What is Search Engine Optimization?

Whether you are responsible for operating a company website or trying to generate passive income from a personal blog, you've heard of SEO before.

Whether you are responsible for operating a company website or trying to generate passive income from a personal blog, you've heard of SEO before. Perhaps you even think that you know all there is to know about this subject. Before deciding that you already have enough information, step back and take a fresh look at SEO. Here are some basics that may help you figure out how to utilize this important online strategy to better advantage.

A Simple Definition

The best place to learn about anything is by starting with the basics. SEO is short for search engine optimization. The term refers to a collection of activities designed to improve the rankings of your web pages in search engine results. Those pages may be posts on your blog, specific topics you address on your website, or even something you create for a business page on a social media site.

One of the mistakes that many people make is assuming they can build websites or blogs in a way that wins favor from the major search engines without providing quality and authority to end users. While that may have been partially true in the early years of broad access to the Internet, that approach is no longer workable. Your goal is to make sure your pages offer something that is factual, relevant, and of value to readers. That in turn increases the odds of attracting positive attention from Google, Bing, and the other search engines.

If I Have Great Content Why Do I Need SEO?

Creating something that's high in quality is only the first step. You also need to make it easier for people conducting online searches to find your pages. That can be partially accomplished by word of mouth and possibly slipping an advertisement into the invoices you send out each month. What will you do to attract attention from readers who have never heard of your company or your blog before?

That's where the concept of seo comes into the picture. There must be something in your content and other page elements that attracts attention from the major search engines. Without that something, the engines never find your site and your traffic will remain low.

But Why Can't The Search Engines Find My Pages Without SEO?

Search engines are increasingly sophisticated, but the technology still needs something that works within their algorithms and makes a connection with web pages. Think of how many billions of pages compose today's Internet. What will motivate the engine to rank one page over one with similar content? The answer is one of the most basic forms of SEO: the keyword or keyword phrase.

Also known as a search phrase, the idea is to include keywords or phrases in your content that directly relate to the verbiage users include in their search engine queries. For example, a user types in a question like "why do I need an annual dental checkup?" If you happen to operate a website for a dental clinic and have a page that lists the reasons everyone needs a full checkup each year, and that content contains the phrase "annual dental checkup", the search engines will take notice and rank based on the quality and authority of your content.

Think of the keyword as being the thing that grabs the initial attention. Your excellent content is what holds that attention and keeps the search engines and the readers interested.

Are Keywords All There is to SEO?

Keywords and keyword phrases have been an important component of search engine optimization ever since the concept was developed. They are still essential. What has changed is how many resources fall into the broad category of SEO.

You may understand the importance of authoritative content, but have you thought about factors like page descriptions, image descriptions, and even how the pages are laid out? All these elements are also part of today's SEO strategies. Yes, keywords are not going anywhere soon, but remember they work best in tandem with other SEO approaches.

Is There a Wrong Approach to SEO?

There was a time when utilizing search engine tools to find out what phrases people were using in searches was basically all you needed. You could pepper your pages with those high-ranking phrases and watch them show up higher in search engine results. Those phrases didn't necessarily have to be directly related to the topic on your page. A tenuous connection was good enough.

This led to many website owners ordering content that tried to work in those valuable phrases as many times as possible. While it attracted attention for a number of years, Google and the other major search engines began to refine their algorithms to penalize rather than reward websites that promoted what was called keyword stuffing. Use this approach today and you consign your pages to the lowest possible ranking in any results.

Keywords and phrases must be utilized in a way that directly rates to and enhances your content. Tossing in something that's currently popular to draw attention to your sale of weed whackers won't work any more. Your keyword choices must be relevant to your description of the tool on sale, why consumers need them, or some other approach that supplies factual data the reader can put to good use.

It's not just the content that has to be relevant. The images selected for your pages must relate directly to the subject matter. Think of how a cityscape would have absolutely no relevance to a page about cultivating vegetable garden acreage. A more appropriate image would be a rolling hill of farmland sporting plots of carefully arranged vegetables.

Even the descriptions used for the pages and the images must be directly related to the subject matter. That means using elements that readers will find helpful.

Building Pages Properly is Easier Than Damage Control

If you are creating a blog or building a website from scratch, it pays to keep current search engine standards in mind. Your goal is always to provide helpful information that addresses the needs of readers. Within that context, you also want to make sure your page elements are indexable by the major search engines.

One of the things you have to understand is that when an engine is viewing your site, it doesn't see it the same way that a person would see the elements. Search engines use programs known as crawlers to locate and rank your content. Typically, crawlers focus on the elements that answer the questions or searches their readers employ.

Relevant keywords are seen by the crawlers, including whether they are being used within the standards set by the engine. Images, how fast the pages load, and whether your content offers information the reader can use all factor into the ranking. Ease of reading and viewing also make a difference. That's why elements like graphs, bullet lists, relevant images, and other resources must be part of every page design.

The nice thing about getting it right the first time is that you don't have to go back and change something that made an engine pass over your site in favor of a similar one. Using the tools provided by Google and other engines, you can monitor how well your pages are doing and how much of your traffic is resulting from searches. That tells you a lot about whether you need to refine the content on a page or if it's attracting the attention you want.

What If My Site is Outdated?

When you built your business website a decade ago, it got a lot of attention. That's not the case any longer. Your traffic is down a great deal, even though you promote it on social media and using other methods. What's wrong?

The short answer is your site is outdated. At one time, it was in compliance with the standards set by the major search engines. Those standards changed, but your site did not. The result is lower rankings and the ensuing decrease in traffic.

All is not lost. An expert in SEO can evaluate your site and determine what can be done. Perhaps there is still a lot of good elements, but other things need to be reworked or discarded. Little things like updating statistics on some pages might help. Better page and image descriptions could attract fresh attention from the search engines. Removing dated content and replacing it with more contemporary content will also breathe new life into the site.

There are times when your best bet will be to scrap the old site and create something new. An expert can design pages that are easy to navigate, speak directly to what you offer your readers, and include elements like video or animation that were lacking on the old site. Best of all, the expert designer can make sure your pages are optimized for mobile devices. That's important, since more readers use phones and tablets to look for answers than ever before. Once the new site is completed, tested, tweaked, and in general found to function properly and offer things your readers can use, route your URL accordingly and take down your old site.

Now is the time to update your understanding of SEO. Set aside what you learned years ago and approach the subject with an open mind. The right professional will help you see how to use search engine optimization properly and connect with an ever-expanding audience.

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