An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization Basics

January 5th, 2010 by | 5 Comments

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When you start tracking your traffic analytics and getting into search engine optimization (SEO), there will be a lot of new terms and concepts to learn. Organic search engine traffic is simply the clicks that are “sent” to the site from search results.

Organic search is frequently the biggest source of incoming traffic, and the easiest way to increase organic traffic is with some basic SEO. Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your site for the search engines to find and showcase your content, and improving the volume and quality of traffic that your blog or website receives.

Search engine crawlers, sometimes called “spiders”, are simple computer scripts that are sent to a site by a search engine—like Google for instance—when the site is submitted for placement on the search engine. These “spiders” crawl the pages of your site for keywords and tags attached to your content, to compile a list of search-related info that appears on the search engine’s results page when someone is looking for what you offer.

Search engine crawlers usually look for keywords, so making prominent use of the keywords and key phrases you want to rank well for—and making them stand out—on your webpages and blog posts is the best way to make sure they get picked up in the search engines.

The more information you make available for a given webpage, the easier it is for the search engines to reference the page. For example, each page should have its own page name, or title attribute, clearly defined. Some content management systems and blog software like WordPress will automatically create an optimized page title, but if you build your site in a program like Dreamweaver, make sure you give it a title. There’s nothing worse than a website that comes up without anything in the titlebar of the window or tab!

Tags allow you to connect your articles with more topics when the crawlers are doing their job. Tags are commonly used on all social media sites today, including YouTube, Flickr, and even Twitter, and a blog platform like WordPress will give you an easy way to add tags on your own site. Think of it as “tagging” your content with as many relevant topics or keywords you think people might use when they’re searching for the kind of content you offer.

You should also include the most important information in the first paragraph of your posts or home page. The first few lines of each page will usually be included in the page description on search engine results pages, providing at first glance whether the site has what the person doing the search is looking for. The inverted pyramid structure, where paragraphs are written in order of most important information to least important, is a useful strategy to make sure the search engines showcase the most relevant information from each page on your site. Many programs will even let you write a custom description for each post or page, so make sure you put that to full use and create a solid, brief description that includes your target keywords.

All these tactics will help your site rank higher in the search engines’ results pages (SERPs). A vast majority of clicks are generated through pages that rank in the top 1–3 search results pages.

Another good way to increase organic search traffic is to submit your site directly to search engines and article directories. You can look for the submission link or ‘help’ on most of the large search engines and submit your link to make sure they are indexing your website. More advanced software will even let you create a ‘sitemap‘—a directory of all the links on your domain—that you can automatically submit to Google and other search engines each time you make updates to your site.

One more good tip to increase organic traffic—especially if you run a brick-and-mortar business or product-based site that sells a lot to local customers—is to provide a geographical location for your business. Many sites like Google, Windows Live, Yahoo, Bing, and Yelp let you submit your business to show up on local business listings and maps, and you’ll increase the likelihood of local customers finding your business.

The above tips are just a basic introduction to search engine marketing. Next week, I’ll share more tips on how to improve your rankings in the search engines and create more incoming traffic.

Cody is a nomadic entrepreneur & lifestyle designer who helps social changemakers & other remarkable people spread their message on the web.

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