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Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Jan 10, 2008
For those unfamiliar with the practice of search engine optimization, also known as the acronym SEO for short. SEO involves utilization of a series of strategies, tactics and techniques to streamline the content on your pages that make them more appealing for search engines spiders (the programs that scour the web and index your pages). As a result, such pages rank higher in organic positions (non sponsored / natural search results) otherwise known as search engine result pages (or SERPs).

SEO can be broken into two distinct categories. On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. You may ask what is the difference between the two?

On-page SEO deals with factors you have immediate control over such as:

1) the content - which involves the keywords your use (what you want to be found for).

2) The titles on the page - undoubtedly one of the most important factors for organic (natural) rankings in search engines. The title in conjunction with the content alone, using a content management system such as a word press blog with a few custom plug ins, are more than enough to provide consistent high ranking search engine results.

3) The layout and usability / stickiness factor of your pages.

4) Selection of The programming language and platform (static html pages, XHTML, .php, .asp. .cfm, etc.) Each has certain advantages based on the needs of your content.

5) Usability, one of the foremost aspects of design, it must serve a purpose to elevate the user's navigation and encourage them to dig deeper and spend more time on your site.

and then, there are "The Off Page SEO Factors" such as:

1) Having a clean hosting environment (free of spam laden or MFA/Made for Adsense Sites). As well as low quality crash and burn websites which could sabotage your rankings, if they are hosted on a shared IP address with those types of sites.

2) Server side issues such as having the right .htaccess files, robots.txt files, and proper server configuration to eliminate duplicate content or other known issues that can interfere with achieving a high search engine position.

3) Internal linking - how the sites navigation is established, which pages are linked to which as well as the site architecture and internal structure. Internal links determine which page is given the most significance, if a page has the prominent features on the homepage, then all other pages should link to the home page with anchor text (the text in the link) using the keywords (the terms you want to rank for) with at least one link from each page.

Other methods include theming and siloing which is a method that devises a very organized site structure (using folders and links to determine which pages rank highest and for which terms). Virtual theming involves using content that semantically uses relevant keyword-rich content and folder names (naming conventions) with information segmented into specific categories to augment search engine rankings.

Such structures with content aligned in succinct fashion in coupled with strategic link building can produce web pages that skyrocket straight to the top of search engines (for highly competitive terms) as a result of careful planning and consistent link development. Depending on the trust factor and authority of sites linking to you, your content can literally acquire traction within 4-6 months from a virtually new site (before SEO), and emerge through chrysalis as a holistic, niche specific ranking juggernaut.

4) How you utilize your own websites internal linking structure (in conjunction with keyword and links) can determine if your website ranks for a number of less competitive terms (like a flashlight), or establishes it's sights on a lofty competitive term (like a laser beam) and acquires it through using a tactful array of semantically varied external links (links from other websites using the main keywords) via off page link building (to link back to your website from other sites).

5) External links and Link Building - Finding seasoned websites with authority from the same niche provide the most "link juice" back to your website. Quality is more important than quantity, hence having an extensive link develop program involves careful consideration and thoughtful planning.

The basis of any link building campaign is scrutinous keyword research, where one carefully evaluates the potential for traffic and relevance from visitors that will eventually find your site as a result of conducting searches in search engine queries.

The idea is, to successfully implement enough relevant On-page SEO (content/text and the core of the website) and align it to your Off-page SEO (holistically, like a homing beacon) to elevate your pages for specific keywords that you determine through which anchor text you put in the back links or how other link to you.

Although, once you understand the process, as it may seem simply systematic, each website has a unique threshold of criteria that are required to unlock it's optimal search engine visibility.

Factors such as market conditions (the competition), On-page factors such as design, layout, traffic to the page (and link popularity), proper W3C compliant coding (an industry standard) as well over 200 additional variables are all calculated in an instant and returned out of the top 1000 search results every time a search is conducted. Such variable are calculated and recalculated for relevance as search engine algorithms (the ranking criteria) distinguish the highest potential match for the search query entered in a search box.

If your page or pages have all of the necessary ingredients, then they are promoted past the numerous thousands of other lackluster pages for that topic (sometimes millions of pages) that neglected to adhere to the known SEO factors and guidelines that search engines reward and elevate respectively.

The first thing you should understand is, that content is the true basis of rankings, so what you write and how you compose your content has a profound ability to impact rankings and relevance for the who, what and where your information will appear, and how it is acted upon. Turning window shoppers into customers is called conversion, conversion is the goal of SEO (to close a sale, to increase readership of a blog, to have more RSS really simple syndication subscribers, lead-generation, or just filling out a form) all are forms of conversion starting from the time they click the title and enter your page.

Knowing this, you can essentially pick a series of keywords, integrate them into savvy and compelling post or articles and use viral marketing methods such as article marketing (like you are reading now using other websites who exchange content for back links), social media (that provides the ability to network, share your content and vote on it for link / story popularity) and link building (to develop authority and trust for your blog or website pages and drive pre-qualified traffic from search engines).

All of these methods used in concert allow you to influence the probability of attaining a high ranking position for multiple keywords. This is the key to securing traffic and revenue, specifically crafted pages with extremely relevant links equal satisfied visitors who reciprocate in kind through their actions (purchasing your product or service) if all of the "feel good" pass the muster.

I hope this article sheds some light on search engine optimization and the stages involved. The fundamentals expounded upon are an excellent SEO 101 primer regarding website promotion and understanding search engine optimization.
About the Author
Jeffrey L. Smith is an seasoned search engine optimization specialist and CEO of Seo Design Solutions Search Engine Optimization Services. Jeffrey has been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings fresh optimization methods and SEO Services to businesses seeking PPC alternatives and competitive organic search engine positioning.
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