Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website so that it appears higher in a search engine's unpaid results.
If you have a website, and you want to increase the amount of free traffic you receive from search engines, the process undertaken to improve your website's performance is called search engine optimization, or SEO for short. Search engine traffic earned in this way is referred to as “organic”, “natural”, or “earned” traffic, and websites that receive lots of organic traffic are more likely to enjoy prolonged popularity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I make sure my website is optimized for search engines?
There are two basic ways to increase the traffic that arrives at your website. You can either pay for it by placing ads at other websites, or you can earn it by optimizing your website's search performance. The downside to paying for traffic is that once you stop paying, the traffic stops coming. In addition, when you pay for traffic, you have to find a way to make each visitor more valuable than what it cost to acquire a single visitor. Organic or earned traffic is free, and relatively stable provided you continue to update and improve your website. Most successful websites are built on a foundation of strong organic traffic.
What are some of the key concepts in SEO?
Search engine optimization is going to look different for every website, and different SEO specialists employ different strategies. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to SEO, if you want to improve the performance of your website, consider implementing the following basic strategies:
- Know and use your keywords: Know which search terms you want to target and make sure you use them regularly, though not excessively, throughout your website. Drop them into blocks of text, use them in page titles, include them when creating page URLs, and use them when naming image files.
- Create links between pages on your site: If you write an article about one topic that is closely related to a topic you've written about previously, be sure to include a link from each article to the other. Don't go overboard with this strategy, but use it as appropriate.
- Create a sitemap: Search engines are better able to pick up every page on your website if you have a regularly updated sitemap.
- Use readable and relevant URLs: Don't create nonsense URLs. Readable URLs that are related to the content on the page are used by both search engines and website visitors to determine the relevance of a web page.
- Update your website regularly: Create a schedule for adding new content to your site, and stick to it. Search engines prefer sites that are updated regularly.
While this list of SEO tips is far from exhaustive, implementing these strategies will get you started in the right direction.
What are some bad SEO practices?
Search engines are constantly getting better at sniffing out tactics that attempt to manipulate search engine results. When a search engine identifies a strategy consistently used to manipulate results they will often begin to penalize or even completely remove sites that employ that strategy. If you're hiring an SEO specialist, make sure they aren't doing any of these things:
- Keyword stuffing: Some SEO specialists will load a single page with your keywords dozens or hundreds of times, and then hide the content, so that it is visible to search engines, but not to website visitors. However, this practice is frowned upon by leading search engines, and offending sites are often severely penalized and experience a dramatic search results ranking drop.
- Paying for links: Search engines love websites that are linked to by lots of other websites. However, search engines hate paid links, actively work to identify them, and penalize offending websites.
- Duplicate content: In the past, some SEO specialists recommended duplicating your website contents on more than one domain. However, today's search engine algorithms penalize duplicate content.
If you're looking for an SEO specialist, and they recommend any of these strategies, keep looking.