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An Introduction to SEO

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Search Engine Optimization, more commonly abbreviated to SEO, has been a field of huge growth in recent times and is a critical consideration for any website that is hoping to be found.

What is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the name given to the process of making a website achieve high ranking in search engine queries. The most popular search engine by a long margin (60% of all searches worldwide) is Google, and so most effort is put towards optimizing for that website.

How do you do SEO?

SEO is founded on good web design that consists of accessible and efficient code. Words or phases should be researched using online keyword popularity tools such as Overture and WordTracker to determine which keywords should be used in the text of your website. The ideal scenario is to find a keyword or phrase, or set of keywords or phrases that are frequently searched for, but are not found on many websites. Obviously, very popular searches will have many websites focussed on these keywords.

However, SEO is not only limited to keywords. Perhaps even more important is the authority that a domain has. Originally, this was determined by PageRank, but this has declined in importance as marketers have learned how to manipulate it. PageRank is a Google-created attribute that reflects a page’s importance: the higher the PageRank (out of 10), the greater authority and importance your website has, and normally, this is reflected in your ranking on search engines. How PageRank is determined is a closely guarded secret (by Google), but an important factor is the number of links from other websites to yours. The greater the number of links from high PageRanked websites, the higher your PageRank will be, and the better you will rank in searches.

Although the importance of PageRank appears to have declined, the authority of a domain is more important that ever. Google registered a term called TrustRank which may now play an important role in their search algorithm. TrustRank assigns a high degree of authority to a small core of very high respected websites. Pages linked to from these high authority websites receive a proportion of TrustRank, and so on. TrustRank is based on the assumption that high authority websites will only link to quality websites, and to gain a high TrustRank for your website, you should try and get links from websites likely to have high authority, e.g. universities, government and respected media.

The Long Tail

Graph showing the Long Tail effect

The Long Tail shaded in red

A Long Tail when applied to SEO is a term used to describe niche areas that in total receive greater interest or traffic than mainstream areas. For example, “books” is a very popular search term, whereas “antique art books” is much less popular. However, if you can optimize your website for those search terms, although you will not have as many people searching for the term, you are much more likely to be one of the top results returned. Furthermore, and most importantly, the people that have found your website are much more likely to be interested in your content, than if they were just searching for books. The Long Tail effect enables smaller specialist websites to survive and thrive, and it is important to consider when choosing your keywords.

When should you do SEO?

It is best to start SEO before you write the content of the website. This way you can ensure the keywords you have targeted are well incorporated into your text, in prominent positions, such as page titles, near the top of your page content, in headers, and emphasized in bold or in italics. However, if your website has already been made without considering SEO, you can still go back and make amendments to the website content and design if necessary.

What you should not do

With the growing importance of search engines on the Internet as a method of finding information, SEO has become big business. There are now thousands of specialized businesses offering SEO alone, many making bold promises such as a guarantee of a top 10 rank in Google. Approach such offers with care, as you may be paying for a top 10 rank in a search phrase that receives no traffic at all!

You must also be exceptionally careful not to try and trick search engines. There are a huge number of dirty tricks that can be done to try and increase your ranking on searches, such as websites filled with thousands of links linking to yours. It is possible that such schemes may bring you temporary success, but it is almost guaranteed that your trickery will be found out, and then you can expect to be stripped of your rank, and possibly banned for good from the search engines. This is a risk that will not pay off.

Best practice

While SEO is essential to consider when trying to get a top-ranking site, if you have a website filled with quality content, and you are able to promote it so that other websites link to it, this is arguably the most important strategy you can employ. Although assorted SEO strategies and fads come and go, if you are producing good quality text that is useful, you are already giving your website a headstart. “Content is King” is the catchphrase coined to illustrate the importance of this.

Real Free Websites will help you consider and focus on SEO throughout the development of your website.

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One Response to “An Introduction to SEO”

  1. Quick SEO Tip Says:

    […] that the anchor text of a link (i.e. the text that is clickable in a link) is very important for search engine optimization. Search engines see the anchor text as being a description of the target of the link. For example, […]

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