What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the practice of optimizing web pages for search engines. The goal is to have the pages appear higher in search results. Search engine algorithms take dozens of factors into account when ranking web pages, and these algorithms change regularly. The goal behind these algorithms is to present the most relevant and the best quality content first in search results.
The practice of SEO involves a number of tasks, for example:
- Research relevant keywords and use them in key places.
- Make sure that URLs are search engine friendly and that all links go somewhere.
- Set up traffic analytics and study traffic patterns and keywords to see how to improve the user experience.
- Generate regular new content and use relevant keywords in it.
- Manage internal and external link building.
White hat SEO versus black hat SEO
White hat SEO optimizes quality content to help bring people to the content they're looking for. People who don't know what SEO is shouldn't be aware of anything done for the benefit of search engines. Black hat SEO uses practices such as keyword stuffing (overuse of keywords to try to get a higher ranking), copied or poor quality content, and purchased links.
Black hat SEO is an attempt to trick search engines. It can get your site ranked lower in search results and sometimes banned from them. White hat SEO supports good content and helps it rank higher in search results.
How to optimize websites for search engines
Most SEO is done at the web page level. But a good starting point is to look at the site structure. Each page should have one main focus, and pages should have links to and from other pages.
Once the website structure is optimal for search engines, make sure that an XML sitemap is in place to help search engines find each page. Have a Google Webmaster account for your website so that you can view any problems search engine spiders may have.
The most important aspect of white hat SEO is good content. If you publish it, visitors will come. If you optimize it well, more visitors will come.
SEO and SMM
Related to SEO is SMM, or social media marketing. SMM is the practice of using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to increase your website traffic. SEO helps bring you traffic via search engines, while SMM helps bring you traffic via social media sites. Good content is the foundation for both.
Putting it all together
When writing online content, I research relevant keywords and use those keywords in key places in the copy. SEO is part of my web writing services. SMM is a service I offer to clients I write for. If you have existing content that you'd like to have optimized for search engines, contact me.