SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the art and science of making a web page more appealing to search engines. Over time, well optimized pages with quality content will rise to the top of the search engines for their most prominent keywords.
There are two major components of SEO:
- On Page Optimization (making sure your web pages are properly structured and the right keywords are made prominent)
- Off Page Optimization (gaining credibility through quality external links and social chatter)
The Goal of Search Engines
The primary goal of all major search engines is to place the most relevant and authoritative information at the top of their search results. Only by doing this can they ensure web surfers will faithfully return to use their search engine again and again to find what they are looking for.
If you want any page on your web site to rank highly in Google or elsewhere it must be considered by many sources to be an excellent source of information on a given subject. Put simply: get a lot of recognition on the web and you will rank highly in Google. Recognition comes in the form of well defined incoming links and social chatter.
A good way to understand how search engines work is to compare the Internet to a giant library. Let us imagine we are visiting our local public library because we love French wine and are considering a trip to the wine country in France. In a library we might look in the culinary section under "wines/french" to see which labels are considered the best. Then we might move to the travel books section under "France" to find books that would help us to know more about where to find the wineries we prefer. Obviously we would want the best, most current information available.
Before selecting a book most persons would browse the introduction or table of contents, perhaps read a paragraph or two and then review the brief summary about the author. Likely one or two books will stand out above the others as being higher quality and as such would be our choice for reading.
In the same way Google reviews each and every web page on the Internet and based on a complex algorithm decides which pages are more relevant. It has no way of knowing who actually authored each page so Google relies on the quality and number of recommendations made by others. For example: if you have a web page about French Wines and it is referred to as a "great source of information" by several major newspaper and wine related websites, chances are your web page will be at the top of the Google search results. Obviously it takes time to become well known as an authoritative source on any subject and so older sites with more links tend to move toward the top while newer sites with less recommendations tend to stay in lower positions.
Companies willing to spend a bit more in promoting their web site tend to move up in the rankings much more quickly due to the higher exposure.
Some Major Keys to Good SEO
- Have great content other people will want to link to.
- Get people talking about your website via Twitter, facebook or other social media/bookmarking sites. The more chatter amongst multiple users, the more Google will take notice of your website.
- Make sure your web pages are well structured so the right keywords are made to stand out.
Look for links that will bring more traffic to your website and be viewed as a good recommendation.
For more ideas on how to design a high quality web site be sure to read our Web Design Guide.