What is Search Engine Optimization? Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) is a method of marketing that attempts to generate more traffic for a particular site by increasing the rank of the site in various search engines, like Google or Yahoo. For example, when you search Google for "coconuts" the first hit, at the time this article is being written, is www.coconuts.com ( a music outlet ). Search Engine Optimization companies battle for that first hit on behalf of your site. The higher up a site appears in a search, the more currently interested potential customers will see what the company has to offer.
In the early days of the Internet, search engines based page rank on the metadata entered in the "head" portion of a Hypertext Markup Language ( HTML ) document. This information was not made visible to the website's visitors and contained a list of keywords( or meta tags ) with which the site was associated. Web designers began to take advantage of the metadata by entering large random lists of words that had nothing to do with the site's content, and before long search engines began to return unreliable and irrelevant results to frustrated searchers.
Search engines responded by designing protected algorithms that took the following elements into account when ranking pages:
These changes cut down on the ruinous effects of metadata abuse, but skilled web designers were still able to qualify their sites for unrelated searches. Search engines needed stronger algorithms to improve search result relevancy.
Google introduced a new method of returning search results called Page Rank. Page Rank analyzed websites according to how many other relevant sites linked to the site in question. Other off-page elements were incorporated into the algorithms, including probability analysis, which took into account how likely a web surfer was to land on the site by clicking through links from one site to the next. Further developments included linguistic and heuristic algorithms, and today's search engines incorporate hundreds of these various algorithms to generate relevant search results for their users. Naturally, the algorithms a particular search engine uses are often kept secret to discourage the kinds of abuse seen in the past.
What do SEO companies do to increase a website's page rank? SEO companies claim to understand the algorithms at work behind popular search engines, but the industry is highly competitive, so collaboration among companies is stifled. What most SEO companies publicly agree on are the following factors:
However, there is more to Search Engine Optimization than algorithmic analysis. Titles that grab a visitor's attention and features that encourage repeat visits to the site, like stimulating or useful content, raise a site's popularity and encourage other websites to link to it. Every company with an online presence must provide visitors with a good reason to visit the page. A site that does not provide adequate content or enticing features to its visitors will never be popular and could become an asset that returns less than it costs to maintain.
General online marketing tips and optimization techniques:
Optimizing your site for search engines can easily become a time-consuming process, but there are a number of companies willing to optimize and submit your site to various search engines in exchange for a fee. Jason Rich, bestselling author of the Unofficial Guide to Starting a Business Online, recommends the following: