Search engine optimization or SEO is the practice of trying to get your Web site to appear higher in a search engine’s organic search results for the keywords for which you want to be listed. The idea is that if someone is searching for a term that is related to your business, you want to be listed at the top of the search results page because that person will be more likely to click on your listing and come to your Web site. Organic search results are the “natural” search results, or the listings that are free. More about organic vs. paid listings below.
There are many factors that contribute to where sites are listed in organic search results – the combination of these factors is called the “algorithm.” Only some of these factors can be impacted with SEO tactics:
- Domain name - If your keywords are listed in your URL, you’ll have a better chance of being ranked higher in the search results for those terms.
- Duration - The longer your site has existed, the higher you’ll be ranked.
- Content – If you have high-quality content on your Web site, and the content matches the keywords for which you’re trying to rank, you’ll have better luck getting listed. It’s also beneficial if your site has frequently updated content.
- Metadata – This is data that allows you to describe your Web site with a title, description and keywords. Metadata sits behind the scenes on your Web page and plays a factor in organic search results.
- Incoming links – If your site has a number of other sites pointing to it, the search algorithms will determine that it’s of higher value and will list it higher in the search results. You will get an even bigger benefit from incoming links if the text that links to you contains the keywords for which you’re trying to rank.
SEO may sound like a relatively simple concept, but there are SEO experts who execute these tactics full-time and trust me – it’s more complex and difficult than it sounds. This post is just meant to be a starting definition of the term, and not a how-to or training guide in any way. For that info, follow the resources links below.
One quick comment about organic vs. paid search listings: All the various search engines display both free and paid listings on their search results pages. For example, if you type the term “SEO” into Google, the results that you get back will be a combination of organic (or natural) search results and paid search results. The screenshot below has the paid search results areas circled in red.
Let me say again that SEO can be fairly complicated and I am just scratching the surface with this definition. I definitely recommend checking out some of these additional SEO resources:
- Wikipedia’s SEO definition
- SEO Chat – articles and insight into SEO
- Search Engine Strategies – Conference series that covers SEO in great depth
- Search Engine Watch
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