Class in Session: SEO 101

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Today I am tackling the nuts and bolts of Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

I’m sure I’m not the only Internet Marketing neophyte out there, so I wanted to share some SEO basics from a beginners’ point of view.

Here we go...     The building blocks of SEO

SEO is the process of improving the visibility and ranking of a website. Sure, we can create incredible websites, but do they serve a purpose if no one sees them? SEO is an online marketing method that works within the confines of search engines. This methodology leads to higher placement in search results, meaning more visitors to your website. Cha-Ching!

First, we need to understand how the search engines work before we can use SEO to benefit from them.

Search engines have a precise strategy to dictate a sites’ ranking. It all starts with a massive crawl of the “inter-web”. Let’s use Google as an example. Google will begin crawling through a seed set of websites to find where they link and how they contribute to the overall connectedness of the web. The most obscure website can link to the most well-traveled through chain of linked pages. As a result of this exploration, Google is determines the structure of the web. Next, Google categorizes the information by building a keyword inverted index. The keyword inverted index sorts pages by terms, phrases, and relevancy. After the index is created, Google calculates query independent metrics. Yikes, right? Put simply, query independent metrics reveals which sites are the most popular in the keyword inverted index. The calculation considers attributes that are important to the keyword, but also attributes of popularity and credibility.

Okay, so how do we use this knowledge to get a better ranking? The answer is Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is executed in two ways; on-page optimization and off-page optimization. For on-page optimization, it is important to determine which pages of a website should be recognized for which keywords. Search engines use these keywords to categorize and rank your page among other web pages. The keyword associated with page should be the most relevant to the content on that particular page and not necessarily content of the website as a whole. Once keywords and relevant landing pages are chosen, it’s time for some serious optimizing. This entails placing keywords in specific page elements:

 

A diagram of SEO tags

 
 
 
 
 
 
Page Title
Headers
Body Text
Link Anchor Text
Image Alt Text

 

 

It is important not to list keywords within these elements and instead allow them to flow naturally in the content. A website can be penalized for word stuffing on search engines otherwise. Keyword stuffing is considered an unethical search engine optimization technique because it lists unnecessary words in order to improve ranking or visibility on search engines. The word stuffing approach to SEO is dated and search engines target websites for this malpractice.

If a website is not yielding results from on-page optimization, it may be time to focus on off-page optimization. Off-page optimization is all about link-building. Companies like SEOmoz have developed a system for estimating the effectiveness of a link by measuring what they call page and domain authority. Websites with higher domain and page authority are the best sites to get links from. The more high-quality links a page has, the greater chance there is for it doing well on search engines. When acquiring links, the anchor text on the links should contain keywords relevant to the page to which they link. This helps search engines connect the dots between the linking site and your site. Link building improves popularity and hopefully credibility which favorable among search engines.

The ultimate goal of SEO is to receive a first-position ranking on search engine results for relevant keywords. Monitoring websites frequently for ranking improvement is the best way to qualify SEO efforts. Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for successful SEO. The site with the highest domain authority doesn’t automatically rank number #1 for their targeted keywords, just like a site with the most links won’t automatically rank #1. The best advice to take would be to stay current with SEO techniques and to play by the rules. Remember, Google is always smarter.

Now it’s time. Go forth and optimize. I know I will, Cha-Ching!