SEO - The Beginners Guide
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process to enhance the ranking of your website pages within the search engines for targeted keywords, that best describe what your page is about. When you create a new website or add a page to an existing website, it's all for nothing if no one finds it. If you are just looking into SEO, then this article will hopefully add some value, as it was created for beginners in the SEO field.
Each search engine has it's own algorithm which are simply programs. A set of rules by which to determine which results to show for any particular search query. No one knows exactly how these algorithms work (the logic is not something that is made public), only that they are very complex, use a large number of query parameters and are always evolving.
It's important to recognize that they are only programs. They're not perfect. In fact they are as perfect as the group of individuals that created it. As individuals are not perfect, we should have realistic expectations. Sometimes an algorithm won't necessarily return results that the human eye would consider the most relevant.
Would you be surprised that when you type 'supermarket' into Google, it doesn't return an actual supermarket (.i.e. Waitrose or Tesco) inside the top few results? Moving to Yahoo, and it doesn't return an actual supermarket inside the first page of results! How can this be? Surely someone typing 'Supermarket' into the search engines is looking for an actual supermarket! You will notice some of the domains. Moneysupermarket.com, travelsupermarket.com, supermarket.com, supermarketnews.com. What about Google? Well there are supermarkets listed however still quite a few others such as Moneysupermarket.com (which is first), Mysupermarket.com, Supermarketsarah.com and Thepeoplessupermarket.org. Do you think it's coincidence that there are so many listings with the keywords in their domain name? There is a very reason that the results return the results they do - see my article on 'Choosing a domain name and it's SEO value'.
So what does this really tell us? It tells us that the Search Engines are very complex, yes, but it reinforces what we already know - they are only a collection of rules that have been put together by a group of individuals. Our goal within SEO is to understand what how these rules work. What has a positive impact and what a negative one. There are powerful analysis tools at our disposal that can help you look at thousands of different elements in relation to a website or web page to see exactly what they are doing and more importantly, why they are listed high in the results. The more sites you look at, the more a picture you will form. The more individual factors against each site you factor in, the more comprehensive your understanding will be.
Remember, SEO is also about improving the user experience. After all, there's no point in ranking #1 if your page is a mess and offers little in the way of value. People will simply leave your site and try another listing. What's worse, they may never be back! The biggest challenge for me was never in understanding SEO, as for the most part, it's not rocket science. It's undertaking the work, which can be time consuming. Now that you know what it is, the next step is to start to learn what you need to do to improve your rankings within the Search Engines.
So where to from here?
Before we get to next steps, there's one more important lesson. Regardless of your industry or niche, it is fair to say that you are most likely part of a busy and competitive marketplace. Recognizing that you are not the only player in that market is key. There are exceptions to every rule, however you need to accept that there are people that will be doing the same thing on the internet as you, and have likely been doing it far longer than you. You also won't be the last person to do it. There will be plenty behind you and plenty behind them. Not many ideas are truly original and the fact that you have chosen the internet as your sales outlet means that even if it is unique, it won't be for long (especially if it is a good idea). Don't be disheartened. These are just some simple truths. Putting a more SEO friendly site out there than your competitors will give you strategic advantage within the Search Engines.
Whether you have a new site that is still in development or an existing site that you want to make more SEO friendly, you are looking for the right answers to your questions (you did find this post). Next is to look at some of the SEO basics that can easily be applied to your website. There are many quick wins and some that take a little longer. Remember that SEO takes time, so don't expect overnight results. From here it's about building your understanding and applying the principles you learn.