An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a massively important concept and practice that all site-owners must be aware of and follow. In short, it’s a long list of best-practices and tactics used to make your site more appealing to search engines, like Google, so that your site and pages rank higher when people search for relevant terms.

Google, and other search engines, use automated bots to crawl through, analyze, and index your site. In other words, their computers are automatically accessing your site, storing it on their servers, and determining how relevant your site is to particular topics, and whether or not it should appear towards the top of the search results. Since these are computers doing the work, and not people, it’s important that your site is structured and built in a way that’s best for these bots.

Failing to properly optimize your site for search engines could result in you missing out on tons of highly targetted traffic from users searching for things pertaining to your site or store, which in turn, means that you’re missing out on sales. The real beauty of search engine traffic is that it comes at no cost to you as you’re not paying to appear in the results – the only cost is the time it takes to properly optimize your site.

Just imagine if your store sold light-bulbs and appeared on the first page of Google whenever someone searched forĀ light-bulbs. You would most likely be flooded with orders every single day without doing any other marketing.

Patience

It’s important to remember that you won’t start acquiring search traffic right after you optimize your site for search engines. It’s an on-going practice that takes a lot of time to show results. Google rarely will rank new websites on or near the first page. So, don’t abandon your efforts if you don’t start seeing traffic roll in after a few months.

Beware

There are hundreds or thousands of shady companies and people out there looking to pocket your money by promising the holy-grail; instant and easy top rankings on major search engines by using some secret SEO practices. Ignore them all. It’s not that easy and it’s never fast. There are tons of great, reputable companies that do offer great SEO services, but know when sales pitches and shared secrets are too good to be true.

Not only can you waste your money, but paying for or using “black-hat”, sketchy tactics can do way more harm than good. If a search engine determines that you’re trying to game the system in any number of ways, it will most likely result in you getting no traffic from them, and even possibly removed from their index all together; and that’s damage that is hard to reverse.

Keep track

As was mentioned before, optimizing your site for search engine indexing is an ongoing, arduous task, but one that can yield amazing, continuing rewards. Don’t ever think that once you have everything in-place, it’s time to shut the book and move on to something else. Here are some things that you need to keep track of as time goes on:

  1. Pay attention to your competition. There will always be sites, new and old, fighting to out-rank you on search engine results. Don’t let them get ahead of you.
  2. Technology, search engines, websites, and the overall Internet are ever-changing. Search engines continue to change what they look for when determining how to rank sites. New technologies and standards are introduced and eventually expected. It’s critical that you try to stay on top of these trends and be sure to always have your site look the best it can for optimal indexing. Google, especially, makes official announcements whenever they release major changes to the way they index and rank sites. Not paying attention and reacting to these changes can cause you to drop right off the first page.
  3. Use the tools provided by search engines that allow you to view the status of your site in their index. These tools, such as Google Webmaster, will:
    1. Give you the ability to submit your site so the search engine knows it exists and can begin to crawl it.
    2. Alert you of any problems they see with your site and perhaps why you’re not ranking as well as you want.
    3. Allow you to gauge how well you’re ranking for certain searches and what level of traffic you’re currently receiving from them and how.
    4. Much more..

The basics

Here are some high-level basic concepts that are part of optimizing your site for search engines. Your site should have:

  1. High-quality, unique, relevant content.
  2. Proper title and description META tags.
  3. Keyword-rich URLs.
  4. Easy, clear navigation.
  5. A sitemap for humans and robots.
  6. A large number of other quality, relevant sites linking to your site.
  7. Only links to quality, relevant sites.
  8. Links, both inbound and outbound, should be keyword-rich.
  9. Proper exclusions for pages that should not be indexed.

Continue from here

Now that you have a general understanding of search engine optimization and are ready to get to work improving your site, we recommend you start by reading Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. This free guide goes in to technical depth about the concepts we’ve covered here and some more along with clear examples and recommendations. After you fully grasp the content in that guide, you can begin making these important changes to your site. Be sure to check back here as we’ll be posting more advanced guides along with additional resources and services that you can utilize to continue improving your site.

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