What is Search Engine Optimization?

At its top-most level, ‘what is search engine optimization’ seems a pretty straightforward question to answer.

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short) is the process of optimizing a website to appear higher in search engine results for given keywords (search terms).

But notice the word “process” in that last sentence.

In many cases a a newly created web-site is claimed to be “search engine optimized” meaning that the content of each page has been optimized around one or more keyword terms.

Whilst this is a good start (assuming it’s been done well), a site will likely need to have an on-going optimization program in place in order to rank well in search engines, particularly for competitive keywords.

Search Engine Optimization can be broadly split into two main areas; On Page and Off Page optimization.

 

On Page SEO

On-page optimization seeks to optimize the code of the website’s pages for chosen keyword terms and is something that should be done as part of the website design itself.

The aim of on-page SEO is to address the various factors that it is believed search engines attach importance to, such as the Page Title meta tags, Header tags etc.

Even where a factor has relatively little importance in its own right, the cumulative effect of reinforcing from many different angles what the web page is about serves to increase the search engines’ ability and willingness to index and rank the page for the desired keywords.

Many websites get designed with little attention paid to optimization the content – often because the content itself is not sufficiently focused.

Many sites fail to address many of the on-page SEO factors available. It is not uncommon for professionally designed sites, costing thousands, to concentrate on glitzy design at the expense of  SEO.

By deciding what each page of a web site is about, and optimizing the on-page SEO factors for it, it is possible to significantly enhance its search engine rankings.

That is a good start.

 

Off Page SEO

Search engines like Google don’t just base the importance of a website page on what it finds there. They take into account how the rest of the web sees the site and its pages too.

At its simplest, the more links there are back to a site from elsewhere, the more Google takes notice of it and the greater the degree of importance it will attach to the site being linked to.

It’s like when a text book makes references to another work. If lots of textbooks reference the same other piece of work, then that is typically seen as an authoritative work on the subject.

Google does much the same. Typically, a page with lots of links coming into it from elsewhere on the web will be seen as having more importance and authority by Google.

If those links are on web pages deemed as having more importance in themselves, then they carry more weight than links from sites with no perceived importance.

The aim of off-page SEO therefore is to increase the volume of links pointing from elsewhere to the site, particularly from pages of greater importance.

Google gives each page it indexes a measure of importance based on its Page Rank (PR) scale. The more important a page is seen as being, the higher its Page Rank.

 

SEO Overview

I can’t recall where I saw this, so apologies to whoever said it first, but it’s a good description of the difference between on-page and off-page SEO:

“SEO is like flying a kite.
On Page optimization helps get the kite off the ground.
Off Page optimization keeps it flying high”

 

To find out more about Search Engine Optimization and the factors that influence successful rankings, download the Free Fast Step Guide to SEO from the guides section on the right.

 

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