What Is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a process by which websites are created and/or altered to improve their performance in various search engines, particularly Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Since appearing on the first page of results is crucial to a business’ success (clickthrough rates drop off to nearly zero after the first page), optimizing your site to help it appear on the first page can be the difference between a successful business and having to close up shop.
A major component of SEO is the use of keywords (or keyword phrases). Keywords are the things that people type into search engines when they are looking for a product or service. Let’s say that you are a bike shop in Albuquerque. If people are looking for the products you offer, they will probably search for things like:
- Albuquerque bike shops
- Bike stores
- Bicycle centers
- Cycling equipment
They may also search for more specific keywords such as:
- Mountain bikes
- Road bikes
- Cycling shoes
- Auto bike racks
- Cycling gear
The list here could conceivably become very long, but you get the idea. So the first step to search engine optimization is knowing what keywords people use to search for your services. Fortunately, various programs make it easy to see what the most common searches are. Unfortunately, the more common the search, and the shorter the keyword phrase, the more competition you will face. For example, “mountain bikes” may be more difficult to rank on the first page for, while “Albuquerque bicycle and tire repair shops” may face much less competition.
The second major factor in SEO is quality Web content. Websites should have clear, well-written, and relevant content that lets both search engines and site visitors know exactly what the page is about. Pages with more text (up to a point) tend to be ranked higher than pages with only a few sentences on them. And websites with more pages also tend to do better. For our hypothetical sporting goods store, rather than just having a page on cycling, we would want pages on cycling shoes, cycling clothes, cycling hats, mountain bikes, road bikes, bike repair, bike accessoreis, and so on.
The third major factor in SEO is links. Links to your site from other sites tell search engines that your site is legitimate and viewed as valuable by people interested in cycling (or whatever it is you happen to sell). The best way to get links is to have great content on your website, content that is informative, easy to read, and useful to people that visit your site. In time, this garners organic links, or links that are established by people who have nothing to do with your website.
There are also many linkbuilding strategies that good SEO companies can engage in to create links to your site. Some linkbuilding strategies can verge on black hat (or ethically questionable) territory though, so be careful. Search engines such as Google can actually remove your site from ranking consideration if they find you are engaged in black hat techniques.
Social signals (Facebook ‘likes’ and shares, retweets on Twitter, Google +1s) are also becoming more important in the eyes of search engines, particularly Google and Bing. While these social signals aren’t links per se, they are beginning to function in a similar manner by letting the search engines know what websites are creating valuable content that is appealing to people.
There are many other important factors in SEO – web design, traffic analysis, meta-tags, image optimization, the age of your domain (older domains carry more weight with search engines)—but keywords, quality content, links and social signals are the biggest factors (or at least the easiest to explain). This is by no means an exhaustive list of what goes into SEO. But at least now you can explain it to your friends.
SEO is a big job, and an important one. Let a quality SEO firm like SonicSEO.com get your website in tip-top shape.