The term SEO very simply stands for Search Engine Optimization. Yet most people seem to think it is some magic formula that will drive customers to their site. While the term SEO is still thrown around and still relevant, it is usually misunderstood and I often hear a lot of really outdated and sometimes downright wrong ideas about what SEO is – especially from potential clients. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has asked me how much I charge to add keywords to their site and make them rank #1 on Google. I can tell you that my answer every time has been that it is not as easy as just adding keywords and anyone promising a number one ranking on Google is trying to scam you.
Rather than get into the scam aspects here, I will just point out this article on ‘Black Hat’ vs ‘White Hat’ SEO techniques. Let’s just say that buying your way to the top through illegitimate means can get you BANNED from Google – the exact opposite of what you were trying to achieve.
Brief History of SEO and Keywords
I am going to greatly simplify here for the sake of keeping things short. If you think back to the early days of the Internet, so much was different. Sites were static and simple. Google was just starting to crawl the web. In these early days, it was fairly easy to add a few keywords to the site’s code and jump up in the search rankings.
The problem now is that the Internet has grown. There are millions of sites and those sites are much more complex and dynamic, constantly changing and pumping new content into the search engines. Google has grown to the top search engine (by far) in large part do to the programming it uses to dissect and rank sites. This search algorithm is extremely intelligent and uses a number of factors in determining how your page ranks in searches.
But to keep it simple, you need to do two things:
- 1) Make your site RELEVANT.
- 2) Make your site VISIBLE.
Basic SEO Practices
This article does a great job of outlining some of the major factors in optimizing your site for search engines. Most of it involves working with the HTML and other coding languages involved, so it gets a little tech heavy. But if you work with a web designer, they should be aware of this stuff. The main point is that a search engine reads your site. Not the way we see it, but through the code, looking specifically for a few things: the content, the metadata (fancy word for the keywords), how the site is linked to itself (internal links) and how it is linked to from other sites (external links).
Making Your Site Relevant
To be relevant, the site needs optimized content. This means information that readers will find useful and/or interesting. It means up to date and recently posted content.
But to the search engines, it needs a few more things that are a little more complex. Search engines want Headings that use important keywords and links that refer to other sections of the site. It also means that lots of other ‘relevant’ sites have linked to you and that when they link to you, the use important ‘anchor text’ for the links. For example, if Joe from down the street (who has no visitors) links to me with the words ‘CLICK HERE’, it means next to nothing. If the biggest web design site on the Internet links to me with the words ‘GREAT WEB DESIGNER’ that means a lot and the relevance of my site just went up.
The actual content of your site, though is purely up to you. Add as much fresh and relevant content as you can, as often as you can. There are countless ways to improve your writing and that is too broad of a topic to get into here, but the key is to be relevant and recent.
Making Your Site Visible
SEO is actually just the beginning of the process in making your site visible. I have outlined a few examples of other ways to drive traffic to your site in my article ‘Why SEO is Not Enough‘ , so I won’t repeat it here. With the expansion of social networking there are plenty of ways to get the word of mouth machine moving without ever showing up in the searches. Try this post from webdevlounge.com about using social media to market your blog or this one from Duct Tape Marketing for a more detailed explanation of ways to use all the social media options in concert with each other.