Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why We Do What We Do in SEO

Guest article by Jill Whalen

I hear from many people who want to be told exactly what they need to do to get high rankings and bring more targeted search engine traffic to their websites. I wish I could provide them with a straight answer, but every site has its own needs when it comes to SEO. Which means there's no exact rule that will work each and every time for any website.

One thing, however, that can help you figure out how to SEO your site is to learn the whys behind the specific techniques you always hear about. But to understand the whys, you first need to get the gist of how search engines work. Sounds scary, I know, but I'm going to make it as simple and painless as possible – so stick with me!

In very simplistic terms, there are 2 main components to the search engines: the crawler and the algorithm.

The crawler, which is sometimes referred to as a spider, a robot, or simply a bot, is what goes out on the web and fetches all the pages of information that it can get its virtual spidey legs on.

The algorithm (or algo) is basically the ranking formula that each search engine uses to determine the relevancy of any page that the crawler finds.

The search engines use this formula to decide – out of the pages that were previously fetched – which pages they should show for which keyword phrases that any searcher might type into the search box. Those keyword phrases are also sometimes referred to as a person's "search query."

While the algo is a formula, it's so complicated that it's not something you can simply reverse-engineer. The engines look at hundreds of factors and weigh them all differently. This is why you'll find that automated SEO software doesn't work well to increase your rankings.

Here's an interesting point – those hundreds of factors that go into the relevancy algorithm boil down to two major things:

What you say about yourself, and what others say about you.

Really. It's as simple (and as hard) as that!

"What you say about yourself" means the information you provide on your website, or the words that you write on your pages. The Internet is mostly a word-based medium. Every single web page has its own story to tell. Each page should be relevant to one or more search keywords or phrases. And each page's story helps the search engines understand which search queries the page is relevant to.

Make sense?

So now let's look at what others say about you. This aspect of how the search engines determine relevancy is known as the "off-page" criteria, and it's typically done through links.

That is, another site owner likes what you say or offer on your site, and wants to tell their own site visitors about it. The way they do this is by linking to your site – or a specific page of your site. Search engines take these links into account because what others say about you provides an additional layer of trust beyond what you say about yourself.

Still with me?

These two major factors – how search engines work and what they're looking for – help clarify what you need to do SEO-wise to keep them happy.

First, you need to steer clear of any technical issues that can impede the crawler from finding, reading and indexing the pages of your website. The easier you make it for them to do their job, the better chance your pages will have of showing up for relevant searches.

Which means you need to start on the SEO of your website from the very beginning. You're going to need lots of up-front research on keywords and other elements. You'll also need to make sure your content is written to appeal to both your users and to the search engines. While all of this *can* be done later, you'll save yourself tons of time if you plan your SEO before you ever start developing your website.

Then, once you've got a crawler-friendly website, you'll need to create pages that conform to the search engines' algorithms by making sure they are not only relevant to what people are looking for, but interesting and unique enough for others to want to link to them. You've also got to spend time getting the word out about your website, because even the greatest content in the world won't market itself!

I hope I've simplified the search engine process and SEO enough that you understand why you need to use the specific tactics that are involved. If you always keep the two major factors that search engines are looking for in mind – what you say about yourself and what others say about you – you'll always be able to make the right decisions for your website.

It's those two factors that drive the SEO process and fulfill its goal of helping your target audience find your website when they're seeking out exactly what you offer.

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor
search engine marketing newsletter. She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

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  1. In today's competitive environment, online marketing,search engine optimization for your target audience most cost effective marketing tool for your online business. As an important online marketing strategy that provides long-term success for your small business on the Internet is SEO.Search engine optimization Calgary

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I found you via your Etsy 'thread'. Until I began a blog I really had no idea about SEO. My goals for 2010 are to gain a better understanding of social media so that I can get optimal use from my website in marketing my work and to open an Etsy shop. I am currently doing a ton of research before I open anything. Posts like this are really great and I sure do appreciate your effort in putting this info out here.
    Thank you-

  3. I appreciate this article, after having just ordered my SEO 6 steps from Wings Dove, I have just begun to try and understand just how all this works, and step by step I am hoping to have more interest in my shop.

    Thanks for all of this.


  4. Jill puts it all in easy to understand language for someone as techno challenged as me. Thanks!

  5. What a great article! I started off reading one little thing, and now I've been reading for an hour. I have done the yahoo search and realized that there's only 22 spots for my etsy shop! I've made almost a sale everyday and I am content, but could you imagine if I understood my seo a little more!? WOW! Thanks so much for your article. I really appreciate it!

  6. Hi Mary!
    Thanks for posting a link to your blog! I will visit frequently and thank you again so much!

  7. very well written post. i have been long looking for some nice blogs on web design....keep up the good logo design