peers' findings, and consider alternatives. I'm talking about, of course, online search.
Whether you rely solely on Google, or if you tend to stray to alternatives like Bing or even DuckDuckGo, the future of search engines plays a huge part in not only your daily life, but the success of your brand. Because the technology is constantly evolving, any book you read is already outdated; in order to stay on the cutting edge of search engine progress, ensure you continuously update your knowledge by reading articles (such as this one), staying up to date on new algorithms, analyzing your competitors' successes and failures, and consult expert opinions and insights.
One such expert is Baruch Labunski, CEO and Founder of Rank Secure, a leading expert in search engine optimization for businesses. Labunski gave us the insight scoop on what search engine habits and trends he expects to become normal in 2017. Consider this guide required reading for any brand that's interested in keeping - or improving - their search engine ranking in the next twelve months:
Mobile Friendly Or Bust
As of November, Google has started making mobile a priority - with the goal of their new mobile indexing algorithm the primary algorithm by 2018. Given that mobile searches now account for well over half of all search queries, this was a long time coming.
The reality is that the era of mobile-friendly websites being a perk or extra is over. Smartphones have now reached saturation in many major markets, including the US, Canada, Japan, Western Europe and China. If you're trying to sell to markets in these major economies, mobile is no longer optional.
The Rise Of Digital Assistants Make Her A Little Closer To Reality
SEO professionals are currently staring down the barrel of a very long gun - and that gun is held by Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google's as-yet-unnamed assistant persona.
The challenge with the growing popularity of digital assistants is that, as more consumers submit their queries with voice controls, it becomes increasingly important to not just be on the front page, or the top five results, but the first result. Voice searches return only the top result - which means if you aren't it, it doesn't matter if you're the second result or on the second page, the consumer won't hear about you.
Hey Neighbor - Have You Conquered Local Search?
As Google reduces the clutter on their results page - and alternatives like Bing and DuckDuckGo follow suit, inevitably - the emphasis on local search will become all the more cut throat. By combining the highly specific locational data that's available from consumers searching on mobile, alongside Google's already in-progress goal of customizing results by location for all users, positioning your brand to those who are physically near you will become crucial in 2017.
Google is continuously improving their customer experience, and their technology has them approaching the thought patterns of actual users, however, this means that our jobs as brand managers and promoters will continue to become more complicated as time passes. The days of search engine algorithms filtering by obvious data points, or being easily manipulated are over. The new fact of search engine optimization is appealing to your immediate markets - those around you and those who are searching directly for your product.
The best way to master local search? Make sure you claim your location on as many review sites - and of course Google Places - as quickly as possible. List your locations on your main website. If you have multiple locations, give them each their own website (which should still be linked to the general brand site) with their address listed. Make it as obvious as possible where you are.
2017 will be the most challenging year yet for online marketers, as technology continues to advance at a breakneck pace. However, if you continue to stay current on updates, research your competitors and test your strategies, you'll make it through. Remember, the core goal of search engines is to find what the user is looking for; make sure that those who are looking for your product can find you, and can easily understand why you're the right option, and your brand will be just fine.