What is Search Engine Optimization?

If you’ve worked on a website, or had someone build a website for you, or even purchase webhosting, you’ve probably heard the “buzz-phrase” Search Engine Optimization. What exactly is this long-winded acronym?

SEO, as it is commonly referred to, is editing and building a website so that traffic can be increased. At its foundation, it is based on modifying and building code so that search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask can better crawl your site in order to properly place it in search results. The easier the search engines can determine what content your site has, the better chance you have of having a favourable placement in keyword results.

Things you can do for SEO

  • Strong titles — Make sure your site has a good title for the browser. Usually this is simply the title for your website, plus the title of the specific page. If possible, make sure the website title is somewhere in the title of every page on your site.
  • Clear metadata — Metadata is the text in the code of your site that search engines display next to your search result. The most important piece of code to include in this is the description tag. Use and put it in the html head of each page. If possible, have a different description for each page, or if that isn’t possible, just use the tag on the homepage.
  • Use descriptive URLs — When designing the URL layout of your site, try to use .htaccess rewrite rules to turn ugly, number based urls into worded ones. You’ll notice on this site that each post has a url that includes the post title. That is generally favoured over the basic variable + number approach (ie. /item/watches is better than ?i=3403).
  • Use a sitemap when starting — While their merit for established sites is often questioned, submitting a sitemap to Google when your site is first starting out is a great way to get all your pages indexed so people can find them. Do that by signing up for Google Webmaster Tools. A sitemap can be as simple as a single list of individual pages, or an automatically generated XML sheet. View my site’s sitemap here.

Things to watch

  • Don’t pay to gain search ranking — When you sign up for webhosting, you may be intrigued by the company’s “get into every search engine” offer. Never pay for services to immediately boost your Google rank. Google makes it clear that they will never charge users to increase their search results, and no company can offer surefire ways to gain rank. Gaining search rank takes time, and can be done with no money spent at all.

Instead of paying money to gain rank, you must look at every way to gain incoming links. Respected sites that link to you make your site more respected, and will likely boost your rank for general keywords. Do this by finding website directories related to your topic, or join a related forum and put your URL as a signature for your posts. Over time, search engines will move you up, and you should see an increase in traffic coming from them.

[tags]SEO, Search Engine Optimization, hosting, website[/tags]


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