By Dustin Williams
For as long as people have used search engines to find information on the internet, the question of “what is SEO and why is it necessary” has been one of the most asked by website owners. The quick answer is that search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making a website relevant to common search terms and is necessary for the site to be listed in search results. SEO encompasses several practices for achieving this desired outcome. Several common practices and why they are necessary are outlined below.
Search Engine Algorithms: The Brain Behind the Search Results
All search engines such as Google and Bing use a complex set of rules called an algorithm to evaluate a website. Search engine algorithms start working each time a user types in a search word or phrase. Search engine crawlers or bots crawl the pages of a website and evaluate the content and use the rules defined in their algorithm to weigh and prioritize web pages as they relate to the search query. Pages are then ranked based on the results. Search engine optimization is necessary to make sure the crawler can index both a website and its pages and return relevant search results to the user. This is a fairly simple explanation of a highly sophisticated process. Google and the other major search engines have been implementing and adjusting algorithms for many years in an effort to bring the best experience to their users. Their programmers are continually gathering data and adjusting search algorithms to improve results and user experience.
Search Engine Optimization 101: The Fundamentals
Page Indexing: For a website to be ranked in the search results search engine crawlers must be able to discover and index the website’s pages. It is important to structure the website so that all pages are easily accessible without searching through multiple layers into the website. Site navigation, which is the menu typically found near the top or to the left side of the pages of the website, should be laid out so that every page can be accessed using only one or two clicks. Pages also need to be coded in a format, which is easily processed by a crawler, and does not contain any rules to restrict access. Sometimes web developers set rules in the robots.txt file or meta tags which restrict search engine crawler access. It is a good practice to check with the web developer to make sure this is not the case.
Meta Data: Meta data is the information contained in the top section of the HTML code of a page and provides critical information to search engine crawlers to help identify the topical relevance of the page. The title tag is part of the meta data and is displayed in a tab or at the top of a web browser. This HTML element is a key influencer in establishing topical relevance. Thus, it is important to include relevant keywords in the title tag. Additionally, a title tag may be displayed in search results when considered relevant to the query. The meta description along with the title tag may be displayed in search results. These elements give a web master some control over how their website might be listed in a search and the opportunity to make it more compelling and likely to be clicked.
Page Content: This is a big factor in establishing a presence in organic search, which are the search results displayed below the paid or sponsored ones. Search engine algorithms evaluate page content and match it to a searcher’s intent. It is important that content is thorough, engaging and has a clearly defined topic. Websites should further establish topical relevance by using content funnels, which provide additional details on key sub-topics relating to the main topic. These “micro-sites” within a website can help establish the overall topical relevance with search engines and increase the likelihood of getting ranked in search results.
Rich Media: Different forms of rich media such as high-resolution images, infographics and videos, should be included within page content. Rich media adds visual elements and helps to improve visitor engagement. This increases the likelihood visitors will share the content with followers on social media and reference it on their own website or in a blog post. Search engines give preference to websites with high-quality content, which is engaging and offers value to a reader. When content is shared and linked to from other relevant websites, it increases its potential to get ranked in search results.
The First Necessary Steps
These are the fundamental SEO practices for increasing a website’s potential to be crawled and displayed in search results. There are several other practices which can further improve a website’s ability to get ranked and increase the likelihood of ranking at the top of the search results. Implementing these fundamental practices are the first necessary steps to improve your search engine rankings and increase your online presence. For professional consulting or to get an SEO audit on your website, please contact one of the experienced SEO analysts at FORTHGEAR.