SEO Basics – What is SEO?
The term SEO has been around for decades and is now an important part of any Internet marketing strategy. If you want to be successful online, some SEO basics are something you must be familiar with. Quite simply, SEO is the process of getting your website ranked higher in the search results of various search engines. This brings more traffic to your website as people are more likely to visit the pages ranked higher in the search results.
If you are unfamiliar with what SEO is and how to do it, this article should help put you on the right path. Here are a few points about SEO basics that will be covered:
- What is SEO?
- How a search engine works
- How to let search engines know who you are
- SEO is constantly changing
- Difference between SEO and PPC
- Why you need a good SEO company
What is SEO?
The first of our SEO basics is understanding what SEO means. SEO is an acronym that stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” Simply put, SEO is the process of increasing your web presence (website, social media, landing pages, etc.) in the search results of various search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). This can be done in a number of ways, including article marketing, having proper meta descriptions for your website, sitemap submission, backlinking, and more. Different techniques affect search engines differently and will result in different traffic depending on the search engine used for the search.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to get free traffic to your website, usually requiring that your page hits near the top of each search engine for specific terms searched. Being #1 on any search engine will bring more traffic to your website as most people who use search engines generally choose the top two or three results (which will hopefully be you).
SEO Basics – How a search engine works
To understand how to climb to the top of search engines, you must first understand how search engines work. When Yahoo! first came on board in 1994, it introduced us to the world of SEO. However, the initial version was more of a web based directory. This means that people at Yahoo! would manually categorize webpages for those using Yahoo! to obtain information. It looked something like the modern-day Craig’s List with multiple categories and subcategories for specific pages. You had to manually click on the different topics and hopefully the people at Yahoo! were listing pages relevant to what you were looking for.
A few years after the introduction of the first search engine, Google changed the way we will forever know SEO by introducing a web crawler directory. Google has various bots (software applications that perform automatic tasks on the Internet) that crawl websites, directories, and all sorts of traffic on the Internet to match the most popular pages with the most popular search terms. For instance, if webpage ABC is the most visited website by people searching the term XYZ, then bots notify Google and the webpage ABC will likely be ranked in the top position for that search term. So it very important that search engines know what keywords are specific for the page you want to rank.
SEO Basics: How to let search engines know who you are:
Many people think that creating a website is enough and that search engines will automatically rank you according to keywords. That is a huge misconception that ends up costing website owners dearly. A search engine is not a human and does not work randomly, it works with what is called an algorithm (a specific formula used by search engines to determine where to rank pages). The algorithm ranks pages based on factors such as the number of times a website is visited, how long users stay on pages, how many other websites link to that page, and several hundred factors that are not made publicly known. In order to be part of that algorithm, you must notify the search engine that you are there. This is done through the process of sitemap submission.
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like, a map to your website. By submitting this to the various search engines, you are letting them know that you exist, the keywords that you believe your site pages should be ranked for, and that you are ready to be indexed and be included in the algorithm rankings. Once received, search engines will use the sitemap to crawl your website and confirm the information you provided (again, bots are involved in the process). It will then begin ranking your site on the various formulas that are part of its algorithm.
Why SEO is Constantly Changing
Some key factors of SEO are known, while many remain private and are not disclosed by search engines. One thing to keep in mind with SEO is that known or not, these factors are always changing, as are the algorithms used by the various search engines. Search engine companies want to return relevant results to their users and as such constantly improve their algorithms to help return quality results.
As an example, one of the main ingredients for quality SEO includes backlinks, which are links to your website from other websites. This tells search engines that your website must be important since others are using it as a reference. However, the way backlinks are viewed by search engines has changed over the years. Initially, search engines simply counted the number of backlinks that you had, causing many SEO “experts” to create links from any website on the internet. It has evolved to now requiring “quality” backlinks meaning that backlinks from certain websites are counted more heavily in your favor than others. While some backlinks could wind up getting you penalized and removed from search engine results.
Understanding SEO basics is important, but keeping up with the latest SEO strategies is vital if you want to rank high and maintain that rank despite any change in search algorithms.
Difference between SEO and PPC:
In addition to SEO, PPC is an acronym that you probably heard a lot about. It stands for “Pay Per Click” and is an Internet marketing strategy involving payment to search engines for visitors clicking on your page. Here is how it works:
- You offer a specific amount for each click to your site for specific keywords (e.g., you pay Google $0.30 for each time someone clicks on your website after searching the term XYZ).
- When people search that term, your website, advertisement, or link will appear in the search results (most of the time the results appear in an advertorial section on the page to distinguish between SEO ranked pages and those paid for).
- Each time someone clicks the link and visits your website, you pay the amount agreed upon.
The main difference between SEO and PPC is that SEO is free traffic. That means that you do not have to pay a search engine to rank your site, unlike you do with PPC. They are both great forms of Internet marketing and should both be included in your Internet marketing strategy.
Understanding the SEO Basics is not enough. Here’s why you need a good SEO company:
If you plan to do SEO on your own, you need to dedicate much of your time to researching the various methods used by professionals. This is not something that you can learn overnight and takes years of experience to perfect. That is where a good SEO company comes into play. By paying them to do your work, you rely on a professional that has been in the business long enough to know the changes to algorithms and how to get you ranked high for specific keywords. Going with a good SEO company will also allow you to spend more of your time running your business, and less time trying to figure out what Google has planned for the next algorithm change.