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What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Aug 19, 2008
Search engine optimization (SEO) are various methods which are used in order to improve the search engine ranking of a website. So what is search engine ranking? This is the position on the list of results which a search engine return for a given keyword.

Why is search engine ranking important?

The higher your site is on the list of search engine result pages (or SERPs), the higher the likelihood that it will be seen; meaning more traffic for you. The most popular search engine, Google features 10 results per page. Most people don't look past the first page of results - this is why SEO is so important. If your page is in the top ten results you will get far more traffic than if you were on later pages.

SEO techniques fall under two broad categories, on-page and off-page.

On Page SEO

These are the things which you can do on your actual site to increase your search engine ranking. This generally involves keywords and their use to let search engines know what the content of your site is about. These techniques include the placement of keywords in metatags, alt tags for images, keywords in your HTML header tags and the actual content of your site.

Off Page SEO

These are also related to keywords usage, as well as the creation of back links. A back link is a link on another website which points to your site and are also called inbound links.

Steps You Can Take To Improve Your SEO

1. Always use keyword and description meta tags.

Every page which is part of your website should have its own unique meta tags. These tags are pieces of HTML code which are found near the top of the page when you are looking at the HTML code of a webpage.

For a keyword meta tag, use a comma separated list of keywords which are relevant to the content of your website. These can be phrases as well as single words; just make sure that they are relevant to your site's content.

The description meta tag is where you should write a description of your site which is compelling enough to make someone want to visit it. This description is used by search engines (including Google) to describe your site. It is not for the search engine alone, it can also be seen by web users and can get them interested enough to visit.

2. Where there are images on your site, there should always be an alt tag.

An alt(short for alternative text) tag is a piece of HTML code which tells people who have images turned off, are using text only browsers or a screen reader what the image which they cannot view is about. Search engines also use these tags to help them determine the content of your site.

The alt tag should also contain relevant keywords and a description of the image they are replacing. Rather than just placing "header" in your alt tag for a heading image, take this chance to help search engines know the content of your site - for instance "birdbaths" if your website is about birdbaths. Don't overstuff this tag with keywords though.

3. Use header tags wisely.

The header tags (known as H1, H2, etc.) are looked at search engines to find the important keywords are for your website. You can use style sheets to change the appearance of these tags. Instead, use standard HTML for these headers and not style sheets. Then all you need to do is make sure that these header tags contain relevant keywords - H1 the primary keywords, H2 the secondary and so on.

4. Get backlinks with relevant keywords.

You will want back links. All of the back links you can get. This should be an ongoing process as part of your SEO strategy. If you can get a few back links a week, this looks much better than getting 5,000 all at once - since these links will have been bought from a link farm, more than likely. Search engines watch for this kind of activity and penalize pages who use these tactics.

However, there are plenty of other ways to get back links. You can go the traditional route and exchange links with other sites. You can also become active in forums and use your link in your signature. Articles which you write can be submitted to directories, with a link to your site in the resource box. HubPages and Squidoo lenses can be built which include links to your site. You can also start a blog and submit the RSS feed to an aggregator, encouraging readers of your blog to follow suit. Twitter can be used to inform the public whenever you have new content up. These are just a few of the possibilities.

You will also want to come up with some good anchor text for your back links to use when possible. The anchor text is the text which is actually clicked as the link (usually visible by being blue and underlined on a website). Search engines also examine this text to determine the content of your site. Us your main keywords or variations on them - whatever looks more natural on the page while still being relevant to your site. Remember to use appropriate keywords for the specific page on your site which the link points to.

Sometimes you will not be able to specify the anchor text to be used. But when you can, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity. Reciprocal links between your site and another are a place where you can usually specify the text you'd like used. The other site owner probably won't mind, since they won't have to think about what text to use. You also are able to specify anchor text on HubPages and Squidoo lenses, as well as your signature in forum postings.

These are some of the basics of SEO. There is much more to learn of course, but these tips are a good place to start in a SEO campaign. Use these methods until they become ingrained. You'll see an increase in your page ranking as well as your traffic.
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