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A Short, Easy Introduction to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

by David Masters · 2 comments

What is SEO?

SEO is Marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a way of marketing your business online.

Good marketing means helping the right people find your products or services.

If you want people to find you, you’re best to place yourself where they’re already looking.

Where does the modern consumer go to search for answers to their problems?

Google, Bing or Yahoo. In other words, search engines.

Hitting Google’s Front Page

SEO aims to get your website on the front page of Google for search terms chosen by you.

For example, let’s say you’re the best hair stylist in San Francisco. When customers need your services, they’ll most likely search for “hair stylist in San Francisco”. You want to optimize your website for this phrase.

That way, your website will show up on the first page of Google, you’ll get more traffic to your website, and more bookings.

But to get onto the front page of Google, Yahoo or Bing, you must know how search engines work.

Fortunately, you can just get to grips with the basics. There’s no need for intricate technical know-how.

Just like you can drive a car without knowing how to take apart a gasoline-fired engine, you can optimize your website for search without knowing exactly how search engines are coded.

How Search Engines Work

This is a simplified overview to give you a broad understanding of how search engines rank websites. The higher they rank your website, the higher you show up in search results.

Search engines rank every page on your website using three basic criteria: keywords, links and traffic.

Keywords

Keywords are another way of saying the search term you want to rank highly for.

For example, your keyword might be gardening tools, free crochet patterns or apocalyptic fiction. A keyword can be anything your customers would search for.

The point is that you want to rank highly for the keyword.

To optimize a page on your site for a specific keyword or phrase, you’ll need to use the keyword on the page in:

  • The page title
  • The metatags
  • Subheadings
  • Around 3-5% of the text

Keywords alone aren’t enough to give you a high ranking on Google, and if you overstuff keywords, search engines will notice and rank down your website.

Links

Search engines love links. Links to your site show that you’re popular. Links to other sites show you care about your visitors and aren’t just promoting yourself.

A few years ago, any links to your site helped your search ranking. This led to link-farming, where you could pay to have thousands of links to your page.

Nowadays, search engines frown on link farming, and can even downrank your website if you use link farms.

If you want to rank highly, you need links from quality websites such as blogs and forums in your niche. Getting these links takes time and energy (e.g. by guest posting, or hanging out in forums), but it’s worth it to boost the rank of your site.

Traffic

Search engines also look at the traffic to your site, and within the different pages of your site.

The more traffic a page has, and the more people hang out on your site, the higher search engines will rank you.

The Real Secret to SEO: Provide Immense Value

Keywords are in your control.

Links are in your control, but only to an extent.

Traffic is beyond your control, unless you have very deep pockets and are willing to spend a fortune on advertising.

What can you do to boost your links and traffic?

Provide immense value.

That’s what content marketing is all about: being as helpful as you can be.

The more value you provide, the more people will link to your website, and the more traffic you’ll get.

David Masters is Social Caffeine’s lead writer, idea spinner and super-blogger. You’ll find his inky fingerprints all over the web at blogs from ProBlogger to Men with Pens to The Change Blog. He’s British, and he lives in Wales, but we don’t hold that against him.

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