Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of ensuring that a website can be read by search engines, and that the site is well regarded in the greater Internet community to the extent that it appears in competitive positions on search engines. Although this definition may seem a bit unwieldy, the field of SEO and search engine marketing can experience many changes over the space of a few months. As a result, SEO professionals and consultants have to stay up-to-date on new search engine rules, emerging trends, and new opportunities as they arise.
To understand SEO, it pays to start by understanding search engines like Google™. Google gets its information by reading your website using an automated tool known interchangeably as a “robot” or “spider.” Most people call the tool a spider because it crawls through the pages on your “web” site. It finds new pages by looking at all the links on every page, and following those links until it can’t find any more. At the same time, it reads and stores all the information on each page.
When someone does a search on Google, the engine will compare the search term to all matching words and phrases on every relevant page on the Internet, then it will create a list of the best matches. The search engine uses a set of rules called an “algorithm” to determine which pages come up first. If your website is the best match for the algorithm’s rules, then you will show up at the top of the list. The problem is that search algorithms contain quite a few secret rules, so you can only optimize your website for the rules that are well known.
Similarly, sites that are going after competitive keywords will also need to invest more time and money into their SEO projects. A website that sells athletic shoes may need several thousand links from other sources, and it will need to conform to multiple on-page specifications in order to get a decent search engine ranking. Normally an SEO project for a large or complex site will cost several thousand dollars and require extensive site design work. In cases like these, an experienced SEO company can ensure that all aspects of the project are in line with the most current search engine algorithms.
There are many nuances in the field of search engine optimization, but that shouldn’t stop you from either improving your website yourself or retaining professional SEO consultants. Optimization experts can point out a lot of the key factors that may be preventing your site from achieving the best rankings it can get. Even a well-executed do-it-yourself (DIY) SEO approach will offer some tangible dividends in addition to the educational value of an optimization project. In fact, many of the top SEO experts in the field got their start by experimenting with a small site, nurturing it to success, and then moving along to bigger projects. Even if you find that you need to retain professionals who can apply advanced strategies, you will still find that you are able to understand the reasoning behind a particular approach, and how it will help you increase the return on your website investment.