SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has become a sort of buzzword in the web world, and not without reason, but it’s the kind of term that gets tossed around by people that often don’t know what it is. Like I said, though, it’s a buzzword because it’s fairly important to the success of your website.
Simply put, SEO refers to your site’s ability to meet the criteria necessary to get your site recommended to users by search engines. Even more simply put, it’s your site’s ability to rank more prominently in search results (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). Setting aside as much jargon as possible, think of it like a conversation with a person:
You: “Hey, Dave, I’m looking for a good deal on a pair of running shoes. Any ideas?”
Dave: “Yeah, check out Feet and Stuff on 23rd St. It’s nearby, and looks like a solid place. My buddy Rich is a big jogger and he says they’re great.”
Essentially, search engines use the same criteria in the sites that they list that Dave just used to recommend Feet and Stuff. Let’s break it down:
Very much like the above conversation, when you type “running shoes” into, let’s say Google, Google fires back a list of sites that not only relate to “running shoes”, but it also takes note of your location and may include a few stores that are near you. In web terms, this is called “geolocation”. But in order for Google to understand where a store is located, it must be able to not only find an address, but also know that that is the address of the store in question. Google is smart, but it’s best not to leave too much open for interpretation. Geolocation is not necessarily a deal maker or breaker, but it is a factor in SEO.
“Looks like a solid place”
You can assume by Dave’s assessment of Feet and Stuff that it’s not some shady guy selling used sneakers out of the back of a van. On a much larger scale, Google does its best to go through every website on the Internet and check to see if it can be considered “a solid place”. For a website, that means that information is well organized, words are spelled correctly, nothing is blatantly trying to fool the system, and the site was put together by someone that understands web language and architecture.
“My buddy Rich . . . says they’re great”
A recommendation (both good and bad) carries a lot of weight, and I always like to say that nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Believe it or not, Google also takes into account the relative popularity of your site. If, while Google is scanning the web, it comes across links to your site several times, it can logically assume that your site has been deemed helpful or in some way recommended by others. These recommendations are called “back links”. Be cautious of people that promise to get you a bunch of back links for a price. These are often hackers and other nefarious types that sneak links to your site into other peoples’ sites without them knowing, but in a way that a search engine would be able to read it. Google is wise to this, too, and will often yank you out of search engine results altogether.
So with all this to consider, how does one get “good SEO”?
SEO is as vague of a term as “health”, just as much of an ongoing process, and can be just as different for everyone. There are hundreds of thousands of websites and companies that can help you get your site seen, but bear in mind the conversation with Dave, and apply that to your website. That’s SEO in a nutshell.