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Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The Basics

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The Basics

As Google rankings have become more significant, SEO has become more than just a buzzword: the quest to reach the top of search listings has spawned an entire industry, with hundreds of companies all competing to reach the top of their game. But with between 70-80% of traffic for most websites coming from search engines – and 80% of that from Google – it’s an industry you should pay attention to if you’re serious about increasing traffic to your website.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of making your website as search-friendly as possible through the appropriate use of keywords, coding, copy and link-backs.  While most SEO strategies concentrate on making websites Google-friendly, it’s a mistake to ignore other search engines: While Google enjoys an 81.22% market share, Yahoo! has a 9.21% share, Microsoft’s new search engine Bing has a 5.31% slice of the market and AOL’s search engine attracts 1.74% of search engine users.

One of the main factors SEO takes into consideration is keywords. When you optimize your site, you will analyze search data to target it towards certain terms – for example, ‘garden furniture’ – inserting the keywords into pages as often as possible.  Search engines also use linkbacks, or links from other websites to yours, to determine how high up the search listings your website should be. The more linkbacks you have, the higher up you’ll be – although the emphasis is more on quality than quantity. To paraphrase the idiom – a link from the CNN is worth much more than some obscure link directory.

Search engines also look at your website’s metatags – the invisible page titles and descriptions which appear on search engine listings, but not on the actual page. Use these to increase your ‘keyword density’ – the number of keywords inserted into a web page.  SEO uses HTML and other programming languages derived from it. At the moment, Google and other search engines cannot read complicated coding such as Flash or Javascript, although this may be set to change in the future.

Why do I need to optimize my website?

On top of the statistics we’ve already quoted – 80% of web traffic comes from search engines – a report has showed most people using search engines don’t look beyond the third page of results, so getting your site onto those all-important first three pages for your chosen search term should be a priority.
Because the internet allows even the smallest, most local shops to get business from across the world, merely relying on word-of-mouth is no longer sufficient. If the goods or services you sell are unique, you’ll want prospective customers to know about them, and the best way to do that is by making them show up in search.
Search engines want to expand their market share by making users’ experiences as useful as possible, so they need to return results relevant to people’s search terms. SEO helps to make your site more relevant to users’ search terms, making it appear higher up the results page – which in turn will drive more traffic to your website.

Checklist

SEO is the practice of making your website as search engine-friendly as possible
80% of web traffic comes from search engines
Don’t just concentrate on Google – other search engines make up almost 20% of the market share
SEO uses keywords to drive traffic to your site
Google uses linkbacks to determine how useful your site is
Programming languages such as Flash and Javascript are too advanced for Google to understand
Most people don’t look further than the third page of search results
SEO helps to make your searches more relevant

FAQ

Can search rankings vary?
Yes. Search engines’ spiders are constantly crawling and re-crawling your pages, looking for changes in content or numbers of linkbacks, and will alter your ranking accordingly.

Why is my website ranked highly on Yahoo!, but not on Google?
Different search engines use different algorithms and use different rules to determine where your site will come in their rankings, so there’s a good chance you could be placed differently on different search engines.

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