Search Engine Optimation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and/or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via natural - organic - un-paid search results, as opposed to paid marketing strategies, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
The better optimized your website is, the higher it could appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for targeted keywords = the more FREE and targeted visitors your site will receive from the search engines.
Back in the 90's, it was a fairly common practice to "stuff" all the keywords you could into the keyword tag section of a webpage's code. Too many folks abused that section and the search engines pretty much got fed up with it. Now Google does not look at the keyword META tag. Well, actually, they do a little bit. Each element in a web page's structure carries some weight with Google. The keyword META tag carries a LOT less weight than it used to. It only takes a few moments to fill in this section and you only use up to 8 keywords that describe the page. It only helps that much more towards ranking your page and site for those keywords.
Now, on-page (or on-site) optimization consists of a few key elements. Each one is not only important and useful to your visitors, but they also tell the search engines what keyword each page of your website is focused on.
For an example, we will focus on a website that is wanting to rank for the keyword "Litter Box Training for Rabbits".
Key SEO Elements
- Page Title
- META description tag
- META keyword tag
- H1 tag
- Keyword Density
- anchor text on internal and external links
- link title tag
- image alt tag
The page title can be seen at the very top of your web browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc). It can also be seen as the linked text in search engine results. This is why this element is very important in optimizing your page for the important keywords it reflects.
Example of a Page Title - Each page should have its own unique title containing that page's keyword(s).
This tag is read by the search engines and is the description you see in the search engine results when you perform a search. Here you write a natural sentence or two that describes the web page, adding in a few of the prime keywords for that page.
Example of a Page Title and META description in a search engine results page.
This tag is also ready solely by the search engines. Although this tag holds a lot less priority and weight with the search engines, it does not hurt to type in the keywords you are trying to optimize the page for.
This is the primary Heading tag, which should contain THE keyword/phrase your page is about. For example, the H1 for this page is: Search Engine Optimation (SEO)
It is important not to go wild peppering your page's text with the keywords you want to optimize for. That is referred to as "keyword stuffing" and is a big no-no. First, your web page text should be written for the human visitors that come to your website. The text should flow naturally. Any keywords/phrases you want to rank for on that page should be integrated into the text naturally. Let's say you are in North Carolina and your web page is about litter box training a rabbit. Liven up your page with such variations as: train your rabbit to use a litterbox, litter box training your rabbit, even rabbits in North Carolina love to use a litter box, etc.
We point out these keywords/phrases to the search engines a couple different ways. One, we bold the keywords. Or, we can italic the keywords. Or we can even do the next point, which is carries good weight with the search engines.
Anchor text is the text in a hyperlink that you click on to go to another webpage or website. Instead of doing the old standby of "click here", try using a few of your keywords/phrases to link to another page on your site (a page that pertains to the keyword you are linking) or to an external website.
The title tag is largely seen by the search engines. However, you can often view it by hovering your cursor over a hyperlink. Typically, a small box will appear with text. When you create a hyperlink to an internal page on your site or to an external website, not only do you want the anchor text to reflect the keyword you want to rank for, but you can also type in a short description of the link that also includes said keyword. Do NOT stuff keywords into this field.
Just like with the link title tag, the image alt tag helps describe an image on your page. The main usage of this tag was to aid the visually impaired as they surf the web. The software they use will read them the alt tag so they can know what images are there. In the example of our bunny litter box training page, if you have a picture of a rabbit in a litter box, you can write an alt tag as: white angora rabbit trained to use a litter box.
All these above elements, when used correctly, will quickly place your website high in the search engine result pages. This is called organic results or listings. Just by telling the search engine what your website (via the home page) and your individual pages are about by optimizing each page individually with unique keywords, you can have an entry in the search engine result pages for a myriad of keywords/phrases. This allows for a greater pool of potential targeted visitors to your website.
With that said, organic listings will only get your website so far. Your competitor is working hard to be one of the first 3 listings for prime keywords, which you also are wanting to rank for. But he's doing a lot more than relying on organic listings. This is where Search Engine Marketing (SEM) comes in.
A word about website pages - Each page of your website should focus on one subject. If you have a website on domestic rabbit care, have one page about litterbox training, another page on bathing, another in nail trimming, etc. Your domestic rabbit care website is a tightly focused niche. Each page of your website is a sub-category of that niche. Search engines love websites structured and optimized in this fashion. The idea is that you have created such a website to provide focused information to, and to better serve, your visitors. That is the point of websites, at least in the eyes of search engines. Monetizing your website (Adsense, selling products, etc) is a lesser priority to websites.
A final word about keywords - in our industry, when we mention keywords, it is an all-encompasing term that includes single-word keywords and multi-word phrases (also referred to as long-tail keywords). Think of how you type in search terms into your favorite search engines. Do you just type in rabbit and hope the first page is filled with 'how to litterbox train your rabbit'? Or do you type in 'rabbit litterbox training' or 'how to litterbox train my bunny' or any other variation? Those are the types of keywords you optimize your rabbit litterbox training page on: in the page title, in the meta keywords and description tags, in the H1 tags, in the link title and image alt tags, and peppered naturally in the page text and anchor text.
See how that all comes together? Once you've done a few pages, it becomes second nature.
At least it is for us here at Phoenix Rising! =)