Simply put, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure your website is adjusted and enhanced in ways that will cause it to rank well for keywords in search engines.
So why do this? The answer is that your website will receive more visits, giving your company more customers, and in the end, increase the profitability of your business! Sounds awesome, right?!
A poorly optimized website, on the other hand, will seem irrelevant, unimportant, or non-existent to a search engine. What good is a website if no one can find it? Here's an infographic showing the necessity for search engine optimization:
How is a website optimized?
Search engines work according to certain algorithms and rules by which they find the best, most relevant results for viewers. To take advantage of this search engine criteria, even the most relevant websites must be molded in such a way that tell search engines “Hey! Look at me! I have what this searcher is looking for.” This is accomplished by the use of appropriate keywords within the site, properly filled out meta data (we'll explain what this is), URL optimization, links, production of amazing content, site popularization, and many other factors. Although Google has over 200 factors to determine rankings, the bottom line is if a search engine thinks a webpage is super relevant for a certain topic, it will rank the page higher on it’s list of results.
Here is what SEO’s use to influence the ranking of a webpage.
When you type “how to solve a Rubik’s cube while doing a handstand” into Google’s search box, most of the top results that show up contain these key words: solving, Rubik’s cube, and handstand. Google found webpages with these words and displayed them for your clicking pleasure. If you were to create a webpage that educates people on the art of Rubik’s handstanding, you would want to make sure you have these keywords somewhere on that page.
Now you might be thinking “Oh! that’s awesome! I should just fill my whole webpage with nothing but key words!” But wait! Don’t do that! Filling your page with key words can actually harm your reputation and rankings since that is considered outright spamming. Instead, optimal usage of key words amounts to two or three occurrences per webpage, or else no more than once per 100 words.
You're probably wondering: "What on earth is meta data?" Meta data is the information that describes the content of your webpage. It comes in a couple of forms and is extremely important in search engine optimization. The most important form of meta data is the meta title, which is also known as the page title. This is what shows up as the big blue letters describing pages in search engine results. The second most important piece of meta data is the longer description of a webpage that appear in grey in the search query. We call this the meta description. It is incredibly important to tailor the meta title and the meta description to what your webpage is about. For an example. If you write, "how to cook hotdogs and beans" in your meta description when your content is really about how to solve a Rubik's cube while handstanding, your meta description is NOT tailored to your webpage. A well tailored meta description will impress both search engines and help people understand what's really on your page.
The URL is the first place a search engine looks when searching for a user. Consequentially you want your URL to be relevant as possible. Search engines are a lot like us humans. They like things short, sweet, and to the point. A URL like this http://www.fannit.com/totallyirrelevanturlstring is exactly what you do not want. Instead, make your URL short, relevant, and to the point like this: this http://www.fannit.com/seo/services/. Both web users and search engines like this kind of URL because it's easy to read, and represents what is on that page.
All of the above strategies are a part of onsite optimization. For a more thorough guide on this subject, read our strategies for onsite optimization.
The authority of a webpage is one of the most important factors in search engine ranking. Authority is determined by how long a web page has been around, and how trusted it is. The longer the a webpage has been around, the more trusted it is, and the more authority it will hold.
Authority is also determined by how people react to a webpage. In other words, people show search engines awesome content via backlinks, clicks, shares, etc. The search engine then takes what people like and ranks it higher, depending on the competition. A great example of this is the highly authoritative online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. People on the Internet adore Wikipedia so much, that search engines almost always rank it first or second on the search engine results page.
Here is how Moz measures the ranking potential of a domain and page. You'll notice that this page has 73 out of 100 page Authority. This helps this page rank well on search engines.
Search engines exist in order to assist real life people in finding stuff on the Internet. Shocker, I know. Consequentially, search engines are looking for websites that are reaching out to and engaging real life people. This is called social media marketing. Websites that are interesting, full of valuable content, and engage people are bound to be shared and mentioned on social networks like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Websites that are boring and full of irrelevant, spammy content could have the right key words and backlinks, but they won’t be of any interest to humans! No one is going to share that junk on their Facebook!
External backlinks are links from other webpages and are incredibly important to a website’s reputation in the Internet world. Links from popular sites are especially important. If a highly trusted site, such as CNN.com links to your webpage, search engines are more likely to trust your site because it suggests that you’re a trustworthy site. Your website is not just spam. This same principle applies to your own linking. If you link to spammy sites, search engines will recognize this and distrust your site.
If you look back at the image in the section on Authority, you'll note that it has a total of 166 links. This following image shows the authoritative websites linking to this webpage. Their authority plays a major role in ranking this page they are linking to.
Optimizing these and other factors will cause search engines to rank your website higher in their search results. This higher ranking will increase the traffic on your page and subsequently the awareness people have for your webpage will grow, establishing your authority in the web world. This increases your business and conversions, ultimately generating more money for you! Search Engine Optimization is extremely important in today's age since literally billions of people use the Internet to search for what they are looking for.
I hope all of this helped answer, "what is seo" for you and also provided a helpful introduction to search engine optimization techniques. Let me know if you have any thoughts!