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Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website so that it attracts more visitors from search engines. The goal is to get your website to rank higher in the organic search results so that it is more visible to people who are looking for what you have via the search engines.

So, why is it important for your website to be listed on search engines? On Google alone, there are more than 3 billion searches done every day. Think about that. If your website is not indexed on Google, the number one search engine in America, you are potentially missing out on hundreds of chances for someone to visit your website and potentially buy your products or services. Practicing search engine optimization (SEO) can really improve website’s ranking and help you get found by your potential customers.

The job of a search engine is to provide you with relevant and useful information when you are looking for it. In order to find that information, search engines send out what are known as “spiders” to crawl through the web searching for that content. Those spiders try to figure out what each web page is about and from that data, they create a list of results that are relevant and useful to searches. Then they rank those results based on the popularity and authority of those websites. This ranking is what you see when you look at a search engine results page (SERP).

So, big search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are constantly indexing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of web pages. How do they know what to show on the SERP when you enter something into the search box? The search engines think about two main areas when deciding what your website is about and how to prioritize it.

  1. Content on your website: When indexing pages, the spiders scan every page of your website, looking for clues about what topics your website covers. They also scan your website’s back-end code for certain tags, descriptions, and instructions. For more information on where the spiders look, read “How to Write a Blog Post Using Keywords
  2. Who’s linking to you: As the search engine spiders scan web pages for indexing, they also look for links from other websites. The more inbound links a website has the more authority it has. Basically, every inbound link counts as a vote for that website’s content. Also, each inbound link holds different weight, sometimes called “link juice.” For example, a link from a highly authoritative website like Forbes (forbes.com) will give a website a bigger boost than a link from a small website.

If you were to do the same search query on different search engines, chances are you will see different results. That is because each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm that considers multiple factors in order to determine what results to show in the SERP when a search query is made.

A few factors that a search engine algorithm may consider when deciding what information to show in the SERP include:

  • Geographic location of the searcher
  • Link quality (reciprocal vs. one-way)
  • Web page content (keywords, tags,)
  • Historical performance of a listing (clicks, bounce rates, etc.)
  • Back end code or HTML of web page
  • Link type (social media sharing, link from media outlet, blog, etc.)

When developing an SEO strategy, it is best to split your plan into two buckets: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO covers everything you can control on each specific web page and across your website. Off-page SEO covers all aspects of SEO that happen off your website to get quality inbound links.

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