How are people supposed to find your site through search engines amid the millions of other websites populating the information super highway? This article explains the basics of SEO to people who know what the term means, but aren’t sure exactly what it is or how it works. When thinking about how SEO works, the best way to look at it is this: Google wants to promote legitimate, unique, high-quality, reputable websites, and filter out spammed sites, filler content, and low quality sites.
The relevance of your site to a given set of search terms is determined by keywords pulled from your content. As long as your site’s text content — in page titles, file names, meta tags, and site content — is articulated appropriately to the search terms your audience would choose, then this part should be straightforward. Web designers are aware of these basics.
Google measures a site’s “reputation” by the quantity and quality (reputation) of backlinks, or inbound links coming from other sites. This is similar to Facebook’s “like” button. A site’s “reputation,” or authority, then determines a site’s placement on the search results page for given key words. Everyone wants to increase their sites ranking on the search results page, because the top sites receive exponentially more hits than lower sites.
Manipulating a site’s ranking in the search results is where SEO gets complicated. It involves keeping up with Google’s methodological changes and second guessing the Google algorithm. It is an esoteric and fast-paced industry that has become the domain of internet marketing companies and code-savvy internet marketers.
Most businesses rightfully stay away from this technical field, which can get murky with questionable methods and ethical debates. The bottom line for most companies is to increase their search engine results while maintaining ethical marketing standards. This is the safest way to ensure that sites don’t get penalized by Google.
On-site SEO means making sure your site is well-designed, containing text that is appropriate to your site’s concept. It is important to make sure the main idea, product, or service of your site is articulated clearly within the text portions of your web pages. This includes page titles, meta tags, and site content. Google only reads text, so text conatined inside of images does not get read, but the image pop-up captions can be read by the Google bot. Web designers are generally aware of these requirements.
Google attempts to filter out those who would manipulate the system, so two-way linking tends not to help, and can even hurt site rankings. Circular linking, where a group of sites link one direction, in a circle, also gets penalized. Link farms, or sites which only exist to provide backlinks to other sites, don’t really help either. Networks of sites which interlink to one another get demoted, duplicate content gets demoted, as does any other activity which could indicate subversive SEO manipulation.
Keeping up with the inner workings of the SEO field tends to be a highly competitive, technical, and time-consuming endeavor, best left to tech gurus.
As long as your site is well-designed and your content clearly articulates your site’s function, internet marketing is a matter of reputation-building and customer outreach, by means of the various new media channels.