A quick guide to the basics of SEO – Search Engine Optimizarion
July 27th, 2010• • 6 min read
Starting a new website can be an exciting project and many people get swept along without ever performing adequate preparation, planning and research. All too often, a website is designed and unleashed in a hurry with no attention being paid to one of the most important aspects involved with website development – search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is crucial if a website ever hopes to stand a chance of being ranked by search engines. Whilst there are numerous other techniques that will bring visitors to a website – the majority of traffic will come via search engines, so it is vitally important to get SEO organized before, and during, any website development process.
SEO can be a massive subject – there are masses of online forums, websites, guides and tutorials available on the topic and a lot of people, and companies, have become very wealthy by dedicating themselves to providing SEO services.
If you are considering starting up a new website but are not too sure what SEO really entails, here is a brief summary of what Search Engine Optimization is all about.
SEO – The Basics
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has developed into a very specialized technique over the years. In the past, getting a search engine to index, and rank, a website involved nothing more complicated than some simple keyword stuffing in Meta tags and content.
Webmasters would choose a few keywords that they wanted to rank for and simply ‘stuff’ these words into Meta tags, Alt tags and content. It did not matter if the content became almost unreadable – search engines were not that advanced and simply scored the site on the amount of times a particular keyword, or keyword phrase, was present. If someone searched for ‘fast weight loss’ and a site has that phrase littered all through its content – there was a high chance that it would show up in the search results.
Thankfully, search engines have evolved and now actively discourage keyword stuffing by penalizing websites that use this technique – either by de-indexing, sandboxing, or burying the site way down the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), where it will never be found.
Keywords though, remain as important as ever – they are essential to the whole foundation of the search principle. Whenever anyone types a search query into their favorite browser, a search engine needs to be able to provide that searcher with relevant results and it does this by using keywords (and some more advanced techniques).
Keywords then, are a massive part of Search Engine Optimization and have even become a separate specialization for many companies – there are many businesses and individuals that are solely dedicated to keyword research and keyword strategy and implementation.
In essence, keywords are the brain of Search Engine Optimization and this brain has to be connected to other components by a chain of cleverly organized pathways, called links. Links can be internal or external and play an important role in helping search engines find their way around and collate relevant information for search users.
Internal links help visitors and search engines find their way around a website. They help site navigation and a search engine bot, crawler, or spider will use these internal links to index a website and locate external links to other websites. Good internal link architecture is crucial to ensure other pages, other than the homepage, are discovered by a search engine crawler. Internal link structure is highly regarded by search engines when they assess site relevance and score.
External links connect one website to another. External links can be seen as a type of voting system – the more links leading to a particularwebsite, the more votes it has and the more popular, or relevant, it appears to a search engine. A vote to a website from another site is known as a ‘backlink’ and there are various types of these links.
If two websites link to each other this is called a ‘reciprocal link’, these are popular but not considered as authoritative as a one-way link – this is when one site points to another without the favor being returned. External links are also scored on the authority of the site they come from – so if a link to a website come from a site that is popular and highly-regarded, this link will carry more ‘link juice’. These links will also be deemed more worthy if they come from sites that are topic-relevant.
Linking is another major part of SEO, and again, many companies specialize in providing linking services. The main thing to remember is that good links will use anchor text containing primary keywords to further enhance the websites keyword relevance to search engines. A search engine crawler following a link that announces it is ‘dog training in Texas’ will be more inclined to relate the site to that keyword than if it followed a non-descript link. Anchor text links are essential and bring us back full circle to keywords again.
You may now be starting to realize that SEO is mainly about keywords, and making sure that search engines establish the connection between your website and its keywords. There are many other techniques that Search Engine Optimization adopts to manipulate search engines but they all come back to keyword promotion.
Keywords are placed in headings, titles and domain names. They are bolded and italicized in content body and used in H1-H3 tags to further drive home the fact that they are important. Whilst it is no longer possible to simply fill a site full of these keywords and wait to be ranked, there are many ways to promote keywords without been labeled as a keyword spammer.
SEO has many facets, but for anyone that is new to website development and fazed by the amount of information available on SEO, the easiest thing to remember is that the majority of all SEO work will involve incorporating keywords into a website. This can be achieved via tags, content, domain names and internal links and then promoting these keywords using external anchor text links.
By concentrating on this simplified summary and starting off by learning more about keyword research and link architecture, any new website developer will be heading in the right direction for achieving search engine success by using good SEO practices.
– DM Gray