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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - What is it?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the technique of creating web pages that will rank high in organic search results. "Organic" means "free" (also known as "editorial" or "natural"). These are the results that were not paid for as part of an advertising campaign.

It's a fact that 95% of clicks are on links from the first page of search results. That leaves only 5% of clicks for the second page and the dozens of pages after that. Obviously, getting on the first page of results is absolutely critical and it doesn't matter if the search engine is Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any of the others.

In theory, it's not hard to get on the first page: you 'just' have to provide content that is valuable to readers so search engines show it first in results but what does that mean?

Imagine that you are a librarian but not just any librarian; you are the librarian of the world and millions of people come to you every day with questions. How can you answer those questions? How do you give the best answers possible?

You would need to have an idea of what is in every book. You'd need a system for remembering what you had seen and how to find it. You would also want to know how books are related.

Search engines like Google and Bing act like librarians. They 'read' every page they find, 'think' about it, and then 'take notes' about what they've seen. The engines are different because each one has collected its own set of pages, its own way of arranging the data, and its owm method for looking for answers in that data. These different ways are the 'secret sauce' that they use to compete with each other.

There are things that are used in every 'secret sauce': the text on the page, the title of the page, the number of other websites that link to the page, the words used by those other websites in those links, the reputation of the site, and the reputations of the sites that link to it.

The text on a page is analyzed and the different words seen are noted. Also noted is how those words are used (context) so it's not enough to just put a lot of words on a page, those words have to make sense. Actually, putting words on a page that don't don't have a good context will hurt!

The title of the page is also looked at as it's supposed to be the main indication of what the page is about. However, context still matters. If your title is a hot current topic but the text of the page isn't about that topic, that will hurt your ranking!

The next two items are related: links to your page and the words in those links. Search engines leverage the work of individuals by considering if your page was thought to be important enough to be linked to. If a lot of pages link to your page, your page will rank higher in results.

However, do not try to cheat by just creating pages to link from. The number of pages that link to the pages that link to your page is considered! If a hundred pages link to your page but no pages link to those hundred pages, you will likely be penalized.

Search engines also look to see what words were used to create the link. For example, a link like

You can find a lot of information about ecommerce here.

is not as helpful as

This is a site with a lot of information about ecommerce.

because people don't search for "here", they search for "information about ecommerce".

Now we get down to where the real work is: reputation. The things discussed above are largely mechanical in nature and everyone can do them easily. Reputation takes effort.

Reputation is determined by factors such as:

  • How much content does a site have?
  • How often is new content added?
  • How well-written is that content?
  • What is the reputation of the sites that link to you?

If you want your website to rank high in search engine results, you have to make certain your site is interesting to your readers and that it's a site they will come back to again and again.

Speaking of coming back... Don't forget to bookmark this blog so you can come back for more information, as it is posted!

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