Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of the most popular and competitive web based services available. As business becomes more competitive, so does web based marketing (i.e. making sure your website shows up in search engines and outranks your competiton).
What exactly is search engine optimization? Don’t websites automatically get ranked on google? these are some of the questions i get asked on a daily basis. Search engine optimization is a service- it is not generally included in normal web development as it requires time, attention to detail, extensive research and an excellent understanding of search engines and how they work. Websites usually do find their way into Google’s index, but if the site is not properly optimized, it will probably show up on page 99,999… which is pointless.
The point of search engine optimization is to get your website ranked for specific keywords. These keywords should be the products or services you offer, or a topic of discussion on your website. Don’t get fooled by people who will get your website ranked for your company name or website address- this happens anyways, so you are essentially paying someone for no work at all.
What do you need to know in order not to get ripped off? you need to first understand how a website gets ranked on a search engine:
Search engines send out a ‘bot’ (robot, spider, whatever you want to call it) which is an automated program that crawls the internet and bounces off HTML links. Most bots will first target major directories, like DMOZ (the largest human edited directory on the internet) and the big search engines, as all search engines feed off each other. When they find their way into a directory or different search engine, they will bounce off the link to the websites and ‘visit’ them. When the bot arrives, it is looking for specific instructions, or ‘meta tags’ to help direct it around the website, and understand what the page is about. There are a variety of robot commands that can be used, which need to be hard coded into your websites pages. After reading the meta tags, the bot will then proceed into the text content of your page, and should then (hopefully) find it’s way to your other pages.
This is where optimization helps. There are many misconceptions out there about properly optimizing your website and which keywords to use, how many, what should be in the site description, etc. Some common misconceptions are:
1. The more keywords the better. THIS IS WRONG! you should always choose (if possible) ONE keyword or one key phrase per page. The logic is simple: if you add 10 different keywords in your meta tags, the search engine will look for these keywords in your content. If your content only contains 4 of these keywords, for example, you have immediately wasted the other 6 keywords. The problem now becomes how often do each of the 4 keywords show up in the content? if the text has been written simply from an explanation point of view, chances are 1 keyword shows up more than the rest, and that is what the page will rank for. Remember- if you add more keywords, you are making them compete against each other- which is pointless.
2. The website is guaranteed to rank #1. THIS IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE! I always advise my clients to visit Google’s webmaster tools page, and read up on their advice. One of the first things they say is no one can guarantee a ranking… this is because the whole process is 100% automated. There is no actual person sitting at Google’s offices choosing which site should rank where!
3. Once optimized, the website will start ranking immediately. THIS IS INCORRECT. Even a properly optimized website can take some time to rank well. this is because search engines like Google receive millions of submissions daily…
There is a lot more to optimizing a website correctly, but this covers the basics. Always remember that optimization does not need to cost thousands of dollars (which many firms like to charge), and always ask to see some examples of the company’s optimization work. If you need to check where your website ranks on Google, or any search engine, simply search for “site:www.MYWEBSITE.COM” (replace mywebsite.com with your website address). This will return all the pages that have been indexed by Google, or that search engine.