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.
List of Search Engines for Search Engine Optimization Tips
If you've ever tried to deal with search engine optimization, you most likely have, at some point or another, wanted to bundle your whole site up and toss it into the nearest virtual trash can. Particularly if you felt compelled to focus on keywords, or any other technique calculated to artificially pique someone's mouse clicks.
You should be delighted to hear then, if you haven't heard yet, that the old-fashioned concept of SEO is deader than last week's sandwich. Google pretty much pounded the crap out of keyword stuffing and other absurdities with the search algorithm changes it's made over the last couple of years. And then Google made search secure, which means you can't even see what keywords someone used to get to your site.
It's about time, because all the minutiae blinded entrepreneurs to what is really important: making a connection with an audience. The term--not exactly new--that seems to be displacing SEO is OAO, online audience optimization. Before getting too squirrelly about another Three Letter Acronym, let's get grounded and think about what's important.
Really Know Your Audience
Over on the Marketingland blog, Brian Clark quoted great old-time advertising copyrighter Eugene Schwartz:
One hour a day, read. Read everything in the world except your business. Read junk. Very much junk. Read so that anything that interests you will stick in your memory. Just read, just read, just read... There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use.
Clark takes this to mean that you have to understand the language and words people use so you know how to talk to them. I'll take it a step further. Not only do you need to know how they talk, which lets you better guess how they might specifically look for what you offer, but you also need to understand what they find funny. What scares them. What is important to them. How they think. Until you do, they're only marks and you do nothing more than run calculated cons. After you do understand them, they're real people and you might find yourself caring a bit about them. Good--care more.
Translate Caring Into Specific Actions
Do you care about your significant other, family members, or friends? If so, then there are plenty of times that you'll do specific things that you know make them happy. Emotion isn't an abstract concept, but something that drives behavior. Let the same thing happen in your marketing after you start to care about the audience. For example, Linda Ruth lists nine steps for OAO, including be consistent and clear about strategy and purpose, encourage audience participation, and employ engagement metrics and gamification techniques. Maybe you'll find that your list is the same. Maybe it will be somewhat different. Just make sure it comes with a focus on customers and how you can provide what they need.
It's like going into a shop you like where the people recognize you and get your interests and tastes. That's all you're trying to do. When the technology, any technology, gets in the way, drop it out back and return to the basics.
Search Optimization in the Mobile Age
The use of metadata by search engines, including meta keywords, has changed extensively throughout the years.
While many of the rules regarding metadata remain the same, it is now an area of lesser importance when it comes to SEO. That said, meta tag optimization is still an important aspect of search engine optimization, so it is important to employ many of these so-called "deprecated" techniques to ensure high SERP rankings
Following these rules pertaining to metadata can help ensure a site's high ranking in search results. While Google does not use metadata for site rankings, there still are search engines that do. A variety of websites and syndication services also rely on metadata. Furthermore, Google even pulls your site's description from your metadata for use in the SERPs.
While meta tag optimization is still useful, it's important to note that there is no reason to stress out over metadata. This article is meant to serve as an informational piece on how metadata is used today as well as noting its much greater historical importance. Feel free to comment, however, on your thoughts and feelings (particularly on the modern usage of meta tags and meta data in SEO.)
What is Metadata? What are Meta Tags?
Metadata provides information about a site. This information gives search engines clues regarding what a site is about. Since metadata is hidden away in a site's markup, visitors can't see it, but search engines can. There are several types of metadata, but we're going to talk about the three most important parts that make up meta tag optimization: meta keywords, meta descriptions, and the robot tag.
Meta descriptions are actually one of the few things that visitors will see, but they won't see it on your site. Here is an example:
Bob has a site about sports cars and in his meta description, he has written, "The ultimate guide to European and American sports cars."
When someone searches on Google for the term "sports cars," Bob's site may show up in the results. If it does, the listing will show his meta description. In short, meta descriptions tell people what a site is about before they even visit it.
What Do Meta Keywords Do?
Meta keywords work very similar to meta descriptions, but instead of telling Internet users what a site is about, it tells the search engine. Here is an example:
Lisa's site is about Georgia peaches. In her meta keywords, she has written, "Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, peach orchards" By writing these keywords, Lisa is telling search engines that her site is about Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, and peach orchards. Annette searches in a search engine for the term "peaches from Georgia." Since Lisa's site has this phrase in its meta keywords, the search engine may show Lisa's website to Annette in the search listings.
Why You Need Meta Data
Meta information is very important to a site's well being when it comes to SEO. The part of SEO that deals with metadata is known as meta tag optimization. Many people say that you don't need meta keywords because "Google doesn't use metadata in their algorithm and since Google is the most popular search engine, there's no need to use them." That is a myth. While there is no argument that Google is the most popular search engine in the world, Google also reportedly does not use metadata as a way to weigh sites. Still, it's a bad idea to ignore meta tag optimization.
- Other search engines use meta keywords in their algorithms and although they won't make up the larger portion of a site's traffic, it is traffic the site may not be getting if it didn't have meta keywords.
- Google doesn't care about meta keywords at all, so no sites will be penalized by Google for having meta keywords.
- Meta tags are easy to add. It's as simple as adding a tiny bit of HTML right after your <head> tag. Many content management systems even do all the work for you. Those using something like Wordpress are blessed with the number of plug-ins available that help out with metadata.
- Google uses meta descriptions to give searchers more information about your site. Without a meta description, Google will hand-pick something from the site it feels is relevant to what the searcher is looking for. While this can be helpful, having a clean and well-written meta description can really entice searchers that YOUR site is the one they are looking for. While it has no impact on a site's ranking, it can help click-through rates.
How to Add Metadata
Each site has a main page or an index page. In the file for this page, a web developer or site admin, should is to look for the open head tag: <head>. Right after this tag, the site admin should enter their metadata. The following example shows what metadata should look like:
There are a few easily fixable problems that people run into when they are optimizing their metadata. For example, sometimes metadata is set up to disallow search engines from indexing a site. There are a few reasons webmasters set their sites up to block search engine, but those creating websites for SEO purposes should make sure search engines are NOT blocked.
If a website isn't being indexed in the search engines, generally the first thing a webmaster will do is make sure their robots tag is not blocking search engines. By default, if a site does NOT have a robot tag, search engines will index it. Many webmasters write a robot tag that essentially says "allow search engines to index this", but this is unnecessary as search engines will only avoid indexing a site if there is a robot tag that disallows them from doing so. (Or if it's been blacklisted, but that's a whole different issue.)
Another problem that people run into is giving search engines too much information. Sites are allowed a max of 10 keywords in their metadata. Here's an example:
Lisa's site has three meta keywords which are "Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, peach orchards." Gina, who is Lisa's competition has 12 keywords which are "peaches from Georgia, Georgia peaches, peach orchards, peach orchard, peaches, Georgia, Georgia peaches, Gina's peach stand, juicy peaches, peaches from the south, ripe peaches, fresh peaches"
Because Gina has more than 10 keywords and Lisa has only 3, Lisa stands a better chance of doing well in the search engine. The same rule applies to meta descriptions, except web developers are allowed a max of 150 characters for meta descriptions. Remember that it's 150 characters and not 150 words. While this isn't one of the biggest SEO mistakes a web developer can make, it still can negatively affect search engine rankings.