Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The methods used to boost the rankings or frequency of a Web site in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site. Dictionary.com
How Search Engines Search
Search Engines use complex algorithms to systematically search the internet for results. These algorithms have been modified and reprogramed over the years in order to guarantee the most organic search results. First of all, for every search, there are natural and paid listings. Natural listings are the results that come back for every search based on the search engine’s algorithm. Paid listings are the results that show at the top of the page (for google, the paid listings are highlighted in a yellow box) that owners of websites pay the search engines to show first.
Anyone can pay to have a website shown at the top of a search, but SEO is about organizing a website in such a way that it shows up in the natural listings. Search engine algorithms focus on four main factors
- On the page factors
- Off the page factors
Each of these four main factors is then split into several subcategories of factors, which are then split again into more specific categories. These factors are measured and weighed. When all the factors are tallied and accounted for, websites are then ranked. Some factors are worth more than others, but all SEO factors are important.
On the Page SEO
On the page SEO factors include Content, HTML, and Architecture. Here the search engine will look at quality of the content, not the quantity. Is the content engaging? Is it fresh? What research has been done to support the content? And what are the words within the content? Search engines also delve into the coding of a website. the HTML is scanned for titles, descriptions, and headers. And finally, search engines evaluate the architecture of a website: crawl, speed, and URLs. These are all factors that can be controlled by the creator of the website.
Off the Page SEO
Off the page SEO factors include links, social aspects, trust, and personal factors. How many other sites link to a site, and what is the quality of those sites? Does a site have a good reputation, and do others share the site often? Is there a history of quality information, and what authority runs the site? What’s the reputation of that authority? Then there are personal factors. Is the site based in the same country as the searcher? These are factors that are not directly within the creator’s control.
Search engines can detect SEO, and they can detect false SEO, or “spamming.” If a website uses techniques that search engine developers have deemed violations, that website loses points and rankings. Fooling search engines is difficult. It’s better to simply practice good SEO to improve rankings.
Blocking is a factor that is completely within the searcher’s power. Searchers can decide what websites they don’t like and which ones they don’t think are useful. Even if these websites score well in all the other SEO factors, blocking allows the people to decide what they want to see. One individual blocking a website can affect that website’s rankings for other searchers.
Google’s Panda Update
Google released an update for its search algorithm. Changing roughly 12% of its search results, this update known as Panda is one of the largest and most noticeable changes to its algorithm. The update’s goal was to reduce the rankings of websites with low-level content. It’s not known how exactly the Panda algorithm evaluates the content of a website, but it searches for and penalizes those websites known as “content farms” and spamming websites.
Tips for Improving Search Engine Optimization
Improving SEO is important for a website to be found through a search engine, and nowadays, most people find businesses and services using search engines.
Search engines scan the coding of websites. By adding keywords, phrases, and descriptions to a website’s coding, the search engines can gather useful information about that website. Not having keywords in the coding, specifically in the title, can severely lower a website’s ranking. If the title tag of a website’s coding doesn’t actually mention a business’s name, it is unlikely that business will show up in a search, even if that search is for that business specifically.
Search engines look for and count all the links that lead back to a website. The more people link to a website, the better its ranking. Because inbound links aren’t directly within the creator’s control, work has to be done to encourage others to link to a site. Asking other businesses is a simple method, and it is customary to link their site in return. Other ways to get a website’s name out is by posting on other sites, discussion forums, wikis, and business sites.
The homepage of a website is usually the first thing a visitor sees. It is also usually where links lead. The homepage needs to express simply and elegantly exactly what that business is. Most people will judge within the first thirty seconds whether or not they’re going to stay on a website. Having an attractive and informative homepage is an easy way to get visitors and return visitors. Search engines can monitor the traffic to a website. The more traffic, the higher the ranking.
Don’t get so caught up in SEO that content suffers. Having quality content will not only ensure return visits from potential customers, but also it will improve search engine rankings. Quality is, in this case, more important than quantity. Search engines will be able to tell if a website’s content is simply packed with keywords, and that will earn the website a violation due to “spamming.” Using quality and original content is far easier and better for ranking than trying to fool search engines.
Don’t Try to Fool Search Engines
Over the years, improvements to search engine algorithms have been made to stop the attempts to fake SEO. Attempting to fool search engines, in most cases, will end up hurting search rankings. By taking the easy route and copying content or packing content with keywords, a website can get banned from search engine results.
Improving SEO takes time. There is no instant gratification. Do the work, put some effort into it, and good SEO will pay off in the long run.
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Sullivan, D. (2011, February 24). Google Forecloses on Content Farms with “Panda” Algorithm Update.