SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, refers to the wide variety of strategies used to make your website more appealing to the search engines in the hopes of drawing free traffic to your site.
Getting free search engine traffic is often called organic traffic, or natural search traffic. You don’t pay for it, and if you have the right mindset, you can continue to get large volumes of natural search traffic for years to come.
Unfortunately, when you first launch a website, you probably won’t have thousands of visitors pounding down your door, eating up your bandwidth, just to get a look at your content. When it comes to getting visitors to your website, you’ve got a few choices – two main ones include either paying for your traffic through pay-per-click advertising programs like Google Adwords or banner ads, or waiting around for free, organic traffic to find you through the search engines.
However, if all you do is launch your site and then sit around waiting for visitors, it could take weeks or months before the major search engines figure out that you’re even there at all, let alone send you any free traffic.
This is where SEO comes in.
You need to optimize your site and then promote it so that the search engines know what it’s about. That way they know how to categorize it, and when to show it in their search results. For example, if you have a page about windsurfing, should the search engines show it when a searcher types in ‘windsurfing boards’ or is it more related to ‘windsurfing techniques’?
And is your page better than other pages on the same search term or are there other pages that have better information on them? Pages that people seem to like better?
The search engines need to take all these factors into consideration each time they show results to their searchers. The goal of the search engines is to categorize all the information on the web and rank it by its relevance for the search terms typed into the search bar.
As you can imagine, there are a virtually infinite number of categories, subcategories, and further subsets any page on your site might fit into. And there are so many different variations a web surfer can type into the search engines that you could never list them all.
So matching up pages for the right search terms is a difficult job. And since that’s only part of their job it’s even more difficult. As already mentioned, in addition to showing relevant pages, the search engines need to show the BEST relevant pages first.
It’s all about giving the searchers what they want. Which ultimately means you need to put yourself in the shoes of the web searchers and give them what THEY want. That way your site will rank high.
So what you need to do is help the search engines determine what your web pages are about and then prove that your individual pages are worthy of high rankings. That’s what I think of when I think of SEO. And I know you’ll see a greater level of success if that’s how you think of SEO too.
Search engines come in all shapes and sizes – from Google all the way down to smaller niche-based search sites. Recent surveys estimate that over 1 billion search queries are made every day on Google alone.
Getting your site ranking high in Google should be your main goal. They hold the market share on search, with between 80 to 90% of all searches performed on Google, depending on which research you trust.
On-Site vs Off-Site Optimization
SEO techniques can be broken down into two general categories – onsite and offsite. Both of these will benefit your rankings, so it’s worth your time to address them both when building and promoting your website.
On-site SEO includes the specific actions you take on your webpages to increase your search engine position.
Off-site SEO techniques are the actions you take outside of your webpages to increase your search engine position. Link building is one of the most important strategies in the offsite SEO toolbox. For example, say you’ve put together a site on reducing hypertension and heart attacks. If Google or another major search engine notices that the American Heart Association has linked back to your site, they assume your site must include good content. The more of these quality links back to your site you get, the more free traffic you’ll receive from the search engines because your site will rank higher.
Both on-site and off-site optimization help the search engines categorize your site and rank it higher. On-site optimization is more under your control than off-site optimization. So you need to make sure each page of your site is well optimized first and then start a link building campaign.
Further articles in the SEO Tutorial: