Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is a phrase that describes how you make websites more appealing to Google and other search engines. The more useful Google thinks your page will be to its users, the higher it will rank your page on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your niche’s keywords.
If your website is ranked on the first page–or better yet, in the number one spot–more users will click on your website than on any of the other pages. This can mean the difference between success and failure.
Your chief goal should be to get ranked in the number one position in the SERP for your keywords, or at the very least on the front page. If your site isn’t in the top spot–or at least on the first page–you can’t maximize traffic to your web pages, because less than 11% of all internet users ever navigate past the first page.
In most cases, they don’t even go past the first few results on the first page, which is why it is critical for your website to land at the top of the first page.
Elements of SEO
To get your website in the top spot or on the first page, you need to use both on-page and off-page SEO techniques.
On-page SEO includes such things as using the best keywords for your product niche on your web pages, especially in strategic places such as the title, headline, subheads, and first and final paragraphs of copy. Repeating your keyword so that it represents 2% to 3% of the total words on your web page–known as keyword saturation–is another effective on-page SEO technique.
What Search Engines Want
Examples of off-page SEO methods would include things like creating a large number of backlinks to your web page from sites the search engines consider to be “authoritative.”
Authoritative sites are the places people go when they are looking for answers, such as Wikipedia, About.com or eHow.com. Web pages with suffixes like .edu and .gov are also considered to be authoritative sites.
Search engines will think your page is important if expert sites reference your web page.
The Google Algorithm
Google is the most important search engine on the Internet, representing about 65% of all searches worldwide.
Microsoft’s Bing search engine–which also powers Yahoo!–is the second largest search engine in the United States. In China and South Korea, its biggest competitors are Baidu and Soso. In Russia, it’s Yandex.
If you are working in the U.S., you should focus on improving your ranking on Google because all others use essentially the same criteria to index and rank web pages.
Updates to Google’s Search Engine Algorithm
In 2011 and 2012, Google updated the formula it uses to determine a page’s ranking. Prior to the updates–which were known as Panda and Penguin–Google valued the number of backlinks a page had, especially from authoritative sites.
But crafty Internet marketers figured this out and were able to create software that artificially created backlinks to their pages in order to inflate rankings. Google countered this by changing its search engines.
The Panda and Penguin updates assigned less weight to backlinks and more weight to social approval, which includes things like Facebook “Likes,” Twitter links, and especially Google+ +1’s.
Backlinks are still an important part of the way Google ranks pages, but not as important as they were before the Panda and Penguin updates. Having a lot of links to your pages from other pages will still increase your site’s SERP ranking, but it won’t increase it as much as having a lot of social approval signals will.
Google wants to provide its users with sites that are genuinely going to be useful to that person. That’s one of the reasons why the algorithm was changed to give more weight to social approval.
Users decide which sites are useful and which are not by giving social signals like thumbs up, Likes, and so on. User favorites are ranked higher and considered to be authoritative.
Creating Backlinks from Authoritative Sites
One good way to improve your page rankings is to get backlinks from authoritative sites. To do this, leave comments in forums or blogs that have web addresses ending in .edu and .gov. Make sure you include a link back to your web page. The more relevant and valuable your posting, the more people will be likely to click on your link to learn more.
Or get your link posted on an About.com or eHow.com page so that every time somebody follows your link back to your page, its value increases incrementally on Google.
Beware of marketers who will offer to sell you thousands of backlinks to your pages for not very much money. Before Google updated its algorithm, this actually worked.
But now, these links aren’t going to help your ranking much. In fact, they could lower your ranking because Google now has filters that look for pages with artificial backlinks.
Instead, try to get backlinks from authoritative sites and devote your energy to getting more social approval signals for your pages.